As business technology moves to the cloud, software as a service (SaaS) providers are banding together in online marketplaces. This is helping IT teams provide business tools to end users in less complex ways.

Whether or not "the cloud" is still just a buzzword belies the fact that business applications are becoming more valuable when they can be delivered online to end users who are less technologically savvy.

Cloud Channel Leads the Way

Salesforce, for example, has its App Exchange and is currently building out the offerings there that provide the most customer value, Ron Huddleston, Salesforce SVP of ISVs and channels said today at the Cloud Channel Summit in Mountain View, Calif.

"We call it user experience and I call it the last 10 yards," he said in his keynote. "It used to be the client server channel, then mobile and now social. So there's an ongoing channel evolution."

Cloud computing is more popular than ever, Huddleston noted, and it is fostering an empowered workforce that is demanding even more from vendors in this space. Traditionally, IT departments have bought the software for business intelligence or business process management, but now end users are demanding a social networking layer to tie all the apps they use together.

"People are in and out of five, six or seven applications during their workday, and the channel is critical to simplifying this."


One common approach is to employ a single sign on capability (SSO). App marketplaces are another option, Huddleston said. Even though these won't resolve all the issues, they are surprisingly effective at delivering the kinds of simplified workflows end users are increasingly demanding.

Salesforce employs a five step process with integrating its channel partners in the cloud, as shown in the image to the left.

The Rise of Cloud Services Brokerages

Cloud services brokerage (CSB) is Gartner's term for the kind of app marketplaces we commonly think of in the enterprise — for example, Salesforce, Google and Oracle. Gartner predicts there in be $100 billion in global spend on CSBs by the end of 2014.

Huddleston also discussed the value of partnerships. Companies that join with even one partner grow faster than those that go it alone, he said. That's because partners can offer each other tips on best practices and strategies so they are better prepared when going to market.

End users are demanding more and more from IT teams, and going to the cloud, partnerships in place, is going to be a key way to go forward. "We as an ecosystem are going to grow or slow together," Huddleston said.