Tag: PaaS

The Benefits of Platform as a Service (PaaS) in Application Support & Development | Blog

It seems that the past decade or so of noise around Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) was well worth it. The technology has now reached a level of maturity and scale to be regarded as a reliable solution for both large- and small-scale companies. Leveraging it, enterprises can achieve faster and more secure solutions, while saving themselves the pain of managing, provisioning, or monitoring compute, storage, and network components. Developers can spend most of their time doing what they should be doing – developing, customizing, and testing their applications. Moreover, it helps improve application release time, which can help get early user feedback.

Let’s take a look at the specific benefits PaaS brings to the table in application support and development.

Within the standard application support activities of incident and problem management, enterprises typically achieve a 25-35 percent net effort reduction when supporting an application in a PaaS environment. PaaS vendors now perform activities such as database and middleware management, which reduces the number of tickets for their setup and management. PaaS platforms that come with their own application monitoring tools don’t even raise a ticket when there’s a lag in application response due to proactive monitoring and auto-healing mechanisms. Other activities, such as daily checks and log management, are also managed by the PaaS vendor. Thus, enterprises can save considerable effort by distancing themselves from routine tasks and focusing on more productive work.

Similarly, for application development activities, PaaS can help achieve 25-40 percent efficiencies. Activities such as drafting an operational model become easier with PaaS, as features such as deployment views, infrastructure views, and monitoring views are already built in the platform. Most PaaS solutions come with pre-defined plans and SLA guarantees, so non-functional requirements testing for infrastructure availability isn’t required. Further, PaaS can facilitate automation in executing test scripts, taking backups, applying schemas, etc.

What to consider when selecting a PaaS solution

At the same time, choosing a PaaS solution to achieve the desired benefits can be a tall order. First, enterprises need to evaluate if the platform supports the technologies, programming languages, and middleware stacks its development teams use.

Here are the other key things you need to consider when zeroing in on a PaaS solution:

  1. Data security considerations: Data residing policies for storing data in vendor-controlled or third-party cloud servers need to be compatible with your enterprise’s policies, e.g., GDPR compliance
  2. Integration capabilities of the PaaS solution: Not all the components of legacy IT systems are built for the cloud; thus, you must do thorough due diligence of your existing environment
  3. Application type: PaaS is more suitable for custom applications that are not System of Record (SOR) solutions. SOR solutions, such as ERP, are primarily data repository systems that do not require scalability or dynamism to be built in
  4. Vendor lock-in: You should consider application portability to alternative PaaS options to ensure smooth functioning in the event of migration. Typically, open source PaaS platforms offer low risk of vendor lock-in
  5. Security and compliance: You should also consider the regulatory impact and choose a PaaS provider whose systems are Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and HIPAA/HITECH compliant. And you need to make sure that stored/transferred data will follow an adequate data protection framework.

Considering PaaS’ potential business advantages, it’s difficult to overlook its value proposition. PaaS can make companies more agile and responsive to demand, scale up quickly, and avoid costly investments in infrastructure.

It also expedites application delivery by enabling developers to create and deliver software in a simple and automated fashion. However, it’s important to keep in mind that not all PaaS solutions are alike, and there’s no single PaaS for all customer needs. To realize the desired benefits from any PaaS solution, you must carefully dovetail your enterprise’s unique requirements with the offerings of the PaaS vendor.

How Cloud Impacts APIs and Microservices | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Companies considering moving workloads to cloud environments five years ago questioned whether the economics of cloud were compelling enough. The bigger question at that time was whether the economics would force a tsunami of migration from legacy environments to the cloud world. Would it set up a huge industry, much like Y2K, of moving workloads from one environment to another very quickly? Or would it evolve more like the client-server movement that happened over 5 to 10 years? It’s important to understand the cloud migration strategy that is occurring today.

We now know the cloud migration did not happen like Y2K. Enterprises considered the risk and investment to move workloads as too great, given the cost-savings returns. Of course, there are always laggards or companies that choose not to adopt new technology, but enterprises now broadly accept both public and private cloud.

The strategy most companies adopt is to put new functionality into cloud environments, often public cloud. They do this by purchasing SaaS applications rather than traditional software, and they do their new development in a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud environment. These make sense. They then build APIs or microservices layers that connect the legacy applications to the cloud applications.

Read more at my CIO Online blog

PaaS, be Warned: APIs are Here and Containers Are Coming | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

A few months ago, Workday, the enterprise HCM software company, entered into the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) world by launching (or opening, as it said) its own platform offering. This brings back the debate of whether using PaaS to develop applications is the right way to go as an enterprise strategy.

