Tag: cloud-based delivery models

If I Were the Man You Wanted | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett wrote a song with the line “If I were the man you wanted, I would not be the man that I am.” With apologies to Lyle Lovett, I think this is a very appropriate line when applied to IT infrastructure services today. Clients’ changing expectations of their incumbent IT infrastructure service providers leave the providers lamenting like the forlorn cowboy in Lovett’s song.

It’s only natural for companies to want their incumbent service providers to bring them cloud offerings. Their expectations are set by what they read and see from Amazon, Microsoft and Google. They want the infrastructure services price dropped, the benefits of elasticity and flexibility of the cloud model and usage with no commitment. Companies are trying to persuade or force their infrastructure providers to bring cloud offerings.

But IT infrastructure providers are unable to provide what they want.

The “gotcha”

The clients helped created the underlying problem. The incumbents’ services are bespoke, unique, and have been dictated through client contracts in a different kind of delivery model. In this model, costs rise every year through COLA rather than plummeting like the price of public cloud. The cost of public cloud services had been dropping around 20 percent per year but is now accelerating with the latest adjustment between 60-80 percent in a single downward-pricing adjustment by Google, quickly followed by all the major cloud players.

The pricing components are not apples to apples, and companies understand that. But plummeting prices play into client expectations. Expectations of business users that they ought to be able to have deflating costs with elasticity and flexibility and limited or no long-term commitments just cannot be met in the traditional outsourcing base.

The incumbent providers’ delivery model is a recipe of the client’s own making. Clients dictated where the provider can provide services from, what kind of service the provider must deliver and demanded customization to address their needs. As a result, providers have huge stranded investments tied up in providing what the clients demanded.

Dose of reality

There is no “they lived happily ever after” end to this situation. Among infrastructure clients, the situation causes increasing unhappiness as their unmet expectations further diverge from the reality of the services their incumbent providers deliver. But because of contractual obligations and because of their orientation, the incumbent service providers simply cannot change.

So, like the forlorn cowboy in Lyle Lovett’s song, the lyrics resonate with great poignancy among today’s service providers … “If I were the man you wanted, I would not be the man that I am.”


Photo credit: Cristian Viarisio

Cloud Places Service Providers on the Horns of a Dilemma | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The Promised Land of SaaS and cloud models in the services world is clearly visible, but it’s frustratingly difficult for service providers to get there. The new models are the land for service providers’ growth and profits, but providers are finding it painful and frustrating as they try to move to the new models.

Software companies are shifting from the traditional on-premises licensing/deployment model to SaaS and cloud subscription models, and it’s not a trivial matter to make the switch. They have to change operational practices and investments and stop doing some activities to be able to do the new models’ activities. The transformation pulls them in two different directions.

Outsourcing service providers have the same problem as the software vendors. As SaaS takes hold, it changes customers’ expectations, and they want to buy services on a consumption or subscription basis instead of buying a set of components. They want to pay only for what they use rather than a take-or-pay model where they have to buy commitments.

In attempting to accommodate these increasingly vocal clients, providers are forced to move in two opposite directions at the same time. First they have to accommodate their original client demands with their existing service contracts structured in a business model where the provider charges customers on the basis of service components (e.g., buying 30 applications people, 15 servers, 50 licenses). But new demands require that these components are bundled, delivered and priced on a functionality on demand, or consumption basis. Their SaaS or Saas-like expectations require different approaches and even different customer support.

These two different business models are driven by different customer adoption patterns and also often driven by a different set of stakeholders making the decision. The new business stakeholder buyer is less concerned about cost per unit and more concerned about meeting the business needs. And they are increasingly influential in driving new opportunities.

Hence the dilemma for incumbent providers. The traditional business model won’t support a SaaS model, and the SaaS model won’t support a traditional model. The result? The provider is like a carriage drawn by two horses pulling in different directions. It’s not good for the carriage and quite frustrating for both horses.

Providers, thinking the dilemma is just a pricing issue, try to make their existing teams and business operate in both worlds and price services on a consumption basis the way new customers want to buy it. But they quickly find that’s not the case. To succeed, they need to backwards-engineer their entire delivery platform so it can work that way.

