Clutch spoke with Deirdre Mahon, the Chief Marketing Officer of Cloud Cruiser, and Andrew Atkinson, the Senior Director of Product Marketing at Cloud Cruiser, about the challenges many organizations face when utilizing cloud computing platforms – an important conversation for anyone looking to migrate IT infrastructure to a Cloud Platform.
Learn more about Cloud Cruiser at CloudCruiser.com.
Please describe your organization and your positions.
Deirdre: I am Deirdre Mahon, the Chief Marketing Officer of the company.
Andrew: I am Andrew Atkinson, the Senior Director of Product Marketing at Cloud Cruiser. I've been working for the company for close to a year, focusing on telling the story of our product through collateral, sales training, and various other content assets.
D: Cloud Cruiser has been in business for almost six years. During this time, we've provided the same kind of product offerings, but have shifted just recently from a platform to an application, focusing on the economics of the cloud: how it's metered and measured enabling customers to make sure they're getting value from their cloud investments. We do this for hybrid, multi-cloud solutions and have an on-premise product offering in the market, which we've delivered from the start. Many of our large, enterprise customers are using the platform (Cloud Cruiser 4), as well as large cloud solutions providers themselves. Among our partners and clients are Cisco, HP, Microsoft, and Accenture. We've worked with them, providing an “engine” to metricate the cloud services being consumed within their organizations. Over the last year, we've moved from a platform to a SaaS application, which is a more frictionless customer experience and one which is more applicable to both mid-market customers, in which less customization is required.
Cloud Cruiser 16™ is our newest SaaS offering. We launched it in late-2015, after a 16-month period of development. It provides an easy way for users to log in and see their consumption reports. We refer to it as the “two minutes to glory" because you can literally get up and running in less than 2 minutes. Our learning from serving the market for almost six years has shown us that organizations want immediate access, full transparency, and the ability to optimize cloud services in order to make sure they're getting value from their growing cloud investments.
What has been the biggest challenge you've witnessed with organizations as they migrate to cloud computing?
D:At a macro level, because of the immediate-access nature of the cloud, clients can select say an infrastructure server, pick the size and other resources through a few clicks; they're immediately up-and-running. That’s the beauty of the cloud. Units of measurement at a low price-point can be quickly accessed by anyone with a credit card and access to a web browser. Because of that, in many large and mid-sized organizations, it's no longer the job of an IT person to handle provisioning these types of services. If someone in a line-of-business needs to develop an app for marketing or another function, they'll have access to a multitude of tech services in the cloud.
Everyone’s happy because it’s creating agility. Now you don’t have to rely on someone in IT who’s too busy or has to get capital to procure servers, like it was in the old days of on premise systems. It’s sort like the Wild West out there today. Amazon invested in this area 10 years ago, and is coming up to 12 billion dollars this year on public cloud services alone.
Typically Cloud Cruiser gets pulled in when a client's bills for cloud services have reached a certain pain point and they need clarification for the specific services they've used. There's no accountability at the business user-level, and there's no visibility for those responsible for business policies and expenditure. When talking about multiple cloud services, the problem becomes more exacerbated.
A: With the rapid democratization of access to IT services that the cloud provides, comes an increase in business agility. On the other hand, this distribution of services makes it very difficult for anyone to have a holistic view of what is happening and to have an opportunity to control efficiency of resource utilization. In the past, centralized IT was a process similar to building railroads: they'd lay down the tracks, give a clear image of how long it would take, how they'd be building it, and how much it would cost. Currently, everyone in line of business functions have airplanes and can fly wherever they want, but they do need air traffic control in order to keep them from crashing into each other. That’s really the job of the IT function today and why they need a Cloud Cruiser to avoid collisions.
Is implementation of cloud technology part of the challenge faced by organizations?
D: In the pre-cloud days, when most businesses had virtualized environments or leveraged a hoster to help with that, it was sufficient to allocate a budget for those operations at the end of the year by looking at historic spending during previous years. IT is notorious for going over-budget, but with the advent of the cloud, the model is pay-as-you-go. The drawback is that there are no processes or systems in place in order to keep track of this model. Because of the pressure for businesses to move in a much more agile fashion, as well as the increased sophistication of security and services, it makes good business sense to take advantage of cloud services, rather than building the infrastructure from scratch.
