It’s undeniable that one day, most, if not all, enterprise data will sit in the cloud.  However, there’s is much work to be done in regards to migration, development, and systems integration, before one calls this movement can go further. Seeing that services like Windows Azure are fresh to this newfangled market, it’s unlikely that a large number of enterprises have the staff and/or capacity to fully prepare for this paradigm shift. Therefore, it’s also undeniable that most organizations are going to need assistance in the form of independent software vendors (ISVs), system integrators (SIs), value-add resellers (VARs) and a host of other acronym loving vendors, to widen new cloud endeavors and support existing infrastructure.

Much like the maligned early 00’s, where enterprises noticed climbing outlays due to the need to embark upon improving storage and data management capabilities in order to enhance private data centers for the virtualization craze, one can say we’re in the beginnings of a similar transitional period with cloud tech. Windows Azure users can be rest assured that Microsoft understands that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and not only from a consumer standpoint. Since cloud technology is something of a utility, your traditional distributor is staring into the face of shrinking revenues — a cost that’ll certainly be passed onto their customers.

In order to combat the loss of a distributor channel, Microsoft is cultivating an ecosystem where distributors will get trained, certified, and paid to connect resellers and VARs to Azure, as well as continue to sell them existing supply chain management and billing products and services that they’ve been slinging for years. In return, resellers and VARs will be provided with greater access to a wider market.

Whether certain VARs and system integrators will endure the cloud changeover depends upon how much they are willing to adapt to a hardware-less environment. And although they’ll be more than enough VARs and SIs for enterprises to gobble-up, enterprises need to continually monitor if their existing vendors are prepared for the growing tide that is the cloud. More pointedly speaking, the areas of knowledge that may need attention are domain management, data migration, SaaS/PaaS systems/application integration, and training and support.

Not unlike most initiatives an enterprise takes on, where the ROI of an initiative needs to be evaluated before committing to a venture, so too must they decide who will support their new cloud venture. It’s obvious that this is the case with those organizations that are currently outsourcing IT, but also extends itself to those that are assessing if a staff beyond the confines of the on-premise data center might become more cost effective, or just more effective altogether. And even though not much will change in how software distributors, resellers, and vendors will operate, it’s critical that the enterprise understands that as technology is changing, their supplier relationships are going to change with it.