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Will Cloud ISVs Determine Cloud Storage Winners?

Cloud storage providers are all actively pursuing Independent Software Developers (ISVs) to support their cloud at the back-end. The idea is to make cloud storage a simple option to your storage application of choice, making the use of cloud storage skyrocket. The provider with the most ISVs in their pockets wins. Will that strategy work?

In the past I've said for cloud storage to be successful, it needs to be seamless. Users can't even know that they are using the cloud. It just happens. This is the concept behind ISVs doing the integration work. For example, if you are using a backup application and you want to be able to move a copy of that data to the cloud for disaster recovery purposes, selecting a cloud-target is as simple as clicking the check box.

The strategy seems sound, as long as the cloud storage provider can get the ISV to support only their cloud or at least make their cloud the preferred target of the ISV's application. To date, many of the larger cloud-storage-enablement announcements say thst there is support for three or four cloud providers. This means that the cloud-storage providers still have to communicate directly to the storage manager so that when that list of choices presents itself, they know why they should pick one provider over another. The key to making this strategy work is for cloud storage providers to capture the smaller ISVs. There are thousands of them, to integrate their application into the provider's storage. It would be logical for a smaller ISV to want to allocate the development resources one time and pick one cloud provider.

What is going to sway these smaller ISVs? I don't think it's all about additional profits. Most cloud providers are pretty close in the amount of revenue-sharing that they can provide. The decision points are really going to be around the strength of the cloud storage API. What capabilities can it bring to their application for example, and of course, how easy is it to integrate into their application? Another area is going to be company stability. The reality is that we have been sharing storage across public networks for some time, yet perception is that cloud storage is something new and that most of the companies involved are either new entities or they are new at providing this kind of service. Cloud providers are going to need to provide sustainability. Finally, the last thing an ISV wants to hear about is how the cloud service is down for one reason or another. Many of them fear, and justifiably so, that if they provide a cloud extension to their application and it becomes unavailable that they, the ISV, are going to get the first call. Also most small ISVs (and large ones) build their following on great customer service.

The takeaway is that cloud providers do need to go after the ISV market, but get BOTH the ISV and the eventual user of that ISV's application to understand the benefits of their particular cloud offering. ISV integration is a good strategy, but you still have to have a superior offering.