The alternative is to have two “carriages.” But then they have double the costs. There’s the frustration in getting to the Promised Land: they’re faced with having one carriage and two horses pulling it in opposite directions or having two carriages and twice the cost. The trip to the Promised Land of growth in the cloud world isn’t as simple as it appears.

The Good and Bad News in Governing Cloud-Based Services | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Cloud-based services are distinctly different from traditional outsourcing not only because of the obvious cost and agility benefits but also because they fuel the need for a different kind of management of the services. From a management perspective the governance is transformational because it allows the governance team to change their focus on how they manage the services.

The distinction between managing cloud-based services and traditional outsourced services is critical to the outcomes and value achieved from the service.

In traditional outsourcing, the customer has a lot of say, particularly up front, in terms of designing the solution. The solution often starts with taking over what the customer currently has and then moves into a transformation journey. The customer is responsible for defining how the service components fit together and also is responsible for managing the use of those components.

But this tends to lead customers to overbuy. For example, in infrastructure the customer tends to buy more service space and more storage than is needed at any particular point in time just to ensure coverage for peak usage times and volume growth. Because it is cumbersome to contractually change the volumes, the customer ends up buying usage in step changes with the net result of overbuying.

But the real issue is how much time and effort it takes to manage this traditional kind of service. The governing cost in time and effort can overshadow the benefits of the service.

In contrast, the fundamentals of cloud-based or next-generation services are usage-based pricing combined with bundling. The customer buys bundled services rather than discrete components, and this impacts service management. For example, in traditional outsourced services, the customer manages how much capacity is needed for storage, how many licenses to purchase, etc. In the newer service models, the customer manages a few metrics around usage rather than managing the components that allow utilizing the service. The newer models enable customers to avoid the trap of overbuying.

But more importantly, cloud-based and next-gen service models profoundly change the governance aspect in the following ways:

  • Governance is much simpler and communication with the vendor or service provider is much simpler.
  • Governance efforts focus on how the organization consumes the services and on spending time helping the business units to better use the service for more value outcomes instead of managing the vendor or provider.
  • Governing demand management is much easier and reduces the complexities of billing and invoicing to keep track of usage.

The real issue of simplicity in governing cloud-based and next-gen services carries both good and bad news. The good news is that the simplification of management tasks means the customer will need a smaller management team. The bad news: The team will need a different set of skills. Instead of skills in managing vendors, purchasing, and invoice tracking, the governance team needs skills in change management, project management and business transformation.

ERP and the Cloud: Enterprise Migration Quietly Begins | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Given how much of the typical large enterprise IT budget is consumed by ERP, we’re not surprised to find a growing curiosity among many CIOs to understand how cloud delivery models could reduce costs. On the surface, you wouldn’t think that production ERP applications would be at the top of the list for cloud migration. ERP apps are mission critical, complex and highly customized, often with significant data security and compliance requirements.

That’s why we think one of the more interesting, underreported stories in cloud are the examples of large enterprises that have migrated existing ERP environments to  private, hybrid and community cloud models. We’re actually finding quite a number of quite interesting, global scale ERP cloud deployments particularly among SAP customers. Why SAP? While Oracle is obviously the other large enterprise ERP heavyweight, as we’ve discussed here before, Oracle’s licensing policies are creating roadblocks for customers to migrate to even virtualized models, let alone private or public clouds.

The market for SAP cloud services is surprisingly robust with at least 10 major service providers that deliver SAP ERP capabilities via managed or host private or hybrid cloud models, including IBM, T-Systems, Fujitsu, Accenture CSC, CapGemini and others. T-Systems alone already supports 500 customers and 1.9 million SAP users via cloud-based models. Not surprisingly, most of these service providers started by originally providing SAP hosting services and have since extended their offerings. What’s the customer value proposition for SAP in the cloud?

