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In-depth

Multi-cloud stakes "super high" for channel

Industry disruption poses an "existential threat" for customers who don't understand multi-cloud basics

The cloud is now mainstream within the enterprise. New research shows UK firms spent more on cloud in the past three years than they did on datacentres, with spend expected to increase by 37% over the next three years as businesses leave behind their legacy IT systems.

A hybrid cloud / on-premise IT model has been a popular choice for many organisations, at least until now, as the idea of moving to a 'multi-cloud' model has been gaining momentum over the past 12 months.

This is when customers adopt a 'best-of-all-worlds' approach to their IT. They can choose from multiple cloud vendors and providers across a mix of public and private cloud platforms to manage their workloads in whichever way best suits their requirements.

The obvious advantage to organisations is that they can have the control of the private cloud with the agility offered by public platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Microsoft Azure.

In fact, 451 Research says 69% of enterprises will have multi-cloud/hybrid IT environments by 2019.

With momentum picking up, Juniper Networks recently held an event at its Proof of Concept Labs in Amsterdam to examine the transition to a multi-cloud model – and the takeaway message was that a monumental change is coming, and the risk of failure is high for vendors, the channel and customers if they don't approach it properly.

"Companies that believe that multi-cloud is fundamentally about deploying some new technology, are going to fail in their transition to multi-cloud. The transformation we are seeing as an industry will represent an existential threat to companies that do not fully understand what they are embarking on," says Mike Bushong, Juniper Networks' VP, enterprise and cloud marketing.

He believes customers that "get the technology and the hype, but don't understand what it takes to re-tool and re-skill your workforce," will fail in their efforts to move to a multi-cloud strategy, highlighting the introduction of new architectures, as well as changes to the value chain and procurement, among other challenges.

According to 451, "it is a nightmare for enterprises to calculate the cost of computing using a single cloud provider, let alone comparing providers or planning a multi-cloud strategy."

But from complexity comes opportunity for the channel. "There is an opportunity for channel players themselves to grab tonnes of money. During times of disruption, that's the opportunity for them," says Bushong.

The path from legacy to multi-cloud will be about more than just products, he said – it requires evolved thinking around architectures, tooling, process, and people, which is where the channel can fulfil a role.

The exec also said there we will see an emerging channel around cloud provision, and partners must start developing their cloud strategies now.

"If you're a channel player today you must be thinking, 'How do I actively build a software practice?' 'How do I integrate with cloud?' 'How can I facilitate the migrations?' 'How do I drive automation?' All those are margin-expanding services. You're going to survive by offering higher-value services – the hardware may just be the ticket to get into the deal."

For the channel, this means investing now in the shift from hardware to software, from manual to automated, from private to multi-cloud.

"The stakes are super high," says Bushong. "We have not seen a change in the industry of this magnitude in twenty years. It shatters the hold of companies. It's difficult to believe market share will be the same before and after this change."

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