Talkin' Cloud Senior Executive Editor Charlene O'Hanlon discussed cloud services, the importance of brand for channel companies and much more during a panel discussion at CompTIA's ChannelCon 2014 in Phoenix.

The discussion, titled "From Concept to Reality ... Getting Real Value from Your Partner Channel, Around Today's Top MSP and Cloud Trends," featured insights from veteran channel journalists on what the top trends in cloud and managed services mean for channel businesses.

Morris Management Partners Principal Consultant Ryan Morris moderated the panel discussion.

In addition to Davis, panel members included:

  • MSPmentor Executive Editor Jessica Davis
  • Talkin' Cloud/MSPmentor/The VAR Guy Contributing Editor Mike Vizard
  • CompTIA Vice President of Research and Market Intelligence Tim Herbert

Here are five key takeaways from the panel discussion:

1. MSPs don't necessarily have a headstart in the cloud
Think managed service providers (MSPs) are taking full advantage of the cloud? Think again!

"There has been an assumption for the last five years that MSPs had a jump start into the cloud, that they are naturally going to be able to move into the cloud and be successful. That is not what the research is showing," Morris told attendees.

Vizard added he believes there is no longer a "dominant business model" for cloud services providers (CSPs) and MSPs, but a dramatic change is taking place in both the cloud and managed services markets.

"Vendor evaluations are dropping and valuations of the integrators are up," he said. "It's kind of come full circle."

2. Channel companies are 'very agile'
More channel companies are devoting the necessary time and resources to educate their customers on the value of the cloud, according to O'Hanlon.

"They're very agile companies," she said. "They're companies that are very willing to turn on a dime to serve their end users."

She also pointed out channel companies do not group all of their customers together and are willing to work with them to ensure they are fully supported.

3. Service providers and solution providers are 'no longer selling on brand'
The perception that brand is crucial for CSPs and MSPs is quickly changing, O'Hanlon said.

"I don't think solution providers, service providers are selling on brand anymore. I don't think they can sell on brand," she told attendees.

Morris, however, added he believes customers ultimately will engage with an integrator's brand.

4. Communication is key for CSPs and their customers
O'Hanlon pointed out communication is vital for CSPs and their customers because it can eliminate the "disconnect" between them.

"There always seems to be disconnect about what the cloud services customers think they will need versus what [CSPs] are going to offer, and there needs to be more communication between both parties to make sure everyone is on the same page," O'Hanlon said.

New cloud services such as infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) are going to create new opportunities for CSPs, O'Hanlon said, and explaining how these services work can help CSPs connect with customers.

5. Which company topped the Talkin' Cloud 100?
This 2014 Talkin' Cloud 100 results are a well-kept secret, but Davis and O'Hanlon provided details about which company came out on top.

IBM (IBM) finished first on this year's Talkin' Cloud 100, thanks in part to its ability to leverage many different technologies simultaneously.

"IBM's been very successful … it can package a lot of different technologies," Herbert added.

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