  • Cost variablization – given the significant capex investments associated with SAP deployments and upgrades, cost variability is central to cloud-based SAP offerings. Nearly all providers offer consumption-based pricing models for SAP cloud services.
  • TCO reduction – many service providers are claiming the ability the reduce TCO for customer SAP environments by 30+% through the typical cloud levers. Several providers have customer references that have achieved these efficiencies and more in live production.
  • Flexibility – service providers are touting the ability of cloud-enabled deployments to more rapidly and easily provide new capabilities to users.
  • Standardization – in conjunction with cloud migration, many enterprises desire to consolidate data centers, rationalize SAP instances and standardize global processes to drive efficiency and flexibility.

Unlike other enterprise cloud use cases focused more on business agility and flexibility, in most cases cost appears to be the major driver of SAP cloud migration. Some of the more interesting examples include:

  • British American Tobacco (BAT) – just last month BAT announced a seven-year, US$160 million deal with T-Systems to consolidate its current SAP deployments into a single, cloud-based instance by 2016. The deal will enable BAT to variabilize its SAP costs through a usage-based pricing model.
  • Domino Sugar – leveraging Virtustream’s virtual private cloud platforms, Domino Sugar has been able to reduce SAP costs by over 30%, while actually improving availability and performance for several thousand users. As with BAT, SAP costs are variabilized and based on actual resource consumption.
  • Shell – to drive standardization, increase flexibility and shift to consumption-based pricing, Shell migrated its SAP environment to private cloud models (delivered by T-Systems) in support of 102,000 global employees across 100 countries.

Other notable enterprise examples include Audi, Freeport McMoran, Siemens,  and Suntory.

Why haven’t we heard more about these and other examples?  With the exception of IBM, most leading SAP cloud service providers and many of the early enterprise adopters of SAP in the cloud aren’t U.S.-based and are outside of the cloud hype and “echo chamber.” Also, details on many of these deployments tend to be tightly held both by both service providers and customers.

While many segments of enterprise cloud appear to be stuck in pilots and proofs of concept, ERP is surprisingly providing some early examples of large scale enterprise cloud migration.

Cloud Wars: the Demise of Simplicity and Standardization | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

In its comparatively short yet highly significant lifetime, the cloud industry has quickly devolved into a confusing morass of technology jingoism, marketing hype, aggression, and even negative allegations. Though the SaaS world is reasonably understood, it’s the infrastructure cloud that is creating an enterprise cloud war. Just think about the flurry of announcements and assertions about the big boys of technology taking sides with various cloud platforms or hypervisors:

  • Rackspace announced that OpenStack will be its cloud platform for public infrastructure service
  • Terremark introduced its private cloud offering built on VMware’s hypervisor
  • Sungard and CSC are using the vBlock architecture (based on VMware) for their cloud offerings
  • Savvis has chosen VMware for its Symphony Dedicated cloud
  • IBM is investing in a KVM-based public cloud offering
  • Amazon Web Services are based on proprietary implementation of open source Xen
  • GoGrid prefers the Xen hypervisor
  • HP proclaimed support for KVM/OpenStack for public cloud services
  • OpenStack announced large technology providers such as IBM, Yahoo, HP, AT&T, Dell, Cisco, and Canonical becoming platinum and gold members of OpenStack Foundation. Citrix, a supporter of OpenStack until a few weeks back, bemoaned that it is “tired” of the speed of evolution of OpenStack, and thus gave its CloudStack platform to the Apache Software Foundation. Though market watchers may say that Citrix made the move because OpenStack was perceived as being inclined towards the open source KVM hypervisor rather than Citrix’s  XenServer (a commercial hypervisor by Citrix based on open source Xen)
  • Amazon partnered with Eucalyptus, another open source cloud platform, for hybrid cloud computing thus giving Eucalyptus a big boost as a cloud platform
  • VMware claims there are over 100 providers across 24 countries that offer cloud services based on its technologies. Large enterprise technology providers have partnered with VMware for various cloud offerings
  • Similar providers (e.g., Dell, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and NEC ) earlier also signed the Microsoft Hyper-V Cloud Fast Track Program to offer private cloud

Therefore, as happens in enterprise IT, large providers are partnering with all the known players to offer services across different markets, technologies, and customer type. It is evident that the large enterprise providers are choosing commercial platforms for private cloud and open source for public cloud offerings. Unfortunately, this whole muddle of messages have left buyers in an increasingly dense smoke cloud of confusion regarding vendor lock-in, maturity of technologies, reliable support for platforms, services around cloud, etc.

