Expert Advice From price to features and functionality, geography to capacity, selecting a cloud service provider can be confusing. We asked some cloud industry experts to offer their advice when evaluating a cloud service provider. Here is what they had to say:

Start by taking a close look at the entire portfolio of applications you are considering moving to a public cloud. It is likely that these applications will correspond to a wide variety of cloud requirements. For example, some applications may demand high performance or proximity to a particular geographic region. Others may only need minimal service levels and can benefit from low prices. From here you have a couple choices in terms of strategy. You can spread the applications across multiple service providers – and deal with the additional management overhead. Or, you may be able to find a very flexible provider to meet all of your needs. For instance, some providers offer both virtual and bare metal servers, which makes it far easier to host a wider variety of applications.

  1. Get a recommendation from someone you trust who already has an account. Ask them what he or she loves about the service provider and what he or she hates.
  2. Google (or Bing) that service provider for real user experiences. This will give you a better starting point than a generic Google search today.
  3. If the service provider has forums, see what users are talking about.
  4. Make sure they provide server and performance optimization services as well as search engine optimization services.

Organizations are recognizing the opportunity and threat presented by the new world of business digitalization. The tools of the third platform are creating a force of innovation that fundamentally shifts the value points of all industries and sizes of businesses globally.  Organizational boards and executives alike are recognizing that core to any strategy to compete is the application of technology to create insight, agility and open the level of addressable markets. Done well the opportunity translates to increased business valuations and increased life time value of the customer, done incorrectly the lifespan of the business can be limited.

Real questions are now being asked about the roles within an organization and how it relates to the application and ownership of technology. Most recently roles such as the CIO, the chief security officer and the chief marketing officer are all stepping up to become custodians of the organizations digital identity. Irrespective of who takes responsibility for these roles there are strategic, cultural and structural changes needed to execute well in this digital space.

The office of the CIO needs to take a considered look at their technology capability and assess where they can add real customer aligned value. In this process is the need to consider what they will not do (and who they won’t partner with) as much as what they will do. Scale / commodity based services across IaaS, SaaS and PaaS are all providing outcome based tools that make little sense for the CIO to develop themselves.

Traditional views would then say that there should be a procurement style process for a selection of an external provider with a clear set of requirements, volume, SLAs and contract term. This however is a cumbersome approach that does not reflect the need for a dynamic agile relationship that reflects the new ecosystem style of engagement. Instead organizations should look to engage with a service provider that is clearly able to articulate the organization’s business challenges and the industries’ business challenges.

In return the customer must be able to demonstrate clearly where they intend to compete (and win) in the market with the style of customer engagement that they are seeking, a vision and mission of clarity. This should go so far as to demonstrate to the service provider who is the strategic partners of the organization such that the service provider can look to add value to this process if able.

In this process the test will lie with the service provider to demonstrate their understanding of how they can enable the customer but also articulate a roadmap under which they will transform the customer over time. Equal to this the service provider will be able to articulate where they are able to provide the customer with choice and flexibility.

The new engagement model must be one of a partnership with a clear goal of creating value for the organization. This should include commercial and service level engagements that are aligned to the way in which the organization does business with low “lock in” and an ongoing approach to creating organization options.

Using infrastructure (compute private cloud, virtual private cloud and public cloud) as an example –simply being able to demonstrate what can be taken to the cloud is not enough. Instead the service provider must be able to provide a process for the customer (in partnership with the service provider) to evaluate what organizational technology solutions should and could be taken to the cloud. This includes an analysis of:

  • The data / information within an organization and its value. This process looks to provide $ value to the various data clusters based on such things as if the information was sold to the market, obtained by the highest risk competitor or the impact on operations if the business did not have the information to work off. This valuation then provides a CXO level standard by which policies of data location, protection and acquisition can be formed.
  • What components are capable of being shifted to what cloud based service. This can include categorizations of process, network and storage based workloads to locations based on price, risk, availability by location and flexibility. This should also include a reasoned analysis of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS scale based solutions that can be integrated into the service catalog
  • There is the opportunity to acknowledge that over a year the requirements for workloads may shift and that there could be some periods where migration will bring about commercial and performance benefits.

From there the organization and service provider should agree a process by which workloads are migrated and integrated over time with clear goals of optimization at both a technical and commercial level. This should be well governed and be maintained with a future or forecast view aligned to the organizations strategic and financial plan.

Done well the organization will be able to apply a stronger focus on their current and future customers and the service provider will evolve into the trusted and strategic space in the eyes of the organization.

The promise of the cloud is compelling and is being realized. Benefits include a shift from capital-intensive to operational cost models, lower costs overall, greater agility and reduced complexity. It will also shift the focus from IT resources to higher value-added activities for the business. How many people driving cars understand how the engine operates?

It is reasonable to recognize that these benefits need to be balanced against a number of perceived challenges, including security, lack of transparency, regulatory concerns, concerns about performance and availability, the potential for vendor lock-in, licensing constraints and integration needs. Some of these concerns are real but unfounded, others are real and will be addressed in the near term.

The juggernaut that is the information age is continuing to increase momentum and velocity in the shape of cloud computing. To think that this does not affect the shape of industry demand or supply is to be in denial. Those that will benefit the most are likely to be enterprises and service providers who are working now to reshape their strategies and squeeze uncommon benefits for their companies. History has many examples of the increase in value for companies who act upon industry change earlier than the mainstream market.

My advice for organizations is to act now, at a scale that is appropriate. The speed of adoption is already greater than we thought only a few years ago. Selecting a service provider that can support the changes in cloud computing– whether that is from a platform that is extensible based on your business needs or anticipates the next bounce of the ball – is important.


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