Who Will Move You to the Cloud?

With the sheer number of cloud platforms and vendors all but promising confusion, some companies could use a ‘cloud advisor’.
In my last cloud computing commentary in this space, I described how a growing number of organizations of all sizes are recognizing the potential benefits of Cloud Computing and are beginning to consider their options. Now, the question is: who will help you sort through the myriad of choices and capitalize on the rapidly expanding Cloud alternatives?

As I outlined in my previous column, the Cloud Computing marketplace is generally divided into three stratas – Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). It can also be deployed in four primary ways: public, private, hybrid or community environments.

As if evaluating twenty-one -- yes, 21! -- combinations isn’t tough enough (the number of stratas times deployment models), there are countless vendors hawking a wide array of products and services in each of these areas.

An endless stream of start-ups, backed by a revitalized venture community, is seeking to make their fortunes in the Cloud marketplace. And, nearly every established hardware and software vendor is rebranding their products to catch this technology wave.

While all these suppliers are convinced they can deliver cloud-like functionality, few are equipped to roll up their sleeves and fully explain how their ‘solutions’ will fit within your legacy environment or help you achieve your business objectives. Their vendor-centric view isn’t new. For years, technology and software vendors have boasted that their square pegs can fit into customers’ round holes.

For years, consulting firms, systems integrators (SIs) and value-added resellers (VARs) have played the role of ‘trusted advisor’ to hold the hand of the customer and help them navigate through the treacherous waters of product selection, deployment and ongoing management. In most cases, these companies worked as channel partners for various hardware and software vendors to help them sell and support their products.

Some industry observers are now suggesting that a new generation of ‘Cloud Brokers’ is emerging to assume the trusted advisor/channel role in the Cloud Computing environment.

What sets the new players apart from the previous generation is that they are more transaction-oriented because one of the fundamental value propositions of today’s Cloud services is their ‘on-demand’ capability. Therefore, organizations seeking to leverage Cloud solutions expect a quicker time-to-value at a lower cost than traditional products. This means the trusted advisor must be able to help their clients quickly select and assemble the right piece-parts with limited hand-holding and minimum administration. This doesn’t leave much room for the fat profits of the past.

Some established consulting firms, SIs and VARs are trying to restructure their operations to meet these expectations. But, this isn’t easy given the overhead costs of their legacy skills and business processes.

These challenges have opened the door for a new breed of Cloud-oriented consultancies who promise to deliver their services more quickly and economically, and online marketplaces which enable customers to acquire and integrate SaaS, PaaS and IaaS solutions on-demand.

While this new generation of advisors and aggregators can help you navigate the clouds, the economics of Cloud Computing will change the way in which you interact with them and the role they ultimately play in the Cloud selection, implementation and management lifecycle.

Kaplan is Managing Director of THINKstrategies (www.thinkstrategies.com), an independent consulting firm focused on the business implications of the on-demand services movement. He is also the founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace (www.cloudshowplace.com). He can be reached at jkaplan@thinkstrategies.com.

Tags: cloud computing, software, SaaS, Enterprise IT, PaaS

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