Buying the Cloud

3/14/2014

Following up on my earlier post “Selling the Cloud,” one of the first things providers need to do in order to close the deal is educate prospective clients on how to buy the cloud. Despite all the hoopla in recent years, cloud computing is still relatively new, and many users are still growing accustomed to its capabilities and operational behavior.

Until now, cloud services and infrastructure tended to sell itself. After all, it’s cheaper, more flexible and, believe it or not, more reliable than traditional enterprise infrastructure. In the coming years, however, more and more users will look past those benefits and start asking themselves: “How can the cloud help achieve my goals?”

This is where the challenge begins because it will be up to the provider (or systems developer in the case of private cloud infrastructure) to help define what those goals are and then implement the proper services and resources to accommodate them — to teach prospective clients how to buy the cloud.

To do that, you’ll need to wade deeply into client’s business model(s), target markets, processes and, of course, their legacy infrastructure. The more you understand where they are at right now, the more you can guide the transition to a cloud-based data environment. Are they a web-facing organization? Then scalability will likely be key. A traditional commercial enterprise? Data and application offloading might be the ticket.

To that end, it’s no wonder we’re starting to see the rise of cloud platforms tailored to specific verticals like healthcare and ecommerce. These are prime examples of what I was talking about earlier when I said providers need to focus on solutions to real-world problems, not just the nifty new technology.

For the most part, data and infrastructure needs can be categorized as short-, medium- and long-term problems. A short-term problem may be the need for additional storage to offload legacy data and applications. Medium-term may be a full dev/ops environment for performance evaluation. Long-term might see the need for an entire virtual data center, complete with mirrored backup to one or more alternate cloud sites.

The foot in the door, of course, is the short-term need. These are usually the most well-defined and can (hopefully) be addressed by existing services or platform offerings. If not, it’s probably time for a conversation between the front office, sales, marketing and development on how to expand the product line-up.

The cloud, then, is not your typical enterprise solution in which specific needs are met by the latest technology or top-flight software. The cloud can be almost anything the user wants it to be, which provides a great deal of flexibility but at the same time requires a fair amount of guidance. The provider or platform developer is the only one who can provide that guidance, but only if they take the time to really understand the user’s point of view.

It’s the difference between forging relationships with clients, or partners.

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