This week, we sat down with Mike Wood, vice president of Marketing at VeloCloud Networks, a provider of cloud-delivered SD WAN solutions. Wood has worked in the channel for the past 26 years, and held numerous executive-level roles at companies including Cisco and Akamai, among others. Wood joined VeloCloud in May 2015.

TVG: During your time in the channel, what are the biggest changes that you've seen come through?

Wood: I would say the biggest changes are the shift from the focus on selling boxes, transport speeds and bits. These days, the focus is mostly on selling value through services. That includes things like cloud-based services and internet-based services. I've seen a shift over the last 20 or 25 years towards that.

Another aspect is the shift in where the channel and individual partners are generating revenue from. There's less revenue down at the lower end and much more revenue and ways to profit at the higher end of the spectrum, where you're looking at data table stakes and adding all these value added services.

TVG: In the last 25 years that you've been operating in the channel, have you ever seen disruption at the same level that cloud services have created?

Wood: There have been a few that have not been as large as cloud. The closest that I've seen has been from time division multiplexing (TDM) to voiceover IP, IP communications, and what is known now as unified communications. That's probably the closest thing in terms of disruption that I've seen in the past and I had the fortune of being intimately involved in that particular disruption so I know it quite well.

However, I haven’t really seen anything quite as big as the shift toward cloud services. Just a few days ago, I was joking with a colleague of mine, and a few of us were joking that we remembered back when cloud was referred to as ASP and when that term was coined quite a while ago. It never really took hold because there weren't the features that were available now. There wasn't the massive distribution or availability of the solution and there weren't really the stable economies of scale there either. I think now we finally have all of those things with cloud.

We have robust feature sets. We have a pervasive deployment model where you can obtain cloud services just about anywhere around the globe. There's a massive investment by vendors in this space. They are no longer investing on premise models. Most of the new investment is going into the cloud based resource model.

TVG: Do you think that we'll see that pendulum start to swing, not all
the way back, but start to normalize a little bit? Or do you see cloud adoption just continuing to rise until it takes over all storage and compute?

Listen to Wood's answer below.

TVG: In regards to the channel, what sales quality do partners need to have to be able to successfully pitch and explain cloud to their customers?

Wood: I think there is a lot of opportunity left relative to channel partners being able to do that. It's my true belief that all these cloud services have a number of differentiators that are built into them. What I've seen is that the channel partners that are very successful and have good guidance from their vendors are the ones that can take the differentiation and customer benefits and really differentiate themselves from the other competitors out there.

Each of the partners I’ve worked with has a unique value add that they bring even though they may be selling 80 percent of the same solution that another partner is. Every partner out there has the ability to do that because they all have their own unique differentiation that they bring combined with that cloud service.

TVG: What opportunities or developments in the channel are you most excited about?

Listen to Wood's answer below.

TVG: What is it that channel partners need to be wary of as they are moving forward, especially into the new year?

Wood: I think that one threat is this idea that the playing field is leveling. The fact that the playing field is leveling and the barrier to entry for other channels is lower means that these other channel partners can come in and begin to take away business from you. It doesn't matter how large or how small you are, I think all of us as the channels are at risk of potentially losing business.

I think it's very, very important, especially going into 2017, to be hyper-vigilant around what you're doing to continue to retain those customers, add more value to those customers, and add more customers into your collection of end users. That's probably the one thing that worries me the most and is the most exciting.

It's both a threat and an opportunity. It's an opportunity for smaller channel partners to go in and capitalize on this, but it's a threat to larger channel partners to be wary of.

TVG: Is there a piece of advice that you learned early on in your career that guides the way you do business in the channel?

Listen to Wood's answer below.