Has the emergence of more tech-savvy enterprise customers exposed a gap in the ability of cloud providers to engage and service the needs of the masses? Richard Morrell asks if this failure could lock them out of dynamic elastic cloud opportunity

I don’t want to start this column with the use of the term Cloud 2.0 as it would irritate me almost as much as the term Web 2.0 did when analysts and writers used it to badly bundle evolution into a terminology they found comfortable. However, you can argue, with gravitas, that many of the cloud providers that have stood up public cloud environments now offer catalogues of service items and platform choices that do not provide what customers actually want – or think they need.

In the 1989 Kevin Costner film “Field of Dreams” a Dubuque County, Iowa farmer builds a baseball field in the middle of his corn crop which attracts legendary but long dead baseball players to play with the premise: “If you build it, they will come”. I’ve used this analogy numerous times talking in front of audiences of cloud providers and managed hosting companies whose analysis of the market led them to build out platforms and provision environments to attract customers whose main issue has been either they were unable to contractually engage, or they wanted to use a lot of the public cloud fabric for purely testing workloads or entirely non-sensitive, non-touch workloads.

This has demonstrated a lack of perceived value – a disconnect – between what customers understand their needs are and what the marketplace is offering. One of the issues has been the rush to provision platforms and to define service catalogues. Some of the proprietary players need to hold their hands up and take a large percentage of the “blame” (if you want to use the word) for pushing “a cloud in a box”, a structured old school managed environment. The cost of this HAS to be pushed to the customer in a billable form for adoption of supposed elastic environments.

It’s vitally important to stress that in this definition of public cloud I am not including Amazon or its hosted environments and platforms. Amazon have redefined the gold standard and also been evolutionary (and you could argue revolutionary) in the manner in which they have shown how you can react and build a customer relationship, making it comprehensively simple for an organisation to extend to the cloud.

The term cloudbursting, which was used so hugely by every tech journalist earning his stripes over the last decade, is dead and buried; the need now is for the cloud provider who can understand and engage at the governance level, at the service delivery tier and become a seamless integrated part of enterprise IT and they are still to emerge. The Cloud Security Alliance with their STAR certification programme are part of that definition, in fact, because of the manner in how STAR works with its published audit approach it’s the most open, transparent and comprehensive scheme that we’ve seen so far in Cloud; for those looking to engage or consume services it’s a gamechanger.

The ability for providers, and vendors of products, to be publicly audited dissolves a lot of the mystery for enterprise organisations looking to engage. Vendors such as Microsoft and Red Hat have listened to customers and engaged, providing managed hosting companies to manage their destinies and to try and build a level of customer attraction aligned with powerful reasons for customer retention that the larger public cloud providers have been unable to match. For good reason.

In the final washup customers vote with their wallets. Tech savvy enterprise customers with intelligent DevOps and ITOps staff know the problems they need to solve and are starting to realise how they want their cloud experiences to evolve. That should serve as a worrying wake up call to the providers who have already spent all their money getting locked into a proprietary Cloud 1.0 world. We talk about lock-in as being a concern for customers. What nobody has dared mention to the bigger players in hosting is lock-out. Have the incumbent players locked themselves out of the dynamic elastic nature of cloud by the purchasing decisions they’ve already signed off and the lack of diligence they made when assuming what customers would want and need from Cloud?

As much as it pains me to use the term, Cloud 2.0 is here and a lot of the money has already been spent on pinning the tail on the wrong donkey.


The views expressed on this blog are Richard’s personal views and do not reflect or represent the views of his employer, Red Hat.