23 août 2012

Cloud Certifications: Constraint or Opportunity, Must or Gadget?

Cloud Channel Programs flourish among Vendors...
VADs deploy Cloud BootCamps...

Channel Partners are pushed to achieve Cloud Certifications...

Certifications: Constraint or Opportunity?
There has always been a hot debate about product certifications that are perceived either as a constraint or an opportunity, depending on their real relevance for the company or its staff: 

Constraint, if...
  • it's the only way to keep a Partner status or a right to resell the product.
  • the certifications' content is not in line with "real life" and thus, is perceived as meaningless.
  • they have to be achieved too often, etc...
Opportunity, when...
  • they allow a real differentiation on the market [both for the company and for its employees] or in front of the Vendor's teams
  • the ROI is immediate, eg with real leads, real strong collaboration or real additional marketing funds [or real promotion]
  • they really start or enhance the employees skills [and the company will be able to retain talent thanks to a growth strategy that is really related to the chosen area]
When it comes to broader certifications like the current Cloud certifications, programs or specialties, you should get answers to these two questions before going further:

[Q1] Is the Vendor's [Cloud] Partner Program truly adapted to your Business Model?
Some programs allow a fine grained adaptation of the criterias that allow access to the program/specialty and of the associated benefits.

As an example, the "IBM Cloud Computing Specialty" specifically adresses 5 very different Cloud Business Models:
  • Cloud Builder: The Cloud Builder terminology is now used by our whole Industry to designate companies that are experts in designing, architecting, implementating Private and Hybrid Clouds. IBM VADs can also access this Specialty as they support Cloud Builders.
  • Cloud Infrastructure Provider [MSP/CSP, focused on IaaS and PaaS], and Cloud Application Provider [SaaS ISV]: According to IBM, these 2 models are very different and it's better to separate them than to mix them under a more generic "Cloud Service Provider" model.
  • Cloud Services Solution Provider: IBM has chosen this name to stress the "Solution" focus that Cloud Partners need to have. But this expression (a) may be confused with Cloud Service Provider (b) is too long [4 words is at least one too much!]. The Cloud Industry talks about "Cloud Broker", "Cloud [or SaaS] Integrator", "Cloud [Services] Reseller"] to designate companies who provide services and solutions around IaaS, PaaS or SaaS Public Cloud Services which they typically also resell/leverage.
  • Cloud Technology Provider: This is typically a technology focused ISV who provides technologies [that are of course hosted on IBM IaaS/PaaS platforms] to allow other Cloud actors to be more efficient. technologies
To get access to the IBM Cloud Specialty, Partners need to meet criterias that are adapted to each of the 5 business models.
For example, Cloud Builders will have to demonstrate that:
  • They have employees that have demonstrated expertise in both the IBM Cloud technologies and services [eg SmartCloud Foundation], but also in selling, consulting, and implementing private and hybrid Cloud projets [hence the need for Cloud specific certifications!]
  • Their level of partnership with IBM translates in cloud software and hardware revenue for IBM [eg Tivoli SmartCloud Provisioning or other automation/orchestration software, IBM PureSystems, storage, etc...]
  • A least of of their customers has successfully implemented a private cloud infrastructure with their help and is ready to testify.
These criterias are different from those required from an MSP, an ISV or a reseller.
Look for more details on the IBM Cloud Computing Specialty website.
Related benefits are also customized for each cloud business model:

Most of the IBM Cloud partners will:
  • create more leads and reduce sales cycles thanks to 25K$ annual marketing funds once they access the Cloud Specialty [ROI!]
  • get their expertise recognized by both the IBM teams and their prospects, customers and partners by leveraging the IBM Cloud Specialty Mark
Other benefits answer more specifically to the specific needs of, say, a Cloud Builder:
  • simplified access to IBM experts, including IBM Labs specialists.
  • specific sales and technical support for complex projects
  • early access to IBM cloud roadmaps and new cloud products and services...
[Q2] Do the Sales and Technical Certifications have a real value for your company and its employees?
Besides getting access to marketing, sales and technical benefits, a [Cloud] Partner Program should provide sales and technical certifications that will really:
  • grow your sales and technical staff relevant skills and knowledge.
  • give prospects, vendors and partners confidence in your ability to implement the right sales and implementation methods for the vendor's flagship [cloud] offerings.
By helping myself some IBM partners to prepare the IBM Cloud Computing Specialty, I had the opportunity to assess the relevance of the 2 IBM Cloud Certifications that are proposed [and required to get access to the Specialty]:
These certifications force future advisors, who are experts in selling, proposing, architecting and implementing private/hybrid Clouds to acquire the education and skills that are needed to master the key aspects of successful Cloud projects:
  • Cloud overall principles and concepts [IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, BPaaS - Private/Hybrid/Public Cloud - Key caracteristics of a Cloud Service, eg elasticity, pay per use, self service, etc...]
  • Reference Architectures [eg CCRA - Cloud Computing Reference Architecture]
  • Structure and components of the IBM Cloud Offerings [eg SmartCloud Foundation, SmartCloud Services, SmartCloud Solutions]
  • Methodologies to design, build, implement and run a Cloud solution, etc...

Cloud Certifications: Must or Gadget?
Since more than 5 years now, I follow the evolution of the Cloud Ecosystem. I believe that is is now the right time for you to accelerate the development of your Cloud skills and to choose your major technological and business Partners:
  • Cloud and related skills and certifications are clearly no [or no more] gadgets:
  • Cloud influences decisions for many projects that are not even seen as Cloud.
  • Most major vendors have now publicized their Cloud "coming out" and formalized their Cloud strategy and Cloud Partner Program
  • Several of your peers have already started their Cloud journey and you don't want to miss the boat or to be relegated in the followers pack.
  • You may still be among the first to leverage Cloud Certifications and to be recognized as a Cloud expert by your major Partners [eg IBM?]
IBM Partners, contact your IBM representative or you VAD to get access to the IBM Cloud Computing Specialty!

    Loic Simon
    Cloud Channel Development - IBM France
    +33 6 76 75 40 71