The concept of cloud computing is not necessarily new however the reality today is that technology has accelerated to be able to actually provide it. An interesting thing that is occurring is that customers are buying into consuming technology in this new way and SI’s that are not wondering how they need to evolve their business to provide or support it will very likely be in decline in coming years
With the experience I have in virtualisation and cloud technology, I have been consulted to drive the evolution of SI to cloud. It is more complex than people may think. It is not just the technology needed but also the changes within the organisation to support and even sell in this new consumption model. It is about delivering services rather than product and this can be a big step for people at all levels within an SI.
I look back on the things I have done, the success I have had, the models that worked, the ones that didn’t, the vendors that “got it” and the ones that think they do and I wanted to share my experience with others. There will be some readers who can learn from my win’s and from my mistakes to accelerate their time to market and those who have gone down similar journey’s who can share their thoughts and experience with me and others.
A bit of background, the journey from a typical consultancy based company to a service provider is often challenging. This journey is often undertaken to develop a cloud platform to provide annuity based revenue, to strengthen the company and provide new offerings to customers.
Service provider needs to be focused on resiliency, efficiency and yes, over-subscription
- Resiliency – A cloud platform needs to be highly resilient, it provides a platform for multiple customers. This resiliency is needed at all levels within the environment. Often resiliency is achieved by High Availability (multiples of the same thing). This can be slightly different to redundancy.
- Efficiency – The cloud platform needs to be as efficient as possible, any wasted resources, are resources that can be sold to other customers.
- Over-subscription – Let’s not kid ourselves. A cloud is all about over-subscription, if we couldn’t over-subscribe we wouldn’t make any money.
The first challenge that integrators tackle is thinking that they can do this without previous experience in a Service Provider world.
If you do not have someone in your organisation that thinks in this way.. get one
Service Provider’s have a different mindset than most integrators. This mindset I like to call an “Enterprise” mindset. It comes from the day to day consultancy business that they already run.
The enterprise mindset I see is the common thought process that vendor brands are good and bigger is better. A lot of traditional integrators leverage existing vendor relationships to try and establish a cloud. This may be a good way to start but often back fires with large capital expenses being spent on infrastructure without any thought put into it. The bigger is better part comes from day to day consultants within the business. Consultants provide ad-hoc services to the integrators customers, where they are not held accountable for any budgets or infrastructure costs.
A typical implementation for a consultant will over spec any solution to try and cater for growth and future business without any business analysis having been performed to justify the requirement. This leaves the customer with large requirements for infrastructure and ongoing capital expenses. This is very common for short term projects where a customer will purchase new infrastructure on a 3yr term for a 1yr project. This infrastructure then may or may not be re-purposed.
Due to the this vicious cycle of consultants over spec’ing environments, integrators are left with large capital expenses for vendor equipment that may not meet their needs.
This leads into the second challenge that integrators face with the journey. A cloud needs full time dedicated resources to deliver. Most integrators will try and use existing internal consultants to build their cloud. For those that have worked for a Service Integrator you will understand that internal IT is often forgotten.
Without full time resources on the cloud, the project often fails at this point.
Consultants are not given the appropriate time or direction to do what they normally would if this were a customer project. The following items are often missed at this key stage leading to certain failure of the cloud business;
- Bill of Materials – At this point for most business’s on this journey someone has already purchased infrastructure after discussion with the vendors and internal consultants that may or not be working on the project. If the Bill of Materials is missing and infrastructure has been purchased it may not fit the requirements of the business.
- High Level Overview of the solution – This document should contain two things; The overall architecture of the solution & the service offerings that this solution needs to provide.
- Technical Designs – Technical designs for the Cloud are more often than not very overlooked. These are typically delivered as an “As Built” document which will outline Names, IP Addressing, Disk configuration. Whilst this information is useful, it does not help with the overall concept of a cloud. Technical designs need to cover off actual design decisions. They explain why the solution has been built the way it has.
Now onto the third challenge, that could be termed as the legalities for a Cloud.
As a cloud provider you are now hosting and providing a service for a customer. This service will typically contain some internet transit, software licensing, and storage. These services present new areas to an integrator business that they may not be entirely familiar with. I won’t go into too much depth here but show a few things that need to be considered;
- With Internet transit you need to make sure your company is protected by any wrong doing of the customer. Examples may be torrenting, or spam, or DDoS attacks.
- As a service provider you have taken on ownership of some software licensing, you need to make it very clear to your customers what they are responsible for when it comes to licensing. This will depend on your service offering and how much ownership your business wants in the Cloud. Some software companies still do not provide software licenses for multi-tenant cloud environments. I encourage you to read the license agreements for software providers you deal with to avoid any legal action at a later date.
- Storage can be of some concern depending on your customer base. You need to be aware of data sovereignty and data classification laws.
Please be aware that many other items do need to be covered on your legal agreements, the items above are the common areas people miss in this journey, and I highly suggest you invest money in this area to ensure your business and your customers are protected.
I hope the above challenges are useful, and I am sure many share the same pain that I have in my experiences on these journeys. If you are just starting on this journey I hope this has helped you identify things early enough to rectify and I wish you all the success with your cloud business.