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ARN Roundtable report: Build the Cloud of the future

ARN Roundtable report: Build the Cloud of the future

There’s no question that IT services will dominate the way people work and live in the future

Attendees (left to right): James Leitch (Optus), 
Timothy Otton (Telstra); George Kazangi (Blue Central), Michael Diaz (Veeam), Steve Martin (NEXTDC),  Jennifer O’Brien (ARN), Craig Somerville (The Somerville Group), Hafizah Osman (ARN), David Hanrahan (Dimension Data), Scott Atkinson (BigAir), Moheb Moses (Channel Dynamics), Philip Meyer (Microsoft), Stephen Parker (Rhipe), Jules Rumsey (Cloud Plus), Yoni Kirsh (Fastrack Technology)

Attendees (left to right): James Leitch (Optus),
Timothy Otton (Telstra); George Kazangi (Blue Central), Michael Diaz (Veeam), Steve Martin (NEXTDC), Jennifer O’Brien (ARN), Craig Somerville (The Somerville Group), Hafizah Osman (ARN), David Hanrahan (Dimension Data), Scott Atkinson (BigAir), Moheb Moses (Channel Dynamics), Philip Meyer (Microsoft), Stephen Parker (Rhipe), Jules Rumsey (Cloud Plus), Yoni Kirsh (Fastrack ...


Deliver an outcome

NEXTDC’s Martin reiterated the importance of delivering an outcome. There’s no question that the business outcomes of a project justify the commitment of resources and provide a key focus for project design and delivery.

IT is under increasing pressure to innovate and deliver better business results, Martin said, adding the partner is in an ideal position to help customers understand how IT solutions can directly support the company’s business initiatives.

“Getting the visibility about what’s happening in IT, what’s happening in sales, what’s happening in marketing, what’s happening in production, and if you can play that role as a service provider, as an integrator to really feed back to the customer what all their needs are across multiple points of their business, then you’re in a very good position to win.

“The downside to that is it costs you a lot of money to engage at that level of detail with the customer to get to a point where you can actually earn some money back from it.”

Indeed, becoming more effective at delivering an outcome is a worthy pursuit for service providers, who need to help customers stay focused on business priorities, according to BigAir Group CTO Cloud and managed services, Scott Atkinson.

“If a customer is a manufacturing business, they don’t want to know that they can go click, click and speed up their virtual machine [VM]. We want them focused on manufacturing their widget, not on how to make their VM run faster. The outcome for them is our business application running and delivering the SLA so that they can focus on their business. With automation and integration, which becomes our issue, is how do we make the business run a lot more effectively so we can deliver a more efficient outcome to our customers.”

Atkinson said the industry needs to think in terms of overall business transformation – and not just focus on Cloud alone.

“We’re seeing a bit of a movement away from Cloud as a raw tool – it is something you can use to form part of an outcome. It’s not just the magic bullet that solves all problems. A lot of customers have had a positive experience and it’s worked out, but it’s not everything to everyone. Looking at the business outcome is a trend where we decide how we’re going to achieve value rather than just presenting a product in a different form.” Determining a business outcome is key at any level, according to Optus’ Leitch, who said customers are keen to get the outcome – even at the application level.

“There’s been this leapfrog from what was infrastructure. We don’t bypass the automation because automation is absolutely crucial, but in some respects we’re finding customers expect that all the automation would have already been put in place, all the integration would have already been put in place. Customers are actually now looking at the business outcome at the application level. There’s just been a massive shift literally in the last six months, which is now our problem.”

Dealing with a customer’s high expectations about the Cloud can also be a challenge, according to rhipe vice-president of market research, Stephen Parker, who is on a mission to help businesses find their Cloud story.

“We’ve not actually caught up under the covers to be able to live with the expectations that we’ve now very cleverly set with our customers. Expectations like ‘you’ll be able to do this instantly, you’ll be able to turn it on, you’ll be able to fire up Cloudburst; instantly servers will appear anywhere in the world, and bill instantly in unique and incredible ways’ and the customer goes, ‘I’ll have that.’ That isn’t necessarily reality.”

Innovation is key

But there is no doubt Cloud computing is helping companies implement business process change and find new ways to engage customers. And while the technology was initially adopted for efficiency and cost savings, it is now emerging as a powerhouse of innovation.

NEXTDC’s Martin said Cloud is levelling the playing field with smaller players, in particular, and helping them to innovate, letting them reinvent how services are delivered to the organisation. But innovation is having a major impact across the board from the large enterprise down to the smaller fish in the sea.

“One of the clearest things that Cloud delivers to businesses today is the ability to innovate at 10 times the speed that they’ve been able to innovate previously,” Martin said, explaining how businesses that have managed to take advantage of Cloud computing’s ability to create innovation have transformed their IT from a cost centre to a strategic department. New business opportunities and new revenue streams are the end result.

“Cloud can give businesses massive scalability and innovation. As you bring it down into the business, it can take away costs, and enables them to do things differently. Thanks to innovation there’s a very strong play for customers to go and do things that they’ve never done before.”

