Telecom providers, thousands of SaaS ISVs, and public cloud behemoths such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), among others, count among the ranks.
"For the channel, this voluminous market is expanding opportunity for vendor management," Herbert said.
"While seemingly obvious, a vendor manager acts as liaison between end customers and cloud- based vendors/service providers.
"The indirect channel is accustomed to this role, but today the task holds new meaning as customers navigate potential travails of the cloud world."
According to Herbert, case in point is that many SMB clients provision cloud solutions on their own.
But when things go wrong with a specific SaaS application or uptime performance is spotty, for example, these self-procured cloud solutions can be a headache.
"And many SMBs have no idea whom to call, nor, frankly, the time or patience for finding out," Herbert said.
"That's where the channel, and MSPs, are finding ways to provide value, solving a crisis for clients and managing vendor relationships. It's the one way channel firms can cement relevancy in the era of cloud."
As demands change, Herbert said channel firms are becoming more fussy when it comes to partner program tastes.
"What they once valued as essential from a vendor benefit standpoint is less relevant in today's services-based market," he said.
"Especially among partners heavily invested in consulting work and services, traditional incentives such as sales spiffs, upfront discounts and back-end rebates are not what endears them to any one vendor over another.
"Indeed, while vendor-provided margin once accounted for a majority of their revenue, channel companies today credit their own sales and marketing activities for driving the bulk of sales.
"What does this mean for vendors? Time to revamp partner programs."
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.