Using “How-To” Advice To Sell the Cloud

cloud marketing tips By now, most everyone gets the benefits of the cloud: (Lower cost, faster deployment, pay-as-you- go pricing.)

Now, the marketing challenge is offering detailed, useful advice on HOW to move to the cloud. Two recent conversations with vendors showed how this is a great way to engage customers and prove their chops.

Approach One: A Checklist

IaaS provider Bluelock came up with an impressive checklist of best practices. I found it prospect-friendly because it:

  • Clearly states its limits: This checklist isn’t meant to serve as your diagram for migration, but rather it’s meant to help guide your plan before it’s crafted and also to service as a final pre-launch list…Depending on what you’re migrating (VM, application, or just data), you may or may not need to address every single one of the following check boxes.”
  • Is specific: Among the items are “Determine any changing OS or app licensing provisions,” consider the need to convert disk formats (…”AWS uses AMI, which is different from VMware VMDK, which is different from Microsoft VHD.  Be sure you have converter tools and know how to do the conversion…”) and the ability to recover your data (“as well as configurations, performance statistics and other metadata.”)
  • Is honest about the tough work customers just do themselves: “Before you choose the application to migrate, check the coupling and connectivity of your application to other applications…There’s no magic formula for assessing this checkbox, just knowing your architecture, how everything connects and how closely those apps need to be coupled to run efficiently…”
  • Is pitch-free: There’s no explicit, or even implicit, pitch for Bluelock’s services. They’re just helping prospects think through their migrations. In the process, they’re showing how well they understand the gritty details of migrating applications and data to the cloud. That’s a powerful advertisement for Bluelock over competitors with “me-too” messaging.

Approach Two: A Tool

Services and software provider Cloud Technology Partners takes a different tack by combining more than 160 cloud migration rules in its PaaSLane analysis tool. PaaSLane automatically finds and suggests fixes to problems with Java and .NET Application Code, even estimating how long the remediation will take.

CTP claims PaaSLane can speed migration 25% by  identifying “blockers” that would prevent an application from running in a specific cloud platform, recommending which cloud-based services can  replace third-party or custom-written services and how to optimize an application’s compatibility, elasticity or performance on specific clouds. It also identifies often-overlooked governance and policy issues to enforce corporate standards and recommends code quality standards.

For example, to avoid the excessive coupling of components Bluelock warned about, PaaSLane detects remote procedure calls or remote method invocations “that might indicate tight coupling of application components” which are “more brittle and less predictable” in the cloud than message queuing.

What’s Your Advice?

All this just scratches the surface of what it takes to move to the cloud.  Each of those 160 migration rules in PaaSLane, for example, could provide grist for a more detailed blog post. Then there are the pros and cons of various cloud providers, cloud development languages, storage technologies and approaches to cloud security.

All that means opportunity for cloud hardware, software and services vendors. If you have some specific, proven migration smarts, now’s the time to start sharing it.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Marketing the Cloud? Get Ready to Step Up Your Game

Marketing cloud services. The cloud is hot, no matter how you define it. Just how hot the cloud is, and what it’s good and not so good for, was the focus of an interview I did with cloud application performance monitoring vendor Boundary the other week.

For marketers, the takeaway is that there’s no one “cloud.” The number and type of cloud services will continue to explode, and explaining the competitive differentiator for each type of cloud service and tool will become more important.

I’m curious to hear your take, as marketers and industry observers, on some of my observations. They included:

  • Continued growth of the cloud will be driven as much by agility as by cost savings.
  • The boundaries between infrastructure as a service, software as a service, platform as a service, and “You name it as a service” (security, management, storage, backup, etc.) will blur as providers slice and dice their offerings to meet the precise needs of just about any user.
  • The answer to “Is the public cloud safe/reliable enough?” is “it depends” on which private clouds you’re it comparing. A “too big to fail” bank should (we hope) be able to maintain an ATM network at least as solid as Amazon’s infrastructure. If you’re a struggling mid-market manufacturer cutting costs on the IT side, you might be better off trusting Amazon. Then, of course, there’s the difference between dedicated infrastructure in the cloud and a true, multitenant public cloud.
  • Look for consolidation at the top of the cloud service provider food chain and creative new business models from the bottom. At the high end, it’s all about economies of scale to fine-tune the delivery of jobs of servers, storage and network capacity most reliably and inexpensively. At the bottom end, startups with hot developers (with dreams of IPOs in their eyes) will leverage open source software to create “anything as a service” business model we haven’t dreamed of yet.
  • With the growth of open source software and frameworks, more and more cloud providers will build (a la Facebook and Google) more and more of the technology they need. This, of course, raises interesting questions about the future of the proprietary software vendors who pay many of our bills.
  • For customers, the first challenge is figuring out how to use cloud is determining which IT-related functions are “core” (and worth keeping inside) and what are “context” and worth buying as a service if someone else can do them better.

