Cloud Managed Services – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of selecting a provider

Managed cloud services can be the bridge that spans the gap between internal resources and the IT department’s needs. The right provider offers not only applications and infrastructure, but the expertise to augment your staff, and to manage resources to meet your business’s needs and goals.
— Frost & Sullivan, "Cloud-Based Managed Services: Tips for Selecting a Provider that Can Help You Re-Tool Your IT Department"

The good news is you have more options than ever to outsource management of cloud than ever before. The bad news is the complexity of comparing different cloud managed services from prominent cloud service providers and determining what offerings best address your business and technical objectives. The Ugly is what could go wrong if you don’t choose carefully.

So, what should you consider when evaluating cloud managed service providers? According to Frost & Sullivan the following should top your list of evaluation criteria.

Core expertise in both infrastructure and workload as well as in application management and professional services to align cloud services with business goals and objectives.

Support for multiple hardware types and hypervisors to match the right type of infrastructure to the deployed workload to ensure maximum efficiency and performance.

Hybrid management expertise to split workloads or data between different physical and virtual environments enabling integration and connectivity between disparate platforms and applications.

Customizable services and SLAs that guarantee specific service parameters, and customize and tailor services based on your business outcomes.

Migration Services that are both standardize and automate the data migration process, in order to decrease costs and risk associated with the migration to while minimizing disruption to the business.

Robust security features, expertise and capabilities that exceed what you can do within your own organization. Providers should also offer features integrated redundancy or disaster recovery capabilities to ensure access to workloads and data at all times.

Comprehensive compliance assurance and reporting that align with regulations governing your business in order to avoid costly fines and penalties.

 Robust portfolio of managed services to assist with professional services tasks like environment configuration, IT or cloud governance, or management of specialized workloads, such as ERP or CRM.

For an in depth comparison of cloud managed services providers and capabilities check out the Frost & Sullivan white paper Cloud-Based Managed Services:Tips for Selecting a Provider that Can Help You Re-Tool Your IT Department. Another helpful resource is the IBM e-book Cloud Managed Services: A comparison guide - What to look for when choosing your cloud provider.

The Way of Social Sales: A Martial Art Salespeople Need to Master

For several years I practiced the traditional Japanese martial art of Kendo. Participants learn many valuable lessons including the importance of continually observing, adjusting, changing strategy and tactics to penetrate their partners’ defenses, find an opening to eventually gain an advantage. The lessons learned from practicing Kendo can be applied to the current state of technology and telecommunications sales by leveraging The Way of Social Selling. Traditional sales methods are no longer effective to identify an opening that will lead to an opportunity to engage and advance in order to achieve an advantage against the competition.

 Like in Kendo, collaborating with today’s information savvy buyers requires an entirely different sales methodology. A sales martial art, so to speak, that involves using social channels to listen, observe, engage, communicate and gain advantage and defeat your competitors’ strategy.

An effective social strategy is:

  • One based on building relationships and providing buyers with information they need to make purchase decisions.
  • That uses storytelling to articulate why your company is uniquely positioned to solve a buyer’s problems.
  • While providing clear and differentiated messages through customer focused content.
  • Through an approach that parallels and intersects with a customers buying process.
  • And, aligns marketing and sales to provide a single voice in all communications.
  • While using rich data and analytics to learn more about customer needs and preferences through their interactions.

 The end result is effective, two-way communication, through social channels that enables buyers to engage, evaluate and eventually do business with you.

 Attached is a link to a presentation I created, Information Technology and Telecom Sales = Social Business Sales, that provides a step-by-step, easily digestible model for implementing an effective social sales strategy. The methodology will help you and your sales teams engage, penetrate and gain an advantage over your competitors, positioning you to win - just like in Kendo practice.

Separating Cloud Contenders from The Pretenders – Courtesy of the Foo Fighters

Keep you in the dark. You know they all pretend. Keep you in the dark. And so it all began...
— Foo Fighters, "The Pretender"

I don’t know if there is a better song than Foo Fighters’ “The Pretender” to get me going before a great cycling workout. And, you know what; the lyrics also apply to a lot of the so called magic quadrant “contenders” in today’s crowded cloud market. Contrary to what many cloud providers may lead you to believe, there are significant differences between marketing spin, the capabilities they can actually deliver at the cost you contracted for.  

The spin you might hear from several prominent cloud providers:

Now that's some spin! Queue the lyrics.

"Spinning infinity, boy. The wheel is spinning me. It's never-ending, never-ending. Same old story..."

But, wait, what…..What about being able to change cloud provisioning on a dime to keep up with business dynamics? Or, delivering new apps quickly to reduce time-to-market for new services? Oh, you wanted enterprise grade resiliency AND to make sense of all that dark data? That might be extra! 

So, here’s the problem, not only are many IT Leaders and CIO’s experiencing issues with less than adequate performance and rising costs for cloud; many, according to Stratecast, have no idea what their costs are for cloud.  

“…..most IT decision-makers have surprisingly little understanding of cloud economics: neither what they are spending on cloud services nor what they should be spending.” 

Uh oh...but wait, there's more...

“As enterprises place more workloads into the cloud, many are finding that actual costs for running a cloud workload significantly exceed the budget. For every dollar in IaaS expenditures, businesses may spend $3 or more to manage the service, according to the Stratecast survey.” 

Can anyone say “scary skeletons in the IT budget?" 

“Send in your skeletons. Sing as their bones go marching in, again. The need you buried deep. The secrets that you keep are ever ready. Are you ready?” 