Many app developers turning from PaaS to APIs

While there are multiple arguments in favor of PaaS, an increasing number of application developers believe that APIs may be a better and quicker way to develop applications. Pro-API points include:

  • PaaS is difficult and requires commitment, whereas any API can be consumed by developers with simple documentation from the provider
  • Developers can realistically master only a couple of PaaS platforms. This limits their abilities to create exciting applications
  • PaaS involves significant developer training, unlike APIs
  • PaaS creates vendor platform lock-in, whereas APIs are fungible and can be replaced when needed

Containers moving from PaaS enablers to an alternative approach

In addition, the rise of containers and orchestration platforms, such as Kubernetes, are bringing more sleepless nights to the Platform-as-a-Service brigade. Most developers believe containers’ role of standardizing the operating environment casts strong shadows on the traditional role of PaaS.

While containers were earlier touted as PaaS enablers, they will increasingly be used as an alternative approach to application development. The freedom they provide to developers is immense and valuable. Although PaaS may offer more environment control to enterprise technology shops, it needs to evolve rapidly to become a true development platform that allows developers focus on application development. And while PaaS promised elasticity, automated provisioning, security, and infrastructure monitoring, it requires significant work from the developer’s end. This work frustrates developers, and is a possible cause for the rise of still nascent, but rapidly talked about, serverless architecture. This is evident by the fact that most leading PaaS providers, such as Microsoft Azure, CloudFoundry, and OpenShift, are introducing Kubernetes support.

As containers get deployed for production at scale, they are moving out of the PaaS layer and directly providing infrastructure control to the developers. This is helping developers to consume automated operations at scale, a promise that PaaS couldn’t fulfill due to higher abstraction. Kubernetes and other orchestration platforms can organize these containers to deliver portable, consistent, and standardized infrastructure components.

All is not lost for PaaS

However, given strong enterprise adoption, all is not lost for PaaS. Enterprises will take significant time to test containers as an alternative to a PaaS environment. Moreover, given that no major PaaS or IaaS vendor other than Google owns container technology, there is an inherent interest among large cloud providers such as AWS and Azure to build something as an alternative to containers. No wonder most of them are now pushing their serverless offerings in the market as an alternate architectural choice.

Which of these architectural preferences will eventually become standard, if at all, is a difficult pick as of today. Yet, while it’s a certainty that infrastructure operations will completely change in the next five years, most enterprise shops aren’t investing meaningfully in the new tools and skills that are required to make this shift. Thus, the futuristic enterprises that realize this tectonic shift will trample their competition. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

What has been your experience with containers, APIs, microservices, serverless, and Platforms-as-a-Service? Do you think you need all of them, or do you have preferences? Do share with me at [email protected].

SaaS, We Will Miss You – Well Not Really! | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Do you ever think about the lamp in your living room? Probably not today, as it serves its purpose well. But its newness, beauty, and usefulness gave you great satisfaction when you first bought it.

SaaS adoption is much the same. In the last decade, clients bought SaaS applications because they were “SaaS,” outside their premises, and offered interactive interfaces, better access, quicker new features, and cost savings. Adopting SaaS used to be a priority…SaaS was the means and the goal. But in and of itself, SaaS is now a table stake that is being relegated to the background by four key trends.

  1. Mobile has taken the center stage: All SaaS providers worth their salt, (e.g., Salesforce.com, NetSuite, and Workday.com), and traditional vendors that have embraced SaaS, (e.g., Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft), are now focusing on offering mobile services leveraging their SaaS solutions. Therefore, enabling mobility is taking a priority over being a “SaaS company.” Salesforce.com, the global SaaS leader, acknowledged this market trend and launched “Lightning,” its mobile platform, to enable developers to quickly develop and deploy mobile apps. I expect other providers to make mobile their chosen computing platform and architect their SaaS offerings accordingly. Making end-user mobile leveraging SaaS concepts will take precedence over offering “SaaS” applications.

  2. Platform service has become crucial: All the major SaaS providers cited have developed their platform offerings to enable developers to create application extensions and integration. SaaS may lose its sheen when not accompanied by a meaningful platform service. To scale, every SaaS provider will require a platform service to integrate with the legacy and broader enterprise IT landscape. Think about Salesforce.com, which integrated its disparate platform services (Force.com, Heroku, etc.) within the Salesforce1.com umbrella to create an integrated platform offering that assists developers and IT operation teams. Private platform providers such as Apprenda, Cloud Foundry, and Engine Yard, as well as traditional integration vendors such as Dell Boomi, Informatica, and IBM, are also eyeing this opportunity for application integration, and are exploiting the gaps left by SaaS offerings running in standalone environments. Technology providers that continue to offer point solutions will experience a natural ceiling to growth once they generate a critical mass. These providers may be acquired by other larger players that can offer more comprehensive, end-to-end services integrating different cloud components.

