Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft's channel chief and head of the global Microsoft One Commercial Partner team, told delegates at the 2018 Microsoft Inspire event that the current drive towards the cloud resembles nothing so much as the US gold rush of 150 years ago. Everyone is heading in the same direction, with much jostling and plenty of competition, but also huge opportunities for fortunes to be made.
"It reminds me a bit of America's gold rush in the west; the cloud is our modern-day gold rush and data is the currency of the cloud. But then, as now, actual gold isn't where the real fortunes came from, as these were instead built from the communities, from the commerce, and from the industries that were born out of the population boom," she says.
Traci Maynard, Microsoft Executive at Axiz, points out it is worth remembering that even though the gold miners themselves were in direct competition with one another, they all made use of the stables, saloons and general stores that sprung up in the nearby towns.
"In the same way, the creation of complex cloud-focused ecosystems today means that even when businesses are competing with one another, they can still all access the same services and solutions from a multitude of vendors to help them achieve their goals," she says.
"A good example of the kind of ecosystem I am talking about is that of Microsoft's Cloud Solutions Provider (CSP) programme. Designed to serve as the foundation of cloud licensing, which enables true digital transformation, CSP ensures that partners who join this ecosystem will see enormous possibilities around the cloud open up."
Maynard adds the beauty of creating a genuine ecosystem is that whatever an organisation needs, be it pre-sales skills, additional competencies or a complete infrastructure platform, it is able to access it through this ecosystem, allowing the company to instead focus on its core business. CSP, for example, ensures partners have access to the skills, experience and competence they need to embrace the latest cloud technologies.
"Our vision of a cloud ecosystem is one where we can connect the standard ICT reseller to the cloud, offering them tools, marketing and support assistance to service their end-users via the cloud. It is about offering a platform capable of provisioning, managing and billing solutions sourced from multiple vendors, including global ISVs like McAfee, Red Hat and Citrix.
"The African continent offers a clear opportunity for those with vision to really grab the bull by the horns, take the initiative and make a major play for new cloud business. The beauty of having a true ecosystem is that success for one is essentially success for all," she says.
Furthermore, continues Maynard, having a community of partners working towards the same goal opens up incredible opportunities to help grow the broader local economy as well, thanks to the dividends delivered by digital technology. Boosting the economy on a larger scale is really the most critical goal of the ecosystem, she adds, since a strong economy is ultimately good for everyone's business.
"At a time like this, where digital technology is part of every fabric of life and economy and society, there now exists a wonderful opportunity to help to tackle the most pressing challenges of the world, everything from climate change to energy and education, by leveraging this ecosystem and using technology to genuinely change the world," she concludes.