If you want to create a cloud practice, look at your people.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

March 18, 2021

4 Min Read
Cloud computing

A traditional telecom agent can make the pivot to cloud expert.

Several partners shared their experiences establishing cloud practices while speaking at the TBI NextGen Virtual Connect Thursday. One panel featured four partner representatives that offered advice to agents that want to expand their portfolio beyond telecom to include cloud solutions.


vCom’s Kris Shankar

vCom Solutions‘ Kris Shankar said cloud computing is top of mind for C-level executives. Although vCom focused on traditional WAN networking when it started 20 years ago, it frequently converses with customers around cloud and data center services in 2021. Shankar said he has come to expect executives to ask about cloud technologies like IaaS, SaaS and PaaS.

“If a CIO, CISO or CTO does not have a cloud strategy, they’re not going to be in their job for a long time,” Shankar said. “These kinds of questions have even been raised at a board of directors level.”

Starting Points

But how do you make the pivot to cloud as a traditionally telecom-focused agency?

For many partners, it starts with personnel.

Mark Spagnola, founder and managing principal of Portfolio Communications, said his company added a solution architect with a cloud background. The hire proved immensely helpful in establishing Portfolio’s credibility to customers. They felt confident in engaging with the firm about their cloud questions.


Portfolio Communications’ Mark Spagnola

“They saw us as those legacy telecom guys,” Spagnola said. “In order for them to feel comfortable about giving us their production or developer environments, they needed to have that pedigree with someone who had been there and done that.”

Minnesota-based Enterprise Visions similarly hired people with a background in something other than network — think security, software, data center. In addition, the company worked to educate its existing employees, especially those in operations. In addition, senior vice president Doug Plooster said the company gained expertise by partnering with key cloud suppliers.


Enterprise Visions’ Doug Plooster

When Cloud Isn’t Necessary

Although cloud migration is absolutely vital, that doesn’t mean all applications belong in the cloud. As a technology adviser, you might need to urge the customers to exercise caution.

Spagnola spoke about a company whose board wanted to make a complete pivot to the cloud. The company hired a CIO and chief technology officer who worked to move everything from on-premies to the public cloud.

Their first bill: $7 million. That was one-tenth of their company’s budget. The move cost both executives their jobs.

“They didn’t really understand that these applications didn’t really live well in a cloud environment, and they didn’t understand how to configure them properly,” Spagnola said.


Bright Technologies’ Kha Phan

Kha Phan, who leads consultancy Bright Technologies, said he likes to bring together siloed IT teams. Phan said customers typically keep their network, apps and security people apart. But Bright Technologies brings all three into the same room and fosters a conversation among them.

Phan said partners need to talk to customers about their people and processes before talking about the technology.

“The technology actually takes care of itself once you understand the first two. If you can teach your customers something about [people and processes], you get to a higher level,” Phan said. “You can get into a conversation with the C-suite, because that’s what they’re concerned about.”

Vendors Speak

Several suppliers participated in the virtual conference, discussing topics like cloud, colocation and the edge.

Craig Ward, solutions architect at interconnect provider Cologix, said COVID-19 significantly drove digital transformation.

“The need to access cloud and other external resources has been a huge driver for us,” Ward said.

William Bell, executive vice president of products at infrastructure provider PhoenixNAP, said the pandemic initiated the final push away from on-prem solutions.

“For guys that were still retaining offices and had the one rack in the one office, that office might not exist anymore,” Bell said. “They are consolidating even further. They may not be holistically moving to the cloud, but we’re seeing this infrastructure consolidation.”

TBI cloud infrastructure architect Jim Demetrius agreed with Bell and Ward that digital transformation will continue to accelerate post-coronavirus. Remote workforces in many cases will stay remote. And that means customers are going to cut down on real estate.

“You free up the capital. You don’t have to pay for that expensive brick and mortar, and you can reinvest it in other areas,” Demetrius said.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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