  3. Analytics has become integral: In the last six months, both Salesforce.com and Workday committed to their vision of analytics services by launching multiple applications and platforms such as Salesforce Wave and Workday Insights. This is market leader acknowledgment that clients need value from their SaaS offerings that goes beyond day-to-day operations. SaaS companies are sitting on a treasure trove of client data, and mining it could provide significant benefits to their customers. While these applications are generally delivered in a SaaS model, companies will not buy them for delivery ease or cost savings, but for functionality and value. I expect most other serious SaaS providers will offer analytics services, especially in domains that require data crunching by vast numbers of humans or machines (e.g., Social, CRM, HR, Finance, IT spend, and M2M.) 

  4. SaaS’ novelty has faded away: SaaS has become one of buyers’ preferred mechanism for deploying applications. Even if they are hesitant to leverage a public cloud service, they end up in a private SaaS model and make their developers create “SaaS-like” applications. As most applications are now available in the SaaS delivery model, SaaS’ newness and cachet as a point solution are gone. Most buyers now incorporate “SaaS architecture” in their applications, regardless of whether they are delivered as a SaaS or not. SaaS is now so entrenched as a concept that it is no longer a novelty or a David competing with the Goliath’s of the traditional application world. 

Today’s buyers expect SaaS to be better than on-premise systems. They no longer adopt SaaS just because it’s delivered in an “as-a-service” model. They want SaaS because it can solve business problems that on-premise systems may not (or may be exorbitantly costly and time consuming). Buyers no longer buy delivery models; rather, they buy solutions and outcomes.

SaaS as we knew it is gone. However, now it will drive the broader ecosystem of IT consumption, aid clients in running and transforming their businesses, and help end-users perform meaningful tasks. It is the backbone of the entire application landscape. SaaS needs to perform this work in the background and let the new-age concepts and value drivers take the front seat. SaaS needs to become the lamp in the enterprise living room.

Global Services Trends and Tipping Points for 2015 | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

It’s the season when analyst/advisory firms flood the media their predictions and top-10 lists. One problem with those lists is the services world rarely has 10 things that are different from the year before. Another problem is we tend to hype new technologies and business models and make predictions about their impact in the next year, when in reality they take multiple years to validate and start to build traction. So rather than falling into this trap that I and others fall into every year, here are my thoughts on a few big secular services trends and their tipping-point positions.

Cloud

We’re over the tipping point here. As I blogged previously, the cloud experiment is over. The last three years have been a grand experiment in examining cloud and the cloud products family. 2015 will see enterprises increasingly planning and implementing new functionalities in the cloud environment.

Labor arbitrage

We’re now atop an inflection point for change in the labor arbitrage market. It’s alive and well and still powerful, but in 2014 we saw value propositions that are dominantly arbitrage based diminish in effectiveness. We also saw the growth areas increasingly shifting to an “arbitrage-plus” model in new areas. The implications are that arbitrage-based offerings will be less effective and their growth rates will continue to drop.

2015 will be a year in which provider growth is driven by differentiation around industry knowledge, firm knowledge and functional knowledge, rather than cheap resources from India. Firms that pivot and provide more and better resources in country, more focus around industry and function, more specialization for those that will succeed.

Service providers talked the talk of differentiation in 2013-2014, but they didn’t walk the walk. In 2015 providers that are successful in growing share will execute really great, meaningful differentiation rather than just giving lip service to differentiation.

Automation

The tipping point for automation is still in the future. The industry has had a couple of years of experimentation with automation, but we don’t think the experimentation phase is finished. We have yet to see the automation play done at scale either on infrastructure or BPO; it is yet to move into the mainstream and is yet to be acknowledged for the full power and capability that it possesses. So the stories of automation destroying the arbitrage game are premature.

We think that, much like cloud in the last three years, in 2015 the automation journey will continue its experimentation and advance toward a time where it is implemented at scale and is able to change the value proposition in a meaningful way.

In 2015, we do not expect automation to take meaningful share from the BPO or infrastructure players. But we expect many more proof points to develop and more hype or industry attention to focus on automation.