So, maybe there IS a difference between what some providers tell you they can deliver on a public or virtualized cloud, using their proprietary tools for development, to achieve deeper insight WITHOUT using cognitive solutions? Um, queue little voice......

 “I'm the voice inside your head. You refuse to hear. I'm the face that you have to face. Mirrored in your stare. I'm what's left, I'm what's right. Keep you in the dark. You know they all pretend.”

 Now, how do the lyrics go.......

“What if I say I'm not like the others?”

What? A cloud computing solution that was completely open, allowed YOU to run workloads anywhere you wanted, integrated with legacy and mission critical apps, to provide deeper insight?

Might be time to clear the air and separate the cloud contenders from the pretenders.

Until Public Cloud is ready for Prime Time - Hybrid Cloud Rules

Public cloud is NOT ready for prime time, and until it is hybrid cloud rules. Yeah, I know a lot of enterprises have moved workloads to public cloud and are enjoying the benefit of lower costs but, here’s the litmus test – how many enterprises trust public cloud enough to move mission critical or legacy enterprise applications to public cloud? Even if they wanted to move them, could they? And, theirin lies the rub!

Want proof that public cloud isn’t ready for prime time? Seems like many IT decision-makers don’t believe public cloud is ready for prime time either.

“In a recent Stratecast survey of IT decision-makers, security, compliance, and performance concerns top the list of restraints to using public cloud for certain workloads. In addition, many mission-critical workloads (such as legacy ERP systems) are not built for cloud deployment; migration would require a complete retooling, at considerable disruption and risk to the business.”

This to me expresses a complete lack of confidence when it comes to moving mission-critical and legacy workloads to a “low-cost” public cloud providers’ off-premises environment. Saving money is one thing but exposing applications and sensitive data in an environment that might lack enterprise levels of security, resilience, control, and agility is a bet many IT decision-makers don’t seem willing to make.

It appears, according to Stratecast, that for most enterprises a hybrid cloud strategy trumps public cloud when it comes to applications that truly matter.

“Instead of a public cloud-centric strategy, most businesses today (fully 71%, according to the Stratecast survey) are pursuing a hybrid IT strategy, comprising a combination of environments and deployment models: premises-based and hosted; traditional and cloud; physical and virtual servers; Infrastructure, Platform, and Software as a Service.”

An alternate, safer, approach until public cloud is ready for prime time would be doubling down on a hybrid cloud strategy that provides:

  • Choice to place workloads where they make the most sense for an enterprise and their clients
  • Speed to develop, integrate and deliver new apps quickly and efficiently
  • Integration between legacy, mission critical, social, mobile and IoT’s to unlock data and insight
  • Cognitive capabilities to deliver a deeper understanding of dark data

Still believe most public cloud providers' low cost offerings are ready for prime time and mission-critical applications? Check out the e-book I wrote, “Clearing the air: What you really need to know about hybrid cloud”, that contrasts and compares public and hybrid cloud approaches from (4) industry leading cloud providers.

Navigating the shadows of Cloud TCO

Ever wake from a nightmare, it’s pitch black and you have no idea where you are? Many IT Leaders experience something like this, as they try to determine the real cost of cloud computing, especially those that have been lured by the promises of a low-cost cloud provider. A quote from Frost & Sullivan’s white paper The Truth About Cloud Price-Performance sums up the nightmare facing some IT Leaders attempting to quantify cloud TCO:

"Some businesses that chose a cloud service provider based on low published rates are experiencing higher costs than anticipated. Others are fielding complaints about unacceptable application performance. Still others are realizing they have no idea whether they are paying too much or too little for what they are getting."

The nightmare gets worse. As a recent Frost & Sullivan Stratecast survey reveals, many IT Leaders not only don’t know the real costs associated with cloud, they are experiencing drastic cost overruns that lead to credibility issues!

"If they miscalculate costs upfront, IT leaders not only have to find a way to manage the budget gap—they may also find their credibility damaged among the executive team. Thirty-two percent of respondents in the Stratecast survey said their biggest challenge in building out their cloud strategy is obtaining additional budget; another 22% were concerned about ongoing support from business leaders. Fifty-five percent expressed concern that the return on investment would not be sufficient to justify moving additional workloads to the cloud."

So, how do you find your way out of the darkness to unveil the real economics of Cloud TCO?

Step one might be to look at detailed comparisons of cloud TCO results for three prominent vendors. The comparison guide I wrote, Cloud IT economics: What you don’t know about TCO can hurt you, can shed some light on the subject.

The guide provides a comparison of performance and cost for four commonly provisioned cloud workloads – CPU intensive, storage intensive, network intensive and hosted private cloud. It discusses the often overlooked factors that should be the foundation of cloud TCO, including capabilities that can accelerate business agility and quantifiable results, the performance required to drive compelling customer experiences, and the real cost drivers not included in many cloud provider proposals.

Cloud IT economics also reveals commonly overlooked details and hidden costs not found in initial proposals, which many IT Leaders don’t discover until later. I’m talking about little annoying things, like up charges for higher CPU and storage performance, lack of operating system currency or compatibility, additional charges for moving workloads between data centers, incremental costs for higher levels of security, or charges for technical support. All of these add up and impact cloud TCO. And that can ultimately impact your enterprise’s ability to achieve speed, flexibility, insight and innovation.

If you’re losing sleep over the reality of cloud costs, perhaps you should take a closer look at what’s really important when evaluating cloud TCO and comparing providers. Bring the TCO question out of the shadows and into the light, and banish that nightmare.