The Cloud Up-Sell (Cloud vs. Fluff)

Information Technology is evolving around us at an ever increasing rate. Many companies are looking to “The Cloud” to reduce costs and improve efficient use of technical resources.

Although there is no universal definition of “The Cloud”, cloud computing generally refers to the use of dynamically allocated computing capacities either of third parties or shared in-house infrastructures. Use of these resources can provide the benefit of decreased cost of ownership when third party companies are used…or make the use of in-house resources more efficient. This is a highly attractive opportunity for businesses looking to reduce their IT spend while maintaining service levels.

Cloud-Fluff

Unfortunately, the ambiguity of the “cloud” buzzword creates opportunity for third party suppliers to pad their cloud offerings with services that may not deliver the same level of benefit. If you have ever haggled with a car dealer, you know that selling add-ons and options above their value is a well-known way to boost margins. Vendors will offer services as part of their cloud catalog that can bring with them elements of risk. Just because they are presenting it as a cloud service, does not mean that it necessarily is one.

The key value in cloud use is to offset the cost of highly commoditized resources. To be commoditized this work must be widely available and interchangeable. That means the root value returned by the service is no different regardless of the supplier. The method of delivery for these services may vary, but the base product is the same.

Here is a list of the benefits that a true cloud offering brings:

Criteria Comments
improved speed Commoditized services can be provisioned or decommissioned immediately by the consumer usually via automated “Shopping cart” style interfaces.  As business need varies, resources may be adjusted dynamically to meet required volumes
decreased cost Resources and their cost vary dynamically based on actual need rather than anticipated maximum requirements
increased quality Commoditized resources are built to be pre-delivered with expected quality
reduced variation Services are built and delivered in a “cookie-cutter” manner and therefore offer minimal opportunity for divergence from expected results
unified standards Every provisioned resource by nature can only operate within programmed and expected parameters
greater agility Automatically provisioned resources offer greater flexibility of use

The level of a cloud services ability to deliver these items should be the measuring-stick for which different cloud options are evaluated. Highly commoditized resources by nature will meet these criteria. Padded services that are not as commoditized should be considered with some skepticism.  Non-compute based cloud services will have lower yield on these criteria and may actually be counter-productive to non-cloud alternatives.

One key differentiator for true cloud services could be the level of human resources involved in the offering.  By nature, human beings do not have the same ability for parallel operation and multitasking as dynamic compute resources. This is in contrast to the premise upon which the cloud derives its value. Conversely, real compute resources do not have the creative capacity that can be offered by humans who have dynamic first-hand awareness of the fluidity that exists in the business environment they are working in.

Human based services are not true cloud services. Rather, they are only outsourced purchased services. The expectations and requirements for purchased services are different and their value must be evaluated accordingly.  When looking at third party cloud offerings, awareness of the differences between real cloud resources and add-on services will reduce potential risks for loss.

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About Bob Sacca

A member of the Senior IT Leadership team for General Electric Corporate with 20 years of experience in IT management and leading Both cloud and data related initiatives. Current responsibilities include organizational migration of applications to cloud based architectures. Strategic administration of public, hybrid and internal cloud offerings for business solutions.
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