The cloud is not for everyone.

That might sound counter-intuitive coming from Chris Richardson, GM of the Cloud and Hosting division at First Distribution, but he says a lot of the negative publicity about the cloud is from companies that have failed to gain value from their cloud journey.

But cloud is certainly a conversation that every company should at least be having with their IT partner – and that every IT partner should be having with their distributor.

First Distribution recognises that the conversation could be a complex one and that reseller partners are under pressure to provide their customer with the right answers. This is why its First for Cloud division specialises in providing cloud solutions and resources to help its reseller partners take the right solutions to their customers.

“There will always be the world of traditional distributors,” explains Richardson. “But alongside them are the new-age distributors like First for Cloud with a very different sales and go-to-market strategy.

“A big differentiator is that the solutions we provide for our partners are not necessarily brand- or vendor-created, but are something that we have put together.

“Not everyone can do that, and it’s what sets First for Cloud apart as a business.”


A new way of selling solutions

The biggest issue that reseller partners and distributors alike grapple with is that cloud simply can’t be sold in the same way as other IT products or services. “Cloud services aren’t run-rate transactions,” Richardson says.

He explains that First for Cloud uses its own platform to deliver cloud services which partners can white label and sell on to their customers – or use them as the foundation for their own services.

“This allows partners to create and sell unique services.”

A big difference in the cloud space is that partners don’t have to chase big sales, but can offer inexpensive services to a broader customer base. “Cloud caters to microservices, or services with high consumption frequency,” Richardson points out. “And some partners might be missing opportunities if they try to deal with cloud as they would a traditional project sale.”

Indeed, the availability of cloud services opens up the SME (small-and-medium enterprise) market to partners. “This is the single biggest opportunity in South Africa,” Richardson says. “There are 300 000 SMEs out there, and partners have barely started addressing them. The larger resellers have always gone after bigger fish and not even looked at the potential of these smaller companies.”

This speaks to what Richardson calls the $1 mentality. “Sell $1.00 to every single person you speak to”

“The average SME sales opportunity is less that R10 000 whereas the traditional business from a large company comes in at around R200 000,” he says. “Because the cloud allows you to do large volumes, the smaller deals start looking very attractive.”


A specialised partner

First for Cloud provides licensing and consumption services to the partner community, leveraging both public and private cloud platforms.

Public cloud offerings include those from Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Huawei Cloud.

First for Cloud’s partner webstores allows licences and cloud services to end user customers as well as private cloud hosters of data centres including telecommunications operators, large systems integrators, or niche resellers that run their own infrastructure or data centres.

On the independent software vendor (ISV) front, First for Cloud offers licences and solutions from a number of market leaders including Veeam, VMware, Commvault, Morpheus, BitTitan and Zoom.

But First for Cloud doesn’t just resell vendor solutions or platforms, it also offers partners its own managed services and professional services. The company runs its own managed services business specific to Microsoft Azure and AWS. On the professional services front, it offers migration services, security services, well-architected reviews, and more.

The distributor also offers cost management tools from VMware Cloudhealth and SNOW. “Partners going on a cloud journey that don’t have a cost management platform will very quickly find that they need one,” Richardson says. “Security is also a massive issue for cloud, so we provide tools to help partners manage and mitigate against breaches.”

Further resources from First for Cloud include the Cloud Catalyst programme, which helps partners transition their business to the cloud. “We also run training around sales enablement, technical enablement, programme management, and more,” Richardson says.


Same but different

Although it has its own identity and unique way of working, First for Cloud is an integral part of First Distribution. It has the same management team, registered partners and shared services.

“We are part of the business and an increasingly strategic part,” Richardson says. “As the traditional datacentre and cloud worlds get closer together we are seeing more elements of overlap.

“This means we have 360-degree view of the vendor landscape which gives us a great view on what partners should be looking at using and where they should be focusing their effort to ensure great returns.

“And, because we have the platform, we can help our partners to both consume our products, but also monetise their own services,” Richardson says. “A lot of competitors don’t do that.”

For more information, visit