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What Makes a Cloud Aggregator?

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We haven’t quite left the hype stage of cloud computing yet, which means fear and confusion still weigh disproportionately on decisions of whether to jump on the cloud. For IT service providers, the fear and confusion present opportunities to educate end customers as providers take on the role of cloud services aggregators. In fact, I would argue that education is a key element in any business plan to build a cloud aggregation business. For one thing, providers need to educate themselves on available options and strategies. Only then can they truly guide their customers through the morass of cloud-related options, pitfalls and opportunities. But first, what is a “cloud aggregator?”

Though not exactly new, the term has been popping up more and more as MSPs and solution providers seek their rightful place in the world of cloud computing.

Simply Stated

As with anything taking shape in the IT world, definitions for the term are bound to vary and we can expect a certain amount of creativity as companies start to attach the label to their offerings. But let’s keep it simple: An aggregator pulls together, or “aggregates,” different services and systems to create a package of offerings for clients. Gartner refers to this person as a “Cloud Broker."

Because nothing is ever completely straightforward in the IT world, which is full of nuances and varying approaches, becoming an aggregator involves some serious prep work. Providers must start with a self-assessment to figure out which of their services, such as email hosting, can already be considered cloud offerings, and which others can be replaced by the cloud.

After that, providers must investigate offerings that fit with their capabilities and their client needs. There is absolutely no way that one-size fits all. What services available in the public cloud provide a good fit? What private cloud offerings, which can be deployed at customer sites and managed remotely, also provide a good fit?

Then comes the task of mixing and matching different offerings in a hybrid approach of private and public cloud services to build a menu of options best suited to your customer base. In some cases, this may even include some traditional legacy services a provider decides to keep.

Building Your Menu

There is a real opportunity here for providers to expand their menu of offerings. And depending on individual approach, this menu could well be built into an all-encompassing IT as a service offering, addressing all of the clients’ IT needs for preset, utility-like fees.

Once the package is ready to be marketed to clients, solution providers must go about the task of educating customers on cloud services and their benefits – why it makes sense to pull a service from a public cloud while consuming another from a private cloud deployed on-site.

As clients start to understand cloud computing, their fear and confusion will dissipate. With that accomplished, solution providers can work with clients on a plan to transition their IT environments to the cloud. Zenith Infotech’s SmartStyle private cloud solution is designed so that different services can be activated as needed at client sites. This transitional, deliberate approach is easier on the customers and facilitates the adoption of a cloud aggregator role for IT service providers.

Maurice Saluan is senior VP of sales for Zenith Infotech as well as seasoned sales veteran in the managed service arena. Guest blog entries such as this one are contributed on a monthly basis as part of MSPmentor's 2011 Platinum sponsorship. Find all of Saluan’s blog entries here.

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