IT ecosystem: Who’s surfing the cloud tsunami?

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For more than five years now, I have followed the IT Ecosystem’s migration towards outsourcing, managed services, software as a service (SaaS) and Cloud.

  • I created and lead here in France two SaaS/Cloud initiatives for existing and potential Cloud Partners: Club Alliances and Club Cloud des Partenaires,
  • I practice market watch and curation on Cloud and Cloud Ecosystem.
  • I support the “Cloud Coming Out” of IBM Partners.

I can see how each category of IT players progressively move from “Cloud Canada Dry*” (see explanation at the end of article!) or “Cloud Washing” to real cloud offerings.

Cloud Canada Dry* and cloud washing

Traditional IT providers are pragmatic and keep their feet on the ground when facing the Cloud Tsunami!

Vendors – Distributors – VADs
Vendors and tools/platforms providers typically start with Cloud Washing. They: 

  • Reposition their hardware/software offerings to demonstrate their relevance for the Cloud (for example to build or operate private clouds),
  • Add some functions to make them more virtual, standardized, automated, “Cloud ready
  • Rename them by adding “Cloud” (XXCloud, CloudXX) or a Cloud characteristic (FlexXX, XXPod)

Value Added Distributors (VADs) and Distributors typically follow their vendors. The most advanced of them also announce the future availability of their Cloud Services Aggregation Platform.

Infrastructure Integrators – CSIs
Infrastructure integrators who serve large customers also practice a sort of Cloud Washing when they do their “Cloud Coming Out.” They:

  • Follow the market and talk now about private cloud projects instead of consolidation and virtualization projects
  • Position their company as Cloud Builders, but without fundamentally modifying their business model,
  • Continue to implement infrastructures on their customers’ premises or in traditional datacenters, using typical “project” and “Capex” models.

Their CIO customers follow the same path or request private cloud solutions.

MSPs – Hosters
Most Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Hosters offer cloud offerings that are “Cloud” only by Name. These MSPs are adepts of what I call Cloud Canada Dry*. They:

  • Rename their outsourcing, hosting, colocation, server/storage rental agreements by adding some “cloud” naming,
  • Implement server, storage or network virtualization techniques in their datacenters,
  • Invoice these infrastructure “on demand,” based on some usage metrics, and continue – or not – to ask for lengthy commitments,
  • But typically go on with tasking “software blue collars” and other human operators to run and manage them (provisioning, administration, monitoring, billing).

Since the years 2000, many traditional ISVs have jumped on the SaaS bandwagon by starting with SaaS Canada Dry*: They

  • Make sure that their applications are accessible through internet,
  • Host them in datacenters (their own datacenter or, more often, those provided by specialized hosts), on dedicated or virtualized servers, with dedicated or shared access.
  • Rename them by adding “SaaS,” “on demand” or, for a few years, “Cloud.”
  • Invoice them periodically (monthly, quarterly, annually) with or without customer commitment, using some sort of usage metrics (per user, per transaction, per unit).

Business Integrators – Regional VARs – Consultants
At least here in France, cloud practices are not yet the norm among established Business Integrators and Value Added Resellers (VARs) who propose solutions to Lines of Business (LOBs) or to local SMB customers. For sure, before jumping into the Cloud Tsunami, they still prefer to wait for:

  • The arrival of new “Pure Players” competitors of the Cloud Broker or SaaS Integrator types
  • The development of BPaaS (Business Process as a Service) offerings by professional services firms like Marketing Agencies, or CPAs),
  • Better Cloud offerings (especially in SaaS) and better help by their traditional partners (ISVs, vendors, distributors and other providers) to migrate their business model.
  • More pressing/precise requests from their customers (beware: despite the lack of interest and of skills demonstrated by their usual “Trusted Advisors,” customers are nevertheless more and more conscious of the business benefits of Cloud solutions!).

Head above the clouds, new cloud business models

All IT Ecosystem Partners are forced to transform their business when they really embrace the Cloud. They then reinvent their business and rethink the way they deliver IT to their customers.

By following the steps of existing Cloud Pure Players, they understand the need to specialize and to surround themselves with complementary partners.
They become:

  • Cloud Technology Providers,
  • Cloud Builders,
  • Cloud Infrastructure Providers (Cloud Service Providers, Cloud Hosters),
  • Cloud Application Providers (SaaS ISV)
  • Cloud Services Solution Providers (Cloud Broker, Reseller/Integrator of Cloud Services)

Cloud technology providers
Cloud technology providers leverage – or not – VADs to provide their technologies (software, appliances, hardware) to:

  • Cloud Builders who will integrate (and often resell) these technologies in cloud infrastructures that they will implement on behalf of their customers
  • Cloud Infrastructure Providers who will leverage them to implement, develop, deliver, enhance their own IaaS and/or PaaS Cloud services
  • Cloud Application Providers who will use these technologies to build and/or deliver their SaaS and/or BPaaS solutions
  • Cloud Services Solution Providers who will leverage some of them to better deliver and integrate public cloud services (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS)
  • Users

Cloud builders
Cloud builders typically offer cloud infrastructure implementation services (and sometimes also an ability to manage those cloud infrastructures) to:

  • End Customers who want to implement private clouds, but also community clouds or public clouds that they aim at their own Customers
  • Cloud Infrastructure Providers

Cloud infrastructure providers
Cloud infrastructure providers provide their Platforms and Services in the IaaS/PaaS space to:

  • Cloud Application Providers who procure these services either directly from the Cloud Infrastructure Provider or through a VAD (who then plays the role of a Cloud Services Aggregator) and leverage them to build and deliver their SaaS and/or BPaaS solutions.
  • End Customers who get IaaS and/or PaaS services directly from the Cloud Infrastructure Provider or through a Cloud Services Solution Provider (who either plays the role of a Cloud Broker or integrates the cloud services in its own solutions.)

Cloud Application Providers…
…propose their SaaS and/or BPaaS services to End Customers:

  • either directly, without leveraging any channel
  • or through VADs, Cloud Services Solution Providers (or other Application Providers) who resell and/or integrate these services in their own solutions.

Cloud Services Solution Providers
Cloud services solution providers resell, aggregate, broker or integrate IaaS, PaaS and/or SaaS services that they generally provide as part of their own services and/or solutions to:

  • End Customers (or Application Providers) who trust them as cloud services integrators (for business or infrastructure solutions), Cloud brokers, “Trusted Advisors” (for example outsourced CIO), BPaaS provider.

Customers are not always “End” Customers and can themselves become Cloud Providers (IaaS, PaaS, SaaS and mostly BPaaS) for their own Ecosystem, their own entities/units and their own Customers!

What about you? Are you ready to focus and partner to surf the Cloud Tsunami?

* About “Canada Dry”. In France, in the 80s, Canada Dry’s owner ran successful ad campaigns – that even became “cult” – to promote their ginger ale beverage.

Their angle was: “Ça ressemble à l’alcool, c’est doré comme l’alcool… mais ce n’est pas de l’alcool” (It looks like alcohol, it’s golden like alcohol… but it is not alcohol).

Hence the familiar reference to “Canada Dry”when we want to show that something looks like something else, but does not have all the required qualities to be “the real thing.” As you may imagine, Canada Dry fits perfectly well certain so called “SaaS” or “Cloud” solutions!

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