Selecting an enterprise-grade cloud service is not easy with so many cloud services available today, especially for small- to medium-sized businesses that lack IT resources or expertise. Many prospective cloud customers need a cloud marketplace to help them find the most appropriate cloud service to meet their unique business objectives.
App stores touting cloud services are cropping up, boosting cloud adoption and helping traditional service providers -- like AT&T and Verizon -- make their entry into the cloud market. By taking advantage of partnerships they already have with cloud providers, service providers are getting their feet wet in the cloud industry by serving as the gateway between the prospective cloud customer and cloud providers.
Cloud marketplace: Service providers acting as cloud brokers
Comcast Business Services recently announced its Upware marketplace -- an app store that will help companies find enterprise-grade cloud services.
"The cloud brings great choices, but lots of challenges," said Kevin O'Toole, senior vice president and general manager of new business solutions for Comcast Business Services. "Instead of not being able to afford good file sharing, now [businesses] have 100 file-sharing options in front of them and they have to figure out which one to trust."
With Comcast Upware, customers can browse the cloud marketplace through an integrated Web portal for cloud-based data backup, security and collaboration services from third-party providers that meet a set of security, redundancy and customer service requirements set by Comcast, O'Toole said.
The integrated interface also allows Comcast customers to have one login across all their cloud services, in addition to their Comcast Business service. "One employee could have five or six logins, and when they leave, those all have to be deleted," O'Toole said. "This simplifies user management for IT, regardless of the size of the business."
While Comcast is providing initial customer support and troubleshooting -- "one throat to choke," O'Toole said -- third-party providers' will continue to host the services in their own data centers, he said.
O'Toole compared the Upware cloud marketplace to a cloud brokerage model.
Too few cloud providers "customize to a customer's needs and too many options just recreates an Internet search. We think this approach finds the balance between choice and focus."
A cloud brokerage model or cloud marketplace approach is a good strategy for service providers who don't have large teams of software developers writing cloud-based applications, said Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp. Service providers can partner with cloud providers via a marketplace and gain an entry into the cloud industry.
"Working with their partners can help service providers offer the kind of cloud services their intrinsic customer base is most likely going to buy," Nolle said.
Cloud providers expanding their reach
A cloud marketplace hosted by a service provider can also benefit cloud providers who want to reach a larger customer base.
More on the cloud marketplace
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What customers want to see in the 2013 cloud marketplace
Soonr, a provider offering cloud-based file-sharing services, is part of the Comcast Upware cloud marketplace. While its enterprise-grade service is used by a wide variety of customers, the company has struggled to reach the SMB market, said Martin Frid-Nielsen, CEO of Campbell, Calif.-based Soonr.
"The smaller businesses are difficult for [providers] to reach on their own, and it can be expensive, too," Frid-Nielsen said. "Comcast has over six million business customers, and this represents an opportunity for [Soonr] to get some mindshare from these businesses though the marketplace."
The marketplace has already begun generating new business for Soonr, Frid-Nielsen said.
"Comcast is already trusted by these businesses, so when they stand behind third-party services they are bringing into their cloud marketplace, it's something customers pay attention to," he said. "This is a great way for us to get into markets we wouldn't have been able to get into on our own."