Sunday, May 19, 2024

Choosing the Right Cloud Computing Consultant

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Clearly, this is a need for consultants in the cloud computing sector. There is tremendous growth in the cloud, both on-premises and especially the public cloud. Gartner predicts the worldwide public cloud services market will from $246.8 billion in 2017 to $287.8 billion this year and reach $383 billion by 2020.

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Meanwhile, IDC says the rate of cloud computing spending has been growing at 4.5 times the rate of IT spending since 2009 and is expected to grow more than 6 times the rate of IT spending from 2015 through 2020.

With that growth will come a massive growth in cloud consultancies. It’s both inevitable and necessary. Many firms initially made the move to the cloud on their own and got a rude surprise. They didn’t understand the cloud and had the wrong ideas for what workloads should be migrated. The result, according to one IDC study, was more than 40% of companies surveyed moved workloads back on premises after a brief flirtation with the cloud.

What they often found is that they made the incorrect assumption that on-premises skills could translate to the cloud when they did not. Just because you can run a Red Hat Enterprise Linux server didn’t mean you automatically knew how to manage an Amazon Web Services EC2 instance. And while new skills can be learned, there is a learning process to be undertaken.

You want someone to help you do the move right, preferably while you learn. While grizzled veterans like IBM Global Services and CSC have shifted to the cloud, many cloud consultancies are new. So how do you choose the right consultant for your business, especially given many of these firms are startups just a few years old? We have some suggestions.

But first – and in any case, you want to select a strong cloud team. Make sure their team has been with the firm for a while, and that their team covers everything, like network infrastructure, applications, application development, security, data management, finance, and so forth. You don’t want a consultant who just does one thing well.

Selecting a Cloud Consultant for Your Business

1) Independence vs. Specialization – This is a double-edged argument and can go either way. On the side of independence, the cloud is a hybrid world, so you need an unbiased source who navigates the entire range of cloud service providers to find the best options for your business. This is especially true of you choose to go with multiple cloud providers, which the majority of businesses do.

On the flip side, dedicated experts can provide you with expertise if you choose to settle on one vendor. For example, IBM’s Global Services division is planning to convert its backlog of on-premises work to the cloud. So IBM shops that might have gotten custom on-premises apps might find IBM helping them migrate to the cloud – their cloud, naturally – instead.

Also, there is something to be said for dedicated experts, like 2nd Watch, which specializes in AWS, or New Signature, which is a major Azure consultant. They have deep knowledge of the services and very strong connections to the provider, so if you are all in with one provider, that might be the route to take.

2) Knows your industry – Many consultants can dissect features and functions all day long, but line of business is important too. The needs of a manufacturing firm are different from the needs of a retail chain. Your provider has to have experience in servicing your industry so they can incorporate business alignment with technology decisions.

3) Technical savvy – The cloud is technically complex, even with all of its abstractions. And the menu of offerings from providers is pretty extensive, especially from Amazon. So you need to have someone who truly understands execution details, not just strategy.

4) Wide range of financial and licensing models – A good consultant knows not only the costs involved in an EC2 instance but also hosted apps like SalesForce and on-premises licenses like SAP and Oracle that could cost millions in fines if deployed incorrectly.

5) Compliance acumen – There are a lot of rules about moving personal and sensitive data to the cloud and your consultant should know them. For example, the major cloud providers like Amazon and Microsoft promise HIPAA compliance, but there are also specialists like Armor (formerly Firehost) and Truevault, whose sole focus is on HIPAA. Which is right for you? That is something a consultant specializing in health care would know.

6) BizDevOps – They should not only be familiar with collaboration tools, newer methodologies for implementing fail/find/fix fast concepts and continuous delivery, but also how Agile business requirements map to the more strategic company plans. Cloud migrations can take years. You want to make sure that move doesn’t have to be undone.

7) A trusted partner – It may seem obvious but some people miss the obvious. You need to find someone you can work with as a close and truly trusted advisor for the long-term, not a casual encounter with a low trust level. This often means choosing a smaller or local consultancy vs. a giant like IBM, PwC, and Accenture.

8) Proven success – Ask for their track record and to speak with their customers, especially ones in your industry. The cloud is old enough now that you should not have to be anyone’s guinea pig, so look for a consultant that has been there, done that in your field.

9) Good security measures – Security breaches are at the top of everyone’s list of concerns, and rightfully so. It’s important that your consultant has well-defined security protocols, such as secure login and authentication and knowledge of industry regulations.

10) Plan long term – A cloud migration, as said earlier, is not a forklift job done in six months. This is an ongoing relationship that will span years. Expect to be with this company a long time and ask all the relevant questions about not only current issues of compatibility, but also where they expect to be in three years. If it’s not in roughly the same spot as you, you might want to reconsider.

11) The food chain – When evaluating a consulting partner, find out where they rank on the food chain of the providers they serve. For example, AWS has a tool on its partner page to look up consultants. AWS puts partners into two categories, Independent Software Vendors (ISV) and Consulting Partners (SI).  The SI category further breaks down into three categories – Premier Partners, Advanced Partners and general AWS partners. Your budget may limit you to an Advanced Partner even if you want a Premium Partner, but at least you know where they stand with Amazon.

12) Their promise to you – The provider should be completely transparent as to their promises to you, from risk management policies to review policies to grievance processes. Make sure the consultant has documented and formal processes for any changes to the services or apps, logs the changes, and so on. They should document their means of communicating what they are doing to you, including disruptions of business.

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