10Gen, makers of the open source MongoDB NoSQL database, are demonstrating once again why they are a leader in the quickly growing cloud DB market by rolling out a new cloud subscription model with SoftLayer Technologies, a leading cloud and hosting provider. Under the program the two companies will offer "on demand" Mongo servers across the entire SoftLayer infrastructure.
The offering features clustered servers, optimized hardware and software and most importantly integrated billing, monitoring, support and provisioning. Both companies collaborated on the integration of the MongoDB software into SoftLayer's infrastructure, as well as devising support responsibilities.
Bringing this cutting-edge technology in such a matter sets the bar for what a successful service provider partnership should look like. In order for software or solution providers to be successful they need to realize that service providers like SoftLayer have an already established business model. SoftLayer's customers are used to consuming services on a pay-as-you-go, use-as-you-go model. They don't have minimums to worry about. They are used to paying for everything in one bill, having one number to call for support, and want their service as close to instant on as possible.
Too many software companies expect service providers to adopt the software vendors' model of buying licenses in advance for long periods of time, signing up for minimum commitments and turning support over to the software vendor. The service provider then has to make this square peg fit into the round hole of their business model where there customer is a month-to-month user, only pays for what it uses, etc.
I have been involved in the service provider/hosting business since 1995. From personal experience, I can tell you that if you want to be successful partnering with the service provider channel, refusing to adopt their business model is a recipie for failure.
Don't take my word for it. I asked Gray Hall, CEO of Alert Logic, to weigh in on this. Alert Logic is the leading Security-as-a-Service solutions provider that partners with a majority of the leading cloud and hosting providers. In fact, most of their business comes through the SP channel (full disclousure: I do some consulting for Alert Logic). Here is what Gray said about the 10Gen SoftLayer partnership:
This is definitely a positive development. The cloud needs more product companies like 10gen focused on ensuring that customers of cloud providers like Softlayer can consume 10gen products in the same way the customers consume all other of Softlayer's core services. By using the Softlayer portal and APIs, 10gen is doing just that. It would be even better for the growth of the cloud if established vendors followed suit, but the established players don't seem to be heading in this direction. We are seeing the same dynamic in the security industry.
This is the future of service provider relationships as far as I am concerned. As more and more IT operations are moved to the cloud, service provider partnerships will be vital to software and service providers in all areas.
Another person I asked about this model is David Wartell, VP of the Server Backup Division of Idera. Idera is a partner of SoftLayer and has developed a successful partnership. David says this is similar to what Idera does with their SPLA. What is SPLA? Great question. It's a term that I originally saw from Microsoft. It stands for Service Provider License Agreement. Sounds pretty generic, but it generally has come to mean that licenses are sold on a pay-as-you-go, use-as-you-need basis. In the case of Idera, Wartell says that understanding that cloud and hosting providers cannot afford to buy licenses to sit on the shelf and that cash flow is king for them is key to successfully partnering with them. R1Soft/Idera has built a successful service provider partner model based on that model.
In looking into the Mongo/SoftLayer offering I had a chance to speak with Jared Rosoff of 10Gen and Duke Skarda and Marc Jones of SoftLayer. All three of these gentlemen really emphasized how much work actually went into making this solution seamless to the end user. Everything from choosing the right CPU/RAM requirements to mapping the SoftLayer infrastructure, down to making sure that both companies would deliver a call-one number support experience was carefully planned, implemented and tested. Adopting to each other's business models, cultures, etc. took time. But both companies think that this is going to be a defining relationship for their companies.
I think this could be a great example of how the cloud should work as well. One other thing about this new offering I wanted to discuss, though, is that it is not part of some app-store-like marketplace. We have seen a lot of cloud providers adopting an app store model in offering cloud services. While that works well for consumers and phones, I don't know if enterprises making decisions about mission-critical services will really just select apps from a point-and-click menu. Again, I asked some friends about this.
David Jilk, CEO of Standing Cloud, says that while there will be some sort of interface enterprise IT will use to select and order cloud-based solutions, he thinks there has to be more than apps as part of it. Dave calls this a "cloud brokerage." In this cloud brokerage, enterprise-level IT services including apps are available. Gray Hall of Alert Logic thinks that the way SoftLayer and 10Gen have brought this solution to market is superior to the app store model. Hall says, "this model has proven to be much more effective than 'cloud marketplaces' in providing real IT solutions to business customers, at least so far in the evolution of the cloud."
So I am very bullish on what SoftLayer and 10gen have rolled out in this offering. I am sure other service providers and software providers will be watching closely and adopting this model as a way to bring the cloud to enterprises everywhere.