Category Archives: strategy

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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Selling the Cloud

3/11/2014

It doesn’t matter if you are a cloud provider looking for new clients, a platform developer in search of deployments or an enterprise looking to build next-generation data architecture, the first step in any transformation is the sales pitch.

But how do you go about convincing people that the cloud is the right way to improve their lives, particularly when there are still wide differences of opinion as to exactly what “the cloud” is?

There are any number of sources on the Web that describe the cost efficiency of the cloud, its flexibility, scalability and various other -abilities that populate IT-speak. That’s fine to get the proverbial foot in the door, but in order to close the deal you’ll have to be ready add some sizzle to that steak — rather than dwell on what the cloud is, focus on what it’s supposed to do.

And for that, we have to look beyond mere infrastructure to the application layer. The fact is, there are numerous ways in which enterprise workloads can be created, maintained and shared that simply aren’t possible with traditional architectures. There’s a company called Asana, for example, that provides advanced collaboration tools that leverage cloud-based instances to connect disparate team members for key projects, even across mobile platforms. And database companies like EnterpriseDB Corp. are churning out steady streams of solutions aimed at building and populating cloud-based clusters literally in minutes. Heck, the dev/ops advantages alone should sell themselves, with entire mock infrastructure ready to go virtually on-demand.

The point is, in order to get the prospective client to put ink to paper, the conversation needs to move past the esoteric and into the practical. CIOs are interested in real solutions to real problems, and it isn’t enough to say “we’ll just get you on the cloud and work on the fine points later.”

Sales and marketing teams, then, should bone up on the real-world cloud applications that are changing business processes every day, and where possible, create bundled packages with the application developers themselves. In this way, the cloud becomes a working system that produces results from day one rather than another technology deployment that may or may not deliver the ROI that was promised.

There will probably come a day when the distinction between the enterprise data environment and the cloud will cease to be. In the meantime, however, there is money to be made in the transition, but only for those who know how to keep customer’s eyes on the real prize.