–  Brian P. Donaghy, CEO of Appcore, says:

Adding cloud computing to the data center product portfolio is proving to be a smart strategy for providers looking to maximize their revenue per square footage and offer the latest technology to their customers. Integrating cloud automation enables data centers to not only improve operational efficiency for their customers, but also for themselves, by reducing the time required for IT staff to monitor and manage critical application infrastructure.

With data center facilities already built to support the performance and capacity requirements the cloud demands, and companies increasingly looking to reduce IT expenses and improve operational efficiency, not adding cloud computing would be to miss a valuable market opportunity.

While you could build your own cloud platform, this approach could take months, if not years resulting in valuable resources wasted in capitalizing on the current demand for and growth in cloud services. In many cases, it makes more sense economically and from a speed-to-market perspective to partner with a cloud solution provider.

However, not all cloud providers are created equal. As you look to forge a partnership to move into the cloud computing business, here are some tips to help you make the right choice for a successful launch and ongoing relationship.

Look for a roll-in-ready platform that encompasses everything required—hardware, software and business services—to launch and deploy cloud resources for your customers. This comprehensive approach is imperative to ensuring a smooth and fast implementation to get your cloud business running quickly. A partner that brings optimized hardware, automation software and business services to the cloud will provide a faster time to market and seamless rollout experience to help any data center maximize the revenue potential of the cloud.

Emphasize automation. Choosing a platform that enables dynamic auto-provisioning can significantly reduce the burden and cost of manual provisioning without sacrificing performance. Business customers are demanding the ability to scale resources on demand to control costs and eliminate waste. Data centers that can provide automation of compute resources based on real-time demand can offer their customers a much better value, while maximizing the efficient use of their own resources.

Choose a flexible, reliable solution that meets both your own and end-user specifications. SLAs, uptime, security and fail-over assurance is obviously critical, but what about the type of operating systems, user interface and support levels required? Be certain the partner you choose offers compatible technology to avoid delays in implementation and that both you and your customers’ expectations for management tools and support interactions are met. Are you seeking a co-branded or white-label system? Will you offer direct end-user access into the cloud management console? What is the protocol for providing end-user support service? There is no right or wrong answer to these questions for data centers. The important thing to remember is to find a partner that will work with you to build a custom model that works best for you and your customers.

Find a platform with built-in business services. The hardware and software platform are a given as part of any cloud deployment. What about the tools to actually sell the service, collect revenue and run the business side of the cloud? Many cloud solution providers leave you to figure out the rest on your own. However, the best partner will also provide the tools required to market, operate and monetize your cloud; which should include promotional support, usage reporting, business intelligence and the ability to automatically track customer resource consumption and billing. Once again, you could build these systems yourself, and you may already have some of it in place for existing customers. But why reinvent the wheel or risk a complicated integration? Cloud partners that offer these built-in services can streamline the integration of cloud to your existing offers, saving you valuable time and money in startup and ongoing management.

Insist on a single-vendor relationship. While there are many cloud solution providers, some are merely configurators, pulling together a cache of multiple systems to deliver a “complete solution.” But, what happens when something goes wrong? You may find yourself working through a long list of vendors to get to the resolution. Very few cloud providers offer a comprehensive platform that incorporates the hardware, operating systems, software, applications and management tools in a single vendor offering. However, finding and choosing one that does, not only saves months in deployment and implementation but also dramatically speeds troubleshooting when an issue does arise.

Businesses today are increasingly looking at cloud computing as a utility, much like the electricity, water, gas and telephony that powers their day-to-day operations. As business of all sizes become more aware of the cost and operational efficiencies the cloud provides, the opportunity for data centers to capture this new business grows exponentially, especially for existing customers with whom relationships are already built.

By choosing a cloud partner that can meet your specific demands—and those of your customers—with the advanced hardware, software and business services required, data centers can quickly bring to market cloud solutions that will grow and evolve alongside the needs of their own business and their customers.