As a service

We’re not near a tipping point in moving to a consistent as-a-service model, but we’re definitely seeing a growing uptick in experimentation with this model. In 2014, we saw a number of important companies experimenting with implementing as a-service solutions, but they weren’t multi-tenant. What they’re doing is taking their entire supply chain and turning it into a consumable, as-a-service supply chain and achieving similar benefits that are derived from a multi-tenant SaaS offering but without having the multi-tenant characteristic.

The implications of early experimentation are very significant for legacy environments. We expect 2015 to have a number of announcements of leading firms implementing this approach. We believe this is an important development but will not become an industry standard for several years to come.

Service provider landscape

As to the service providers, in 2015 we expect some changes in dominance and success. Cognizant and TCS always do well and will do so again in 2015. What’s interesting is to look at those that are going to change their fortunes. Specifically we’re watching two companies: IBM and Wipro. In 2013-2014 both made structural changes that position them well for entering 2015.

IBM decided to address the cloud issue head on. Big Blue’s purchase of SoftLayer, the moving of IBM’s middleware suite to an as-a-service delivery vehicle and willingness to deal directly and forthrightly with customers on cannibalization issues positions IBM for a potentially strong turnaround in 2015. We already see signs of that in the three megadeals IBM announced in the last quarter of 2014. We believe IBM is in for a strong year in 2015 if it stays the course.

Likewise, I’ve blogged before about Wipro laying the groundwork for a resurgence. Specifically I call out the firm’s early adoption of automation and increased focus on the large megadeal space. We believe Wipro’s adoption of automation allows the provider to be a cost challenger without giving up margins in the multi-tower megadeal space. I expect Wipro will continue its momentum into 2015, building on early successes.

This is not to say that other service providers won’t do well. I highlight these two because they took big steps to turn around their business and position themselves for the future and for velocity coming into 2015.


Photo credit: harmish khambhaita

Enterprise Technology 2015: Heavier Apps, More PaaS, Troubled Security… and more | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

As enterprises freshen their technology mandate for 2015, they stand at the cusp of a multi-dimensional interplay of agility, flexibility, and rising security considerations. Beyond the usual SMAC stack, enterprises are also grappling with challenges to the status quo in terms of faster application development, automated IT operations, the Internet of Things, and process fragmentation.

Following are five technology trends that rose to the top of our list for the important role they will play in enterprise technology in 2015.

    1. Mobile Apps – Will Need a RethinkThe IBM-Apple partnership to tackle enterprise mobility is a significant development that validates our earlier hypothesis. However, the enterprise apps now require a rethink. These apps were conceived to be “light weight” and easy to use, focused on a specific range of capabilities. But, due to increased adoption and constant demand for additional functionality, enterprises are going against this fundamental tenet by coding in multiple features that are making mobile apps heavy and difficult to use. Yet, this same “overhead bulk” has become compulsory to provide features such as analytics across apps usage, offline access, and cloud collaboration that help enterprises perform meaningful tasks. In 2015, enterprises will need to walk a fine line between honoring the basic principles of mobile apps and the persistent demand for increased functionality.
    2. PaaS – The Needle Will Move FurtherWhile Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) has been touted as the “next wave” since its inception, it never fulfilled its purported potential of adding meaningful value. However, enterprise technology may see that change in 2015 given the push from leading vendors such as Microsoft (Azure), IBM (Bluemix), Red Hat (OpenShift), Salesforce (Salesforce1), and AWS (Elastic Beanstalk). The PaaS business case will be enhanced by IaaS providers offering “PaaS-like” features (which is already happening), as well as PaaS platforms getting integrated with IaaS (e.g., the recent partnership between Apprenda and Piston Cloud). Although we do not believe PaaS will become the face of the cloud, we indeed expect 2015 to push its adoption within enterprises.
    3. Cyber Security and Open Source – Conundrum Won’t be SolvedThe Sony hacking scandal reiterated the importance of enterprise security – which is often taken lightly as compared to most cool next-gen initiatives – and has turned cyber security into a top priority for 2015. However, with the proliferation of Open Source Software (OSS) in enterprises, this “insecure” perception will surge. Enterprises are aggressively looking toward OSS with a host of next-generation technology areas such as cloud (OpenStack), Big Data (Hadoop), mobility, IT operations automation (Chef, Puppet), and content management (Drupal, Joomla!). With marquee B2C corporations such as Netflix, Samsung, and Facebook already having undertaken major, well-publicized OSS initiatives, other traditional enterprises will be pushed hard, despite a concern for security. Google teaming up with Samsung to include Knox (additional enterprise security features) to make Android more appealing for the enterprise is a step in answering this conundrum. However, it won’t be solved in 2015.
    4. Battle for Container Supremacy – Docker Will be ChallengedApplication development is getting a relook within enterprises with increased interest in container technology. Docker, the poster child for containers, whose open platform helps developers to build, ship, and run distributed applications, was rocketed in 2014 with competition from CoreOS. While Docker container technology is now supported by most platforms such as Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, and VMware, its shortcomings are becoming visible. Developers believe Docker “replaces” virtualization but provides limited platform-type support, and its containers are becoming resource intensive. Moreover, given Docker’s early foray into container management, it will be pitted against the might of Google Kubernet and AWS, as well as nimble players such as Giant Swarm. This may dilute Docker’s focus on developing next-generation container technology, leaving an ample field for competitors to exploit.
    5. Analytics – Focus Will be on Bread and ButterWith millions of dollars invested in data analytics initiatives, 2015 will make enterprises reassess the opportunity cost and value of data. While tools such as Hadoop and NoSQL have greatly reduced the entry barriers to analytics, they have witnessed middling adoption. Enterprises still have a long way to go to embed analytics in their existing processes. Therefore, despite the Internet of Things and wearable devices taking off and generating more machine data for organizations to tap into, these new initiatives will not be an immediate priority for 2015. In 2015, enterprises will get their analytics act together to focus on existing processes, consolidation, rationalization, and targeted spending, with data management, governance, and security taking priority.

Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr once commented that, “prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” So, please join us out on the limb. What are your predictions for 2015 enterprise technology?

Oh What a Tangled Web We Weave When First We Practice to Deceive | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

As I recently looked at service providers’ PowerPoint decks pitching their as-a-service offering, the well-known tangled-web-we-weave quote from Sir Walter Scott’s 1808 poem “Marmion” came to mind. It’s very clear that the industry is interested in moving to platform services. And it’s a fabulous idea — great content reduced cost, agility and focus on the customer’s business. The problem is no providers have actually done what they tout in their decks.

Service providers discussing their offerings with analysts or potential customers use decks that make it seem that they have a great deal of experience in as-a-service offerings and they do this work all the time. However the truth is that they have done only pieces of these offerings and they have done many elements in isolation. But pulling it all together — not so much. When you push them on details, they fall back on a blizzard of integrated charts.

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive. But when we practice quite a while, it improves our style. (from “Marmion”)

Over the past seven months I’ve seen glossy charts getting better by the moment and pitch decks becoming much more impressive. But still they deceive; no one has actual experience in the complete journey. Everest Group is working with providers that are on the way to doing it, but it takes three years.

Here’s my advice to providers that don’t want to suffer the embarrassment of customers realizing their deception: the truth will set you free. Acknowledge that you can prove it now only in part and the rest will come about over the next two years.

Sales Strategy Shift in the Cloud Services Market | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

The fact that enterprises are making a strategic intent shift to cloud and as-a-service models changes more than the service delivery model. It also changes the value proposition and therefore causes implications for provider’s sales strategies. For starters, the focus turns away from the provider’s capabilities.

Sure, those capabilities are still important. But with the new models the focus shifts to the customer’s needs.

The old strategic intent and value proposition was to achieve cost savings. Providers presented offer-based solutions touting the provider’s services. For example, a provider selling to a potential client in the P&C insurance industry might describe the kind of clients it services and how many clients it has, as follows:

“We have 25 clients in the P&C space with five million policies, 1000 analytics professionals with advanced statistical knowledge. We have 5,000 FTEs in eight offshore, nearshore and onshore locations. And we have a platform-based solution.”

Competition would take place on which provider’s offer is the most compelling to the customer. Typically in an offer-based solution the winning provider would be the firm with the most experience in the industry that targets the customer’s areas at appropriate price points.

But cloud and as-a-service solutions focus on the customer’s needs. This gives providers the opportunity to shift to needs-based messaging, as in the following example for a P&C insurance company:

“P&C insurers are battling high expense ratios, coupled with low interest rates globally. This is putting strains on their finances. Our solution can help you automate underwriting and shorten quote times by up to 60 percent, improve fraud detection by over 40 percent and facilitate early identification for subrogation helping improve overall margins.”

One of the most significant implications of the enterprise shift to the cloud is that focusing on needs-based messaging instead of the provider’s capabilities offer-based messaging will change the brute force product-selling mechanism that has come to define the market as we know it.