 

I ended on one of my hobby horses, which is that as great as the cloud is, local client devices like PCs with their own storage won’t go away anytime soon. Until I can instantly get reliable, high-speed Web access anywhere, anytime, I want the work I need to get done today on my local hard drive.

You can read the full interview here. I’m curious to hear whether you think it’s getting harder to market the cloud, and how you’re approaching it.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Coffee With Bob For Those 25 Hour Days

Just checking Twitter once more before logging off...

Nothing makes me feel like a real industry expert than coffee with PR veteran Tim Hurley, who recently let me pontificate on his Web site about tech, PR and media trends in 2012. Based on a whole mess of reporting I’ve been doing for publications such as Computerworld and InfoWorld, and ongoing marketing work with clients in the cloud, storage and outsourcing areas, trends I managed to pick out of my cluttered mind include…

  • Cloud computing going mainstream
  • Not only apps, but everything IT, going mobile, and
  • The challenge of using social media to enrich customers’ lives rather than distract them to death.

Another big trend I keep seeing is internal IT staffs, and outsourcers, struggling to move up the fabled value chain and deliver innovation, and not just lower cost, to the business. This requires change not only in business models (how staff and outsourcers are measured and paid) but changes in mindset. Good luck doing that while cutting costs and keeping the wheels turning in a tough economy.

On the media/communications/PR/marketing world, I observed that content marketing is still struggling to prove its worth to the enterprise, as is social media. I also predicted, somewhat hopefully, that “content curation” (automatically gathering content from around the Web to push to readers) will turn out to be just another buzzword. Why so nervous? Because, despite claims to the otherwise, I think it  undermines my value proposition of creating unique, high-quality content. Hey, as Andy Grove once said, even paranoiacs have real enemies.

On the skills front, I recommend PR and marketing pros learn how to 1) work with social media without busting the budget or working 25 hours a day, 2) cost-justify these social media and content marketing efforts, and 3) develop a multimedia strategy that includes podcasts, video and Webinars easily viewable on mobile devices.

One of my predictions, that PR agencies that still focus on story placement in print pubs are missing the boat, has already been undermined by several PR pros telling me such placements still drive leads. They’re also very important to Indian-based outsourcing vendors, because in India the print trade press is still far more robust than in the U.S.

Let me know if I’m right or wrong on story placement, and if you have any great ideas for how not to work 25 hours a day.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

VMware continued its march up-market last week with the release of three new product suites that put it into direct competition with mainline management vendors such as BMC and even smaller enterprise vendors.

The enhancements to its vCenter Operations suite, and the new VMware vFabric Application Management and VMware IT Business Management suites, seek to speed the deployment, operations and management of virtualized cloud environments by spanning traditional IT silos such as development, operations and infrastructure.

VMware has 3 goals for the new offerings. The first is to build more policy-based automation into the development, deployment and operation of virtualized cloud environments. The second is to bring together formerly separate disciplines such as the creation of applications, their deployment and their ongoing management. The final aim is to allow IT to move from being a “builder” of applications and services to a “broker” of services that might come from inside the organization or be built outside.

In some cases, VMware is more tightly integrating capabilities that formerly required “bolt on” tools, says Ramin Sayar, VP of Products & Strategy, Virtualization & Cloud Management. In other cases, For example, the VMware vCenter Operations Management™ Suite gains deeper integration with VMware vCenter Capacity IQ™ and VMware vCenter Configuration Manager. In other cases, such as with the IT Business Management Suite, it is using technology acquired by buying another company (Digital Fuel) to move into the “business services” management space already claimed by traditional management vendors such as BMC, which is allegedly a partner.

 

The vFabric Application Management Suite will help customers combine and streamline work previously done by development and operations staffs, while vFabric AppDirector “will standardize and automate the release/deployment of applications to any cloud through easy-to-create blueprints with standardized templates, component libraries, and deployment workflows,” the company says.

