Martin Atherton, Freeform Comment

Although we’ve said on several occasions that cloud computing isn’t the revolutionary movement that many would have us believe, my visit to Cloud Expo this week really hammered home a point that could make many businesses breath a sigh of relief, so I thought I’d re-iterate it here.

When it comes to engaging with service providers, most organisations are really only interested in outcomes. The key question is: Does what is on offer here fulfil my requirements? A business wants to achieve a specific goal, and if a service provider meets certain criteria, it wins the business. How the service provider delivers the paid-for outcome is a factor to be included in the due diligence process but only insofar as delivery mechanisms meet the need.

Cloud computing changes absolutely nothing in this regard. If the service provider is using ‘bona fide cloud computing technology’ (whatever that means) in its data centre to help it deliver services with greater economies of scale, resilience, flexibility, and so forth, then so be it. Some customers will care, some will not.

This point became ever more clear to me yesterday at Cloud Expo because most service providers in attendance were offering hosting and/or managed services. The entire event would not have looked any different had it been called ‘Hosting Expo’.

And there’s the point. None of this really matters if all you care about is the outcome you want to achieve from a third party service provider. For practical purposes today it might be easier to consider ‘The Cloud’ as simply a consolidation term, an umbrella term under which all the different types of third party service providers that existed in more narrowly defined boxes in the past now live.

Sure, there is more to it than that, but only if you care about details beyond what you are actually paying for. For example, virtualisation technology allows service providers to offer up ever more specific services to suit lots of different performance, scalability and price point requirements. But this is the difference between ‘what’, and ‘how’, and there is currently far too much mixing up of the two, which is counterproductive to say the least.

Back to third party service providers, then: The effect of ‘cloud’ is greater choice to the customer in terms of what’s on offer and how it is sourced, paid for and used. But nothing has fundamentally changed. Despite so many providers claiming that because something carries a certain label, it must be good, everything you ever knew about using third party service providers remains as important – nay – more important, than ever before.

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