The IT professionals road map for navigating the cloud revolution

Public Cloud Services Market

According to Gartner, total IT spending for public Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) will total $72bn between 2012 and 2016 with a CAGR of 42%. Given the current market size this means companies will be moving the majority of that $72bn INTO public cloud services in the coming years. Although the market for server capacity is clearly growing strongly across all delivery mechanisms, the reality is that a substantial portion of this $72bn will be a reallocation from dedicated server and private cloud budgets. A significant portion of dedicated infrastructure and private cloud deployments right now happen with the involvement of consultants, specialist system integrators etc. As a result, IT professionals face a critical time period as budgets transition to public cloud deployments. The question is therefore, what role for IT professionals in the brave new world of public cloud? How should such professionals and companies best position themselves to continue to offer value to their customers?

Public cloud can be seen as a continuation of the outsourcing trend. For many companies their server infrastructure can be considered non-core to their main value add and there is therefore a strong argument for outsourcing if the computing capacity required can be delivered externally in an effective and reliable form. While virtualisation through private cloud deployments has made in-house dedicated infrastructure more flexible, it doesn’t address key issues of under-utilisation, the overhead of procuring and maintaining dedicated infrastructure and the need for elasticity. Private cloud is therefore a largely transitional delivery mechanism that will eventually be mostly replaced by public cloud models.

Adding Value Now

It is worth thinking about how IT professionals add value for their customers with respect to their physical infrastructure and the systems running on them for dedicated in-house solutions. Understanding the key value proposition for most IT professionals in relation to their customers and how that is changing with public cloud is key to focusing on the right areas and choosing the cloud provider that facilitates that transition also.

Managing relationships with multiple suppliers, assessing capabilities and the fit to requirements. Organising purchasing and delivery of new equipment.

Tailoring and Specification
Designing and combining hardware specifications to meet the system requirements of the customer. Testing the capabilities of various hardware system options. Defining hardware requirements for purchasing.

System Maintenance (Hardware and Software)
Ongoing maintenance of the hardware install base. System software maintenance and patching. Uptime monitoring and incident reporting.

System Integration
Integrating highly complex systems at a software level to meet customer requirements. Building integrated software systems using disparate hardware and software vendors to offer a coherent system to the customer.

Application and System Design
Modifying and building custom applications to integrate and improve off the shelf offerings to meet customer requirements where deficiencies are found.

Activity Dedicated In-house Public Cloud
Procurement Knowledge of customer procurement methods, vendor relationships, knowledge of hardware and software offerings on the market. Knowledge of customer procurement methods, cloud vendor relationships, knowledge of cloud offerings in IaaS.
Tailoring and Specification Understanding of customer system requirements. Understanding of hardware and software capabilities. Knowledge of sound testing methodologies. Understanding of customer system requirements. Knowledge of various clouds’ capabilities. Understanding of software capabilities. Knowledge of sound testing methodologies.
System Maintenance Understanding of system monitoring. Hardware engineering knowledge. Software system knowledge. Security procedures knowledge and execution. Understanding of system monitoring. Software system knowledge. Security procedures knowledge and execution at software layer.
System Integration Application level knowledge. Operating system knowledge. Networking skills. Understanding of failover, back-up and high availability methodologies. Application level knowledge. Operating system knowledge. Networking skills (configuration on node only). Understanding of failover, back-up and high availability methodologies.
Application and System Design Software engineering skills in relevant technologies. Networking skills. Clear understanding of off-the-shelf systems and customer requirements. Software engineering skills in relevant technologies. Networking skills. Clear understanding of off-the-shelf systems and customer requirements.

Surprisingly therefore, the role of IT professionals remains largely unchanged although the content of the various activities will change substantially. Notably hardware maintenance is lost but outside of this cloud equivalents exist for all the main activity areas outlined.

Adding Value in the Future

What is clear is that knowledge of customer systems and requirements remains critical. IT professionals and companies that can marry this existing knowledge with an intricate understanding of cloud capabilities and systems are well positioned to turn a cloud threat into a cloud opportunity. Further, through the cloud’s abilities to increase the agility of businesses, additional value accrues to both the in-house and external IT staff that correctly implements a successful cloud strategy.

An IT professional is only as powerful as the tools he/she has available to work with. Having identified some of the key value propositions above, lets compare how some major cloud providers compare in these essential areas as partners for IT professionals and companies.

Activity CloudSigma AWS Rackspace GoGrid
Procurement Transparent pricing Bundled pricing Bundled pricing Bundled pricing
Resource Allocation Flexible, unbundled Fixed server sizes Fixed server sizes Fixed server sizes
Flexible Storage Yes (and all SSD!) No, bundled No, bundled No, bundled
Advanced Server Controls Yes* Yes (limited) No No
Open Software Layer Yes No (AMIs possible) No No
Open Networking Yes No No No
Advanced Private Networks Yes** No (VPC available) No No
Full Hybrid Capability Yes Yes No No
System Monitoring Yes Yes Yes Yes
Run any x86 OS Unmodified Yes No No No

* Virtual core sizing, networking emulation, storage emulation, CPU exposure of NUMA, hypervisor timer settings.
** Ability to run multiple private networks on a single server, full network isolation, ability to create VLANs within private networks, ability to run any traffic type and service (multicast, broadcast etc.)

As outlined above, CloudSigma is designed to offer a virtual data center product. Namely a product that allows customers to deploy highly nuanced cloud infrastructure with the same degree of control that they are used to enjoying on dedicated hardware. The result is that customers are able to deploy legacy systems, hybrid solutions, complicated networking requirements, specific server configurations etc. in our cloud in a way just not possible with other leading offerings.

The result is that IT professionals deploying solutions on CloudSigma spend less time ‘learning’ our system and more time offering value to customers by testing and optimising their deployments. CloudSigma gives IT professionals many degrees of freedom that other clouds simply lock down. The result is significantly higher price performance for solutions created on CloudSigma which better reflect customer requirements. Further, our transparent utility approach to pricing delivers purchasing efficiency to customers and predictable cost estimation.

The tools that CloudSigma exposes to customers means they are able to build cloud infrastructure with a value proposition that other clouds struggle to meet. For IT professionals, working with CloudSigma allows them to leverage their knowledge of customer systems to deliver tailored cloud infrastructure solutions at a lower cost with higher performance.

Are you an IT professional interested in using our cloud? You can reach out to us at [email protected]; we'd love to hear from you and to understand better your needs.

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About Robert Jenkin

Robert is a Co-Founder and CEO of CloudSigma along with his long-time friend Patrick Baillie. Robert & Patrick had a vision for a different style of cloud focused around customer requirements not computing frameworks created by the service provider; an open environment where end-users could define their infrastructure in a highly flexible way with little or no restrictions, just like they were used to doing in their own private environments. Their shared vision was the genesis of CloudSigma in 2009 in Zürich, Switzerland and as with many great things, it began life sketched out on a napkin! Robert previously has experience in early stage venture capital and corporate finance in the City of London. Robert is a graduate in Economics from Cambridge University.