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I used to love that segment on sesame street. I loved the firemen and the cops and the muppet barbers. The truth is, you have to get to know your neighbors –and that’s particularly important when you’re building a community resource, like a cloud.

 

So, who’s involved? Well, Gartner analyst Donna Scott and I were talking about this a few weeks back, and she had some pretty great insights. I think there are 2 ways to slice the people involved – by what they used to do (which I touched on in a post on What to Expect When You’re Expecting Cloud, and You and What Army?) .. and then there are the roles that they WILL do, in the brave new world. Let’s take a moment to think about those.

 

  1. The Cloud Architect. Someone needs an overall vision of this new cloud. Typically, there is a single individual or small team that manage the definition of the cloud environment, and its interactions with the rest of the IT infrastructure.
  2. The Service Designer: This benevolent individual understands that different users have different needs, and spends his or her time designing different services to meet the needs of each user, setting options, determining different roles and locking down elements to ensure each user gets precisely the right cloud service.
  3. The Tenant Manager: Sometimes separate from the service designer, the tenant managers manage who has access to the cloud, which roles have which permissions, and so on.
  4. The Cloud Administrators: These honorable folks handle the care and feeding of the entire cloud, ensuring it has capacity, is optimizing utilization, and is meeting SLAs.
  5. The Supplier Managers: There are some forward-thinking companies who are approaching public clouds from a supplier-management perspective. We’re applauding them.
    1. The Performance Team: In some firms, there are even folks who care for the performance of the cloud – separating out the operations from the SLA. This is happening more and more.
  6. The Users: Like the fans at a rock concert, there’s no cloud without users. Hello Chicago!

 

What other roles are you seeing for folks in the cloud? Our new contributor, Tony Navarrete, is going to weigh in on the Financial roles in cloud one of these days, I’m sure… I look forward to his input. How are these roles being filled? Are there obvious –or non-obvious  - transitions?

 

Who are these people in your cloud neighborhood? They’re the people that you meet. When you’re walking down the street. They’re the people that you meet each day!

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I’ve had a few false starts trying to describe the point of configurable cloud services with an analogy. I tried cars, but I’m not going to lie – I haven’t the foggiest idea what a transmission does. I can tell you how to do enterprise-class cloud provisioning, but my chassis is an utter mystery to me. I tried other analogies like custom-fit suits, which it turns out are the domain of highly-paid lawyers and not the general public. I tried many other things along the way. And in a meeting last week, I found a new analogy…

 

TV Dinners.

 

Work with me here.

 

If you run a cloud using image or template-based provisioning – for the entire stack of the cloud service – you’re essentially in the TV dinner business. You are the supermarket manager, and you have a freezer case full of Lean Cuisine or Hungry Man dinners, and your users come to you – and they can ask for Mac-n-cheese or Salisbury steak or something that claims to be the perfect facsimile of a Panini, complete with char marks. You can even include a brownie dessert. But, if someone comes to you with an allergy to gluten, or a request for double-mashed-potatoes, you can’t help him.

 

Also, you might be faced with a couple management issues in your freezer case. Say microwave-panini fall out of favor – you’ve got to clear out the old stale inventory. Say spinach from California is found to have e-coli.. you have to go through and pull and update all the boxes with spinach. And, every so often, someone important or rich or otherwise influential will walk by your freezer case and ask for a new chicken enchilada offering, and you’ll find you had better start stocking that too. You’ll have one big freezer in no time.

 

Let’s say, on the other hand, you’re looking to feed your customers but have a kitchen in back. That kitchen has a set of ingredients, and a friendly chef will whip up whatever you need in a few minutes. You offer your customers omelets, sandwiches or pizzas, each with toppings and fillings. Omelet with tomatoes? Sure thing. Pregnant customer who can’t have goat cheese? We’ll use cheddar. Double mashed? For you, of course. Now, if you didn’t order fresh basil from the green grocer, you might be unable to produce a caprese salad – and that may be your choice as a restaurateur. But, with the ingredients you have, you can satisfy a wide variety of customers, each getting the meal they want.

 

So what’s the service catalog? The service catalog is the list of offerings. You could have a list of fixed TV dinners or a list suggested combinations (omelets, pizzas or sandwiches) and a set of configurable toppings. The more robust, flexible and role-based the service catalog is, the better you’re able to satisfy the user.

 

What would you rather eat? And which business would you rather be in?  I find the freezer section a little… icy.

Differentiate or Die

Posted by Tony Navarrete Jan 25, 2011
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Inertia is a great thing. It's what makes me watch 30 minutes of a TV show I don’t really like (but don't hate enough to change the channel). And it's been a big reason why IT customers, particularly service providers' customers, don't move. Too much pain for the gain. But as cloud technologies evolve and make it easier for customer a customer to "pick up his ball and go home", how do you make sure you're still in business a few years from now?

 

For IT customers, one of the great promises of Cloud is that provisioning components necessary to meet their IT needs will be seamless, transparent and make it irrelevant where those components live and who's managing them. One of the results of this commoditization is that this gives IT customers greater freedom to choose a service provider. We've certainly already seen a lot of examples of enterprise IT customers taking advantage of Amazon cloud services rather than leveraging corporate IT services because the customer can virtually (pun intended) snap their fingers and get servers provisioned in a fraction of the time that corporate IT takes.

 

And as IT customers start flexing this cloud benefit, the nature of "competition" for IT customers will change pretty fundamentally. In fact, it really already has. And this is true for both enterprise IT as well as for service providers. Where enterprise IT once had a monopoly, it now finds itself competing with service providers in a way that it hadn't been before. Cloud makes it easy for IT customers to bypass enterprise IT and even eliminate IT's role as the middle man in technology decisions. For public cloud service providers, Cloud is enabling them to reach a broader audience of potential customers. That's great that their sphere of potential customers is broader, but that also means that there’s more competition. And, interestingly, just as enterprise IT will need to do a better job of competing against public cloud providers, service providers will need to think about how private clouds change the needs of the traditional customer base.