A Rose by Any Other Name | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Shakespeare said a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. However, what the eternal bard did not say but easily could have is that it would not have sold as well. The rose that’s catching fire now in the marketplace is as-a-service offerings. But service providers are confusing the market.

As-a-service offerings take a business function (CRM, HR recruitment, etc.) and provide it on a consumption basis (pay for it as used) and bundle the entire end-to-end process including hosting the application, the network and often some business function.

It’s interesting to see these function ideas brought to the market, and it’s the most powerful and disruptive force in services today. Providers range from startups such as ZenCash, which delivers receivables as a service, to more established companies such as Salesforce for CRM as a service. Many of the Indian providers’ as-a-service offerings come in the model of platforms or as managed services.

No matter what the providers call their offerings, all the marketing terms are names for very similar business constructs. The providers seek to differentiate themselves by naming the offering using different terminology in an effort to claim that they’re different. But the market largely ignores these efforts. Why?

Because, a rose by any other name may be just as sweet, but people looking for roses don’t stop to look at flowers called something else. Buyers adopt offerings that they recognize as something they want. The sweet thing the market now recognizes it wants is the power of consumption and end-to-end functionality — which it recognizes as buying an “as a-service” offering.

Providers can deliver an as-a-service offering off a common platform or build it unique. But the market is signaling that “as-a-service” has become the recognized term for what the market wants — simplicity and easy-to-adopt functionality instead of past experiences with big, complex projects that require long lead time and are complicated and risky to implement.

Calling as-a-service offerings by different terms just confuses the market and slows down growth.


Photo credit: Yannis

IBM Prepares to Deliver Consumption Based, As-a-Service Offerings | Gaining Altitude in the Cloud

IBM in late February launched BlueMix, a billion-dollar investment in a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud based on its recent empire-building acquisition of SoftLayer. A TBR analyst says IBM’s as-a-service moves are changing the company’s DNA. My opinion? It’s a lot more significant than that! If Big Blue can integrate all its services in a true consumption-based model, it could set the standard for the new service model industry wide. The question is: Is this the way of the future?

The dilemma

Here’s the dilemma that faces the market and motivates IBM’s strategy. As I’ve blogged before, customers want consumption-based services. This means:

  • They only want to pay for what they use. They don’t want to pre-commit to volumes because they overpay when they do that. When they use a lot, they’re prepared to pay a lot; when they use a little, they only want to pay a little.
  • They want providers to make it easy to adopt their services. They don’t want big road maps and huge implementation schedules. Easy on, easy off is what they desire.

We see this fundamental desire for consumption-based coming across all service lines. But it leaves traditional service providers hamstrung to meet customer demands.

There are two routes to the change to consumption-based services:

  • Service delivery in a multi-tenant world — one platform and all customers use the same thing
  • Supply chain — completely integrate a consumption-based supply chain

The problem with a remedy for the dilemma

The problem is that the multi-tenant path does everything for providers but nothing for customers. Larger, sophisticated companies have different needs, but the multi-tenant platform forces customers to be the same as everyone else. Salesforce and other providers accommodate this issue with configuration vehicles, but fundamentally they have an unyielding standard. So providers must ask their customers to change their needs to meet the product’s standards rather than the product changing to meet the customer’s desires.

It’s a thing of beauty and a joy forever if a provider can get its customers to do that. But there are a very limited number of areas, and customers, where that can happen.

The alternative remedy

The alternative is to turn a provider’s entire supply chain into a consumption-based supply chain. This is the IBM strategy.

This path eliminates stranded costs. It also eliminates the problem of misaligned provider/customer interests that create a lot of friction in the market today. The traditional service model creates take-or-pay situations in which the provider has to provide the service whether or not the customer uses it — thus the misaligned interests.

That’s why what IBM is doing is so important. I’ve blogged before about how IBM’s recent acquisitions of SoftLayer, UrbanCode, Green Hat and Big Fix were the components of building a complete as-a-service stack from the bare iron up through the platform to the business process services. This fundamentally enables IBM to migrate to an end-to-end consumption-based world.

We have yet to see IBM roll this through in its fundamental pricing, but it’s still early; Big Blue has just now assembled the stack. But if it truly goes to market with the end-to-end consumption model, IBM will be able to address market needs much more completely than competitors, which are faced with the dilemma of having to take the risk on stranded costs and effectively price higher because of inefficient delivery models.

That’s what IBM has been putting in place. Is IBM leading in the way to the future in services? What do you think?

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