Granted, the implementation architecture of these cloud platforms/hypervisors are in some respects similar, yet the way they handle files, storage, virtual LANs, etc., have sometimes subtle and other times very evident differences.  Customers need different tools and resources to manage these myriad of platforms, hypervisors, and technologies.

However, the premise of cloud was based on standardization and simplicity, wherein customers were simply supposed to self-provision their infrastructure needs irrespective of the underlying platform, and manage it with minimal effort. But the ecosystem doesn’t seem to be evolving in that manner. Rather, it appears to be becoming more confusing and a personal dual between technologists and supremacy of technology than an attempt to improve enterprise IT delivery. Indeed, with so much variation in cloud middleware, how can we expect simplicity and standardization? Which leads to the all important question, will the cloud end up being another technology silo or will it transform the enterprise IT landscape?

To cut through this complex maze of intertwined offerings, buyers must understand the nuances of different cloud technologies, including their impact, limitations, costs, and use specific to their own ecosystem. Approaching it in this manner, the cloud can be a real game changer. Providers will keep on overselling and hyping up their offerings and the buyers require relevant skills to evaluate these offerings for their requirements.

Of course, this is easier said than done. While it’s a given that the enterprise technology world can never be imagined to have a single technology, system, or innovation, and differences will always prevail, there is a dire need to simplify the entire cloud paradigm in terms of its architecture, standards, implementation, usage, and evolution. Too many complexities may scare buyers, and the industry may miss out on exploiting a once-in-a-generation idea.

Electronic Medical Records: Is Cloud-Based or Client/Server Delivery Right for You? | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) has the ability to transform and enhance virtually all communications, transactions and analysis related to healthcare information. All 50 states are quickly adopting EMR, and the government has made adoption of EMR a cornerstone of the healthcare initiative. While EMR can have significant positive impact on physicians’ productivity, patients’ access to information, and insurance companies’ ability to reduce errors and claims administration costs, it must be implemented properly in order to achieve those benefits.

Much of the implementation solution answer lies in what delivery model is best for any given healthcare organization: a private cloud-based next generation IT approach or a client/server-based legacy approach.

Cutting through the hype, there are a number of advantages to adopting cloud-based EMR:

  • No upfront software license purchase costs
  • No hardware to purchase or maintain
  • Better overall support, including for disaster recovery
  • Typically stronger security and data protection mechanisms, and more likely compliance to HIPPA regulations, through host companies
  • Accessibility for physicians on the move

Indeed, a private cloud may be the right EMR solution in many cases. Consider Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. It has 1,500 member physician practices and facilities distributed throughout 173 locations in eastern Massachusetts. The Beth Israel Deaconess Physician Organization (BIDPO) provides medical management services. By becoming a member of the BIDPO, physician practices receive reduced contractual rates from health insurance companies. But for compliance, those practices must be able to measure the quality of patient care and transmit those metrics electronically to the insurance companies.

As putting servers in each facility, per a client/server model, was not going to be an effective or cost efficient approach to the electronic transmission requirements, the Center instead adopted a private cloud-based model with a centralized database and application services. BIDPO selected VMware as the virtualization platform, Third Brigade as the security solution provider, and Concordant for the day-to-day operational management of the environment and help desk for the physicians. The solution it adopted is modular, enabling it to grow as more facilities are migrated to the system.

On the other hand, there are numerous potential downsides to a cloud-based EMR solution:

  • Latency or lag times
  • Lack of availability of a robust and reliable Internet connection in rural areas
  • Bandwidth limitations
  • Constrained back-up and data accessibility
  • Inability to access or work with data if the service provider’s network is down

Given these issues, a rural practice of five physicians who see 35 patients a day and want quick access to their medical records and prescription history, especially for those on multiple drugs that could cause adverse or allergic reactions, will fair far better with a client/server EMR model.