 

From an Economics point of view, it's the kind of free market environment that makes my wife (an economist by training) drool because it enables customers to vote with their dollars, driving price competition and rewarding those sellers that provide the best overall bang for the buck.

 

So the challenge becomes, for both private cloud and public cloud providers: "How do I distinguish myself from my competitors?" given that potential customers will inevitably do Internet comparison shopping?

 

There are several ways to do this, and they fundamentally roll up into two dimensions: dollars and service.

 

Dollars.

When I say dollars, I'm not just talking about price, though that's a key thing. Obviously, if you offer your services at a really good price compared to your competitors, that’s a great thing - assuming that you've priced your services in a way that you're actually bringing in more dollars than are going out the door! But what if you can't compete with an Amazon on price, then what?

  • Don't underestimate HOW you talk about dollars. Cost transparency is really important. Make it easy for your customers to understand what the likely costs will be, what the implications are of choosing different options, and what the costs were based on their consumption.
  • Think about how you help customers make the most cost effective decisions. Sure, you can make more money if customers are over-provisioning, but coming across as an involved consultant, helping them make efficient buying decisions will increase your credibility and reputation as a place to go.

 

Service.

  • Differentiate your service by the kinds of services you offer and the quality of the services you offer. If you're an enterprise, what do you bring to the table in terms of culture and expertise that's unique to you? How do you "celebrate" that differentiation? Customers are willing to pay more if they see the value in the price difference.
  • If you're a service provider, what domain expertise or capacity do you bring that sets you apart from the rest?
  • Define and communicate your offerings in ways that are comprehensible to your customers. Make the bundles logical and reasonable. While it's tempting to provider totally ala cart offerings, customers are looking for you to have done some of the hard work of bundling things for them. Dell Computers is a great example of this. The main way most customers buy Dell computers is by choosing from pre-defined models that are pretty much ready to go. You can always tweak it, but you're not starting off at the most basic level of choosing a mother board, then RAM and DRAM and hoping that you didn't somehow forget to order the appropriate power supply.

 

Ultimately, this all comes down to realizing that there is going to be competition for your customers and you need to be sure that you're not lost in the cloud hoopla. If you don't find ways to make yourself compelling, your may find out the hard way that customer loyalty ain't what it used to be.

 

These are my latest thoughts on the business side of cloud. I'm dying to hear what your thoughts are. Leave a comment. Share a thought. Or catch me on twitter at @tonynavarrete or #bmccloud.

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Hi. I'm Tony Navarrete -- the newest member of the BMC team dedicated to helping IT organizations and service providers make the most of the exciting new possibilities that Cloud brings to the table for technologists as well as to customers. I bring a slightly different perspective to the game that I think will nicely complement my colleagues' approaches and viewpoints.

 

I've spent the past seven years focused on IT business management as a domain - that's all about developing the information and processes IT leaders need to make planning and strategic decisions. In particular, I've spent a lot of time thinking about project and portfolio management, staffing and resourcing, vendor management, financial planning and budgeting, and IT governance. Most recently I've been very focused on service costing and IT cost transparency.

 

I've also got lots of real-world IT experience (and scars) to help ground my thinking. I spent more than 15 years in large IT organizations and I've held director positions in several IT areas, including customer support, networking, and the CIO's office.

 

Look for me to focus on the financial, planning and governance aspects of building and leveraging cloud with a slant towards business alignment, IT cost transparency and governance. I’ll be spending a lot of my time working with service providers but I think IT organizations who are considering building internal clouds or simply being a consumer of public clouds will find a lot of value in seeing what we share with service providers.

 

And, for what it's worth, I'm a Stanford alum, so if you see a periodic jab at Cal (UC Berkeley), you’ll know why.

 

I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts about the business side of cloud - and I'm dying to hear what your thoughts are. Leave a comment. Share a thought. Or catch me on twitter at @tonynavarrete or #bmccloud.

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Yesterday, we did an announcement regarding our upcoming release of BMC Cloud Lifecycle Management. I'm excited to finally be able to talk about 2 key capabilities that are embedded in that release, and which will really benefit cloud environments, both public and private.

 

The first is Service Blueprints, which are a flexible way of defining and managing multi-tier applications in cloud environments, and their deployment alternatives. In countless customer interactions, the need for capabilities to manage these more intricate and varied use cases becomes clear early in the discussion. Managing by template library is no longer an option for a cloud serving dozens of customers, internal or external.

 

The second is the industry’s first, purpose-built, platform-agnostic  Service Governor, which is a powerful tool that applies IT policies to  automatically guide the initial placement and ongoing management of  cloud services, rather than requiring manual effort. We've all known for years that in the increasingly dynamic and nuanced IT environment, humans can't be expected to identify all the key requirements, munge the alternatives, recommend and implement a solution for each and every placement, movement, and compliance decision that needs to be made. Service Governor provides the intelligence to support these ongoing decisions in a bustling cloud environment.

 

Along with the release, we've created some new materials to help better communicate both the functionality and the philosophy behind it. A 2-minute movie goes a long way towards describing the solution - and a short article that builds the case for a more tailored cloud that fits the needs of the organization.

 

Luckily, we've got this forum to discuss your thoughts on this announcement, the functionality, and the philosophy - and I'm dying to hear what you're thinking. Leave a comment. Share a thought. Or catch me on twitter at @lilacschoenbeck or #bmccloud.

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