The many dimensions of cloud value

Put your snorkels on: The marketing for cloud services is getting deep

The many dimensions of cloud value
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Do you hear that grating sound of value clash among cloud providers? It’s the sound of attempted differentiation, that reason you buy Starbucks instead of Dunkin Donuts, Peet’s or perhaps Tim Horton’s brew. Brand thinkers want us to choose something we like because they know once we do, we will stay. We’re creatures of habit. We dislike the qualification process of choosing new vendors for coffee, as well as IT gear and services.

Much marketing focus is going towards incremental services bundles that make one cloud vendor seem, or actually be, better than the offerings of another. 

Determine the value of the cloud services you need

The first smoke cloud that obscures actual value of cloud services is the dizzying value calculator. This device, when present (and it’s often missing), allows you to plug in what you predict (you can predict, can’t you?) your ongoing costs will be for a particular set of data processing needs.

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Then there is the inbound, let’s-populate-our-stuff process, which is an inbound communications charge measured in gigabytes transferred. Some cloud vendors will let you send disks, tapes and other media to do the initial population of your data set/objects and, therefore, also potentially get the data online faster—because speed of population isn’t bound by the speed of your data center-to-cloud internet connect speed.

There’s also compute budget. Did you want one instance, a bunch of instances, a bunch of instances to run containers, VMs, or something else from this long list of operating systems instances, some of which might also have appliance qualities (like closed or open-source software pre-installed)? How many, with how many CPUs running underneath, to what oversubscription of those CPUs, and with what level of service/SLA, please? Lettuce and pickle?

Now, please add storage. Do you want online, online with SSD hybrid array, SSD only, online disk, disk array, or disk array backed up in our 14 data centers across the world in lockstep for redundancy? Will this be by data object, file, swarmed or geographically homed for international regulatory compliance? And will it be dynamically allocated, statically allocated or whimsically allocated. Did you want fries with that? 

Next we need to talk about your accessibility to the compute/data. Will you need ultra-short latency, plus our CDN option so that users will never get more than a femtosecond of latency? We can have trucks parked right next to your customers so that latency will never be more than a photonic algorithm away from them. The data centers can be partitioned so that you needn’t draw data across those tawdry and slow ocean cables. Need to hide data overseas? Not a problem. 

The showstopper

In all seriousness, here’s an underlying showstopper in terms of the new flavors of cloud marketing tools: heterogeneity. Once you succumb to some juicy cloud morsels, the deeper a vendor varies itself from an easy-in, easy-out model to a model where claws will sink deeply into your production use of a cloud vendor’s ostensibly useful resources.

You may think, “But look at all of that cloud nutrition!” And when the vendor needs to meet a quarterly Wall Street sales number, the price increases to make those goals will come from your budget. Your ability to get out of a cloud might drive you crazy in costs and frustrations. 

If, as an industry, we’re to gain return from cloud investments, it will be by keeping the cloud products/services vendors non-proprietary—easy-to-move workloads and storage—and without lock-in ties that remove controls from your organization’s goals. Otherwise, we all know what lock-in does. It’s a frustration moment looking for a spot marked X.

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