VMware also claim it will allow customers to easily see which IT components support which specific applications. That makes it easier to determine which might need upgrading and which are redundant or are no longer needed – a capability also provided by enterprise architecture vendors. Sayar says the capabilities VMware provides are easier to use, integrated with their other management tools and are free.

The enhancements speak well to customer needs for more policy-driven automation, and even the use of template server and service configurations, to drive down the cost and time required to deliver IT as a utility. Customers will also welcome the ability to manage private, public or “hybrid” clouds from a single console, even though many are only now edging cautiously out of their own data centers into hybrid clouds.

Some of the bigger, non-technical issues vendors must tackle are lingering concerns over security, such as those I addressed in a recent Computerworld story, as well more general control and compliance issues. Then there is the cultural change required for a CIO, and their staffs, to move from being builders (real men code, you know) to mere bean counters weighing terms and conditions from the internal staff vs. an outsourcer.

Finally, for vendors, I suggest being careful with how they explain and differentiate their offerings. Management spans a lot of functions, and so do services (IT services such as database and authentication? Business services such as underwriting or order entry?) Trying to re-use established terms like “services” too many times makes the listeners eyes and brains glaze over. Using more specific words in product descriptions, such as “Service Delivery Manager” or “Service Operations Manager” will make it clearer.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.

Bob Returns From the Cloud

Where’s Bob? For those of you kind enough to notice, I’ve been off-line for several months under a happy barrage of corporate marketing work, along with some travel to Guadalajara, Mexico (interviewing a cloud consultant, left) as part of an ongoing IT outsourcing project.

Much of my work has involved deep dives into cloud computing, including a Computerworld piece outlining cloud security requirements, a white paper for a vendor about traditional ISVs moving their offerings to the SaaS channel, and another upcoming Computerworld story about how to achieve “agility” in the cloud.

Some thoughts from my time in the cloud:

  • First, security remains the big bug-a-boo supposedly scaring the biggest enterprises from the cloud, but the customers I talk to say it’s not a deal killer. Yes, you need to know where your data is, yes, you need auditability and, yes, if you work in geographies with strict rules (like the European Union) you need special controls. Cloud providers understand that, and the good ones will help you do the necessary work to stay secure in the cloud.
  • Second, the cloud is a mega-trend transforming everything, but it’s not instant magic for every application or service. There’s a reason why some of the biggest names in “cloud” (like Google, Amazon and Salesforce) run their own data centers rather than rely on someone like…well, like themselves. For really high performance, really tight controls over operations, and running your own proprietary hardware or software, sometimes your own data center is still the best.
  • The same goes, many say, for predictable workloads running on in-house gear you’ve already amortized. Running such apps in your own data center can deliver not only better performance, but lower-costs. Another note: The per-seat licensing plans used by many SaaS vendors also tend to favor smaller customers.
  • On the strategic front, customers are demanding (and vendors are delivering) more “productized” cloud services that can be rolled out in a predictable, consistent way. This often takes the form of templated servers and services (such as those produced by Puppet and Chef) that are pre-tested, pre-integrated and pre-priced. All this makes for yet more choices for customers, who have to decide where a “canned” service is adequate, and when it pays to customize it to reflect their own best practices. It also raises the specter of commoditization for some Web services (how many different Exchange server configurations does the market need, for example?)
  • Speaking of which, there are now “appstores” for cloud-based business intelligence platforms, application and database servers and middleware, such as those from RightScale and its ISV partners. Another interesting example of how the Web allows anyone, anywhere (with enough smarts) to sell to a worldwide audience.
  • Finally, it was interesting to hear what some enterprise-level customers want, but aren’t getting, from current cloud offerings. These include better, and bundled, support for “enterprise-level” requirements such as load balancers rather than forcing customers to find one themselves. They’re also looking for true, enterprise-level public cloud services rather than the likes of Google and Microsoft that actually (can you believe it?) suffer outages. Then there’s the need for highly verticalized SaaS applications for specific industries such as banking. As the CTO of one major bank told me, does every bank need it own application for handling online payments? While the user interface makes a big difference, it would seem the back end should be standard and, thus, SaaS-able. (New term I just coined.)

In short, there’s still a lot of opportunity for differentiation and innovation as the cloud matures. There’s also huge confusion between public cloud, private cloud, shared services, IaaS, PaaS, etc. Drop a line if you’d like some help clarifying where you fit into all this.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email bob@scheierassociates.com or call me at 508 725-7258.