If you’re wondering which EMR delivery model is a better fit for your healthcare organization, the following table should help:

EMR Delivery Models

Private cloud-based EMR solutions do provide flexibility and scalability, and we will see more healthcare organizations following Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s lead in the near future. But before you jump on the bandwagon, you must consider whether the cloud is suitable for your particular and unique situation.

Can your IT Outsourcing Contract Coexist with the Cloud? | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

This blog originally appeared on Gigaom.com. Read the original post.


If your enterprise is committed to a long-term managed services or information technology outsourcing (ITO) contract, you might be looking longingly at the agility and efficiencies of cloud-based delivery models. If you’re like many enterprises that rely on managed services, you might be less than thrilled with the quality, responsiveness and flexibility you’re getting. Cloud seems like a better path, but you’re contractually obligated, potentially for several more years.

Meanwhile, your business users are continuing the drumbeat for more agility and flexibility — all at lower cost, of course. Adding to the pressure is the fact that your competitors are using cloud to reallocate capital and operating resources to driving innovation and value, placing your company in an untenable — and unsustainable — competitive position. It’s probably also the case that your service provider has no contractual, economic or technical incentives to suggest cloud migration strategies that might improve your position.

Seems you’re stuck. Right?

Maybe not. Just because you’re in a long-term relationship with a service provider does not mean you’re out of options. Most managed services agreements were written without cloud in mind. So, if you’re creative, you might find ways to renegotiate or possibly bring in a new vendor with cloud offerings that fit your business and workloads.

Four steps:

  1. Review the contract. Make sure you know your contract before booking meetings with your service provider or a cloud vendor. Pay particular attention to the process for negotiating changes to the agreement, as well as minimum volume commitments and what happens if your workloads exceed those minimums. Your contract is probably silent on how new workloads are to be serviced, but check that as well.
  2. Focus on work volume, not dollars. Most master services agreements are built around units of work performed in each time period rather than a dollar volume commitment. And once minimum volumes are met, most agreements allow customers to take additional volumes to other vendors and platforms.
  3. Look for a high-value test case. Identify a basket of workloads that are well-suited to cloud migration. Public cloud examples might include dev/test or backup and archival. Private cloud examples might include high-volume transaction workloads running on legacy systems that can be forklifted to a virtualized environment. Use this list of workloads when engaging your service provider and/or cloud vendor. It will focus the conversations on specific, immediate paths forward and help you build financial and technical cases to support your eventual decision.
  4. Amend, if it makes sense. It might not. The reality is that your current service provider likely is not technically equipped to deliver cost-effective, reliable cloud services. If that’s the case, they’ll do everything they can to discourage you from going down that path. Thus, the reality may be that in order to preserve your competitive position, you simply can’t wait for your current provider to figure it out. If that’s the case, you’ll want to move new workloads and cycles beyond your contractual minimums to a provider with the right cloud credentials.

A win/win?

Let’s assume your current provider is up to the task. Here’s where to look for the win/win:

Successfully migrating a set of workloads delivers value to you (increased agility, reduced costs, more productive employees), and also to your service provider (new capabilities and infrastructure roadmaps that they can sell to other customers). With a mutual win for both parties, the stage is set to work with your service provider to forge a contract amendment that makes the next workload migration more procedural. Sweeteners for a deal might include shared cost savings, bonuses for hitting KPI metrics, or a contract extension.

Of course, all of this assumes they can deliver the goods, and that’s probably a long shot.

This time it’s different

Start planning now for your next rebid. Cloud has so fundamentally changed the procurement landscape for managed IT services that your procurement process must fundamentally change as well. Map out your RFI/RFP game plan to:

a) attract service providers who “get” cloud

b) build a next-generation set of performance metrics and incentives into the contract, and

c) account for new elements of value that only cloud providers can offer.

In the next generation IT outsourcing world, service providers are going to look very different from what you find in today’s marketplace. There will be more of them, their capabilities will be different, and the value propositions they offer will need to be accounted for in how you evaluate your choices. Management and governance will follow new models, and metrics will be fundamentally different.

Today, the market is unsettled, and until that changes, the ball will be in your court to procure IT outsourcing agreements that put your company in the best position to reap the competitive benefits of cloud strategies.

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