In addition to innovation, Telstra’s Otton said customers are thinking about the disruptive nature of Cloud more in terms of right sourcing, which means getting the right workload where it matters.

“Cloud is not the answer for everything – it’s about right sourcing across a number of options to the customer; make sure you hit the parameters for security, performance, integration or whatever. I don’t think a lot of this is about Cloud, it’s partly about Cloud but it’s partly about the new expectations of customers, who say, ‘I want a consumption model, I don’t want to have to pay upfront with a long lead-time and then the thing might not even work anyway.’ It’s about certainty of delivery, more flexible commercial models. These are the things that customers are actually pushing more broadly for, not just into what we call Cloud,” he said.

Otton said the most exciting aspect of Cloud today is how it fits into other disruptive technologies – or the 3rd platform – that is transforming the datacentre and the very face of business. He said the industry is transitioning to the 3rd platform for innovation and growth, which is built on the technology pillars of mobile computing, Cloud services, Big Data and analytics, and social networking.

“The thing I get excited about is where Cloud fits into what everyone is calling the nexus of forces or the third platform. It’s mobility, it’s Big Data, it’s open systems and API interfaces,” he said. “It’s creating this new platform for innovation that I think is what we should be selling our customers. This is all coming together. It’s not about Cloud, it’s about the way Cloud works with all of these other things. And they’re mutually reinforcing. I think you can safely say that these are the key trends for the next platform. I think it’s indisputable.”

Cloud Plus’ Rumsey said he recognises the journey to the Cloud is a progressive one, and as such the company, which is a provider of private Cloud solutions in A/NZ, maps out a step-wise approach to best meet the needs of the client and make the transition as pain free as possible. He said channel salespeople often don’t know how to qualify opportunities with clients correctly.

“They will have a particular focal area that they wanted to talk to a client about and they’ll just put their blinkers on and that’s what they’re looking at. They don’t see the wood for the trees. If they open the conversation up and start going through some key points with clients, all of a sudden, they uncover an opportunity that might be 10 or 20 times bigger than anything that they were looking at with the client previously.”

Big obstacles

The Somerville Group managing director, Craig Somerville, agreed there are big obstacles to selling these disruptive technologies – even experienced salespeople aren’t 100 per cent skilled up in peddling Cloud services (properly articulating to the customer what’s in the contract) – and/or moving the datacentre to a hybrid model.

“Anyone with real workloads will live in a hybrid space. And as organisations in the channel, we need to be able to identify it, see it, deploy it, deliver it, manage it and then wrap Ts and Cs around it. And that’s going to be the biggest challenge,” Somerville said.

“If you provide a Cloud security platform, what’s in and what’s out? What happens when there’s an infection and it’s all hands on deck. Is that in the contract? Is that not in the contract? These are the realities of deploying these Cloud services and having that clearly articulated to the customer.” The fact that many of the enterprise customers are sourcing services from multiple players is a challenge, added Optus’ Leitch.

“You’ve got multiple department groups in organisations now sourcing services, previously the IT group would attract the spend, but now these organisations effectively have lost control because everybody is buying anything and everything for anybody and there is no aggregation point. So from a sales perspective, as a supplier if you’re selling to a customer, how do you know what they want or how can you target what they want effectively because you don’t have that single aggregation point anymore.” But Microsoft’s Meyer said this is a golden opportunity for partners to make sense of it all.

“What an opportunity though. If you’ve got all of these shadow IT’s occurring and they’re occurring in businesses and you’ve got an entity such as a little partner out there today, you can say, ‘Okay you’ve done that shadow IT Salesforce investment, you’ve done that thing out of there with Office 365 and you’ve got a bit of services from one of you guys in the room, let me bring all that together for you.’”

Certainly, the end pursuit is to offer IT services that are easy to obtain, uniform, plentiful and affordable – much like what consumers get with their electricity and water services.

“IT needs to become a consumable commoditised service just like electricity,” explains NEXTDC’s Martin, who said the vision is to offer IT as a utility. “With IT, we all still care about how the technology gets to my screen. We’re all still stuck in the technology, how to get the CPUs, how to get the network. But the 95 per cent of people in this world that are not in IT don’t care. And Cloud is one of the first key developments in this industry that is getting us to that point where the consumer doesn’t care.

"We, as an industry, have to deliver outcomes and services where it’s purely the IT outcome and all the other stuff that goes in under the covers doesn’t matter.”

Looking to the future, Veeam regional Cloud manager A/NZ, Michael Diaz, said, “More and more businesses are moving to public and adopting a hybrid Cloud strategy as it becomes a more viable alternative, especially with the offerings available from Microsoft Azure and VMware vCloud Air. Through our tight integration with our alliance partners, we are able to deliver solutions that help our partners extend their business models and deliver the promise of hybridCloud – helping customers easily transition to the Cloud.

“The opportunity is there for the resellers to become service providers, and to open up an additional revenue stream. We aim to help enable our channel partners to become trusted advisors to their customers, who are looking at public or hybrid Cloud strategies.”


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