However, there’s no system, no governance, no policies. IT wants to be collaborative, instead of acting like a police force, but they lack the necessary tools to do a good job of this across the board. It may come as a surprise, but a lot of their tracking is done through spreadsheets.
A: There's a tremendous latency in the industry. People start to look for solutions like ours when they are already desperate because their bills have gone up by a factor of eight or ten X, month over month, without seeing what's really happening. It's difficult to manage something that you can’t see. Ideally, there needs to be an overview of consumption across the organization, as well as the ability to attribute it to particular users. If a resource is not metered, it's not going to be used to its full extent, or it will be used inefficiently.
Are you seeing lower pricing for cloud services, compared to legacy systems?
A: In some cases, costs are lower, in other cases, they are not, depending on the workload to a high extent. Lower cost is the main selling point of cloud computing, as well as its increased agility for scaling resources.
D: Cost depends on the original goal and purpose that a business has for using the cloud, rather than any immediate gratification it would get from the service. The problem is that the biggest users of cloud services are also the ones looking for that instant gratification and don't care about the money part. They have the advantage of fast access, without thinking about governing rules and policies, and how those can affect cost.
Developers are currently reigning supreme as the main users of many cloud services, being largely responsible for Amazon Web Services' 12 billion dollar revenue for this year alone. Developers aren't very interested in money, and often, they are simply in denial or are not being frugal about costs. Cloud services are cheaper if they're used in an optimal fashion. For example, when leaving your house, you turn the lights off. You don’t keep them on constantly. It's not very practical and it would lead to a high utilities bill. Leaving services running all the time and buying too much of them is a bad practice. Generally speaking, developers don't have a financial view of the world and only care about getting the best services. The cloud is much more efficient if it's used as it was intended.
What are some of the factors that companies need to consider when selecting a platform?
A: One of our main advantages as an organization is the ability to look at multiple cloud platforms and make comparisons across them. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses, and pricing is also extremely dynamic. The issue of what could be the best execution venue is a very complicated one. Features are being added all the time and pricing fluctuates. Amazon offers the most features at the moment, but Microsoft is doing some very interesting things in meeting enterprise needs. If we were to make a chart, Amazon would clearly be in the lead, Microsoft Azure would be second and catching up very fast, followed by Google, who is very aggressive, especially in terms of pricing. There are three main public cloud platforms, plus a lot of smaller ones, all available as viable possibilities. In terms of choosing the right one, the nature of a company's workload and what their target is are essential to consider. There are big price variations even within one individual provider.
D: Amazon's been offering cloud services for the longest time, so they've had the lead start. They attacked this market, providing public cloud services regardless of who their clients were. Amazon doesn’t really care whether a company is small, medium, or large; they care about offering a wider range of services. Payment is done exclusively through credit cards. There isn't an option to receive an invoice and pay it later. From a technology standpoint, they're focused on .NET, Docker, Chef, and other developer-centric tools. Microsoft is still picking up the pace in terms of these offerings.
Microsoft is much engrained in the field, having had enterprise customers for years. They also have the added advantage of a well-established sales channel. Their field teams are in contact with large and medium enterprises, but they also have a host of thousands of resellers. Their penetration into the enterprise is much more sophisticated and mature. I think that they need to catch up with the breadth of offerings, but they definitely have the right methods of reaching customers in place. They've also done some interesting things like offering SQL databases, the ability to run on Linux and Office365, along with their other everyday applications. There is a lot of research and development effort done on their part to roll-out new service offerings and they are working very closely with partner ISV’s.
Google, on the other hand, has strong technology at their disposal and they also have deep pockets when it comes to building out their breadth of service offerings, but they don't have the legacy of knowing how to reach enterprises. Their competing point is price. Within the elasticity and dynamics of the market, their claim is to be the low-cost platform. They have a smaller penetration in the market, somewhere between 3-5%.
What are the current drawbacks to utilizing the cloud?
D: We've done a lot of research on many of these topics and have also leveraged industry research. According to a recent study, security is no longer the top concern. One thing to note, is that not all infrastructures (IaaS) are running in the cloud. It can vary, but on average, only around 20-25% of IT assets for say mid-sized businesses are cloud-based. The trend is growing, and it is estimated to reach over 50% within one to two years. Cloud adoption is growing, but many "crown jewels" aren't in the public cloud today. Many companies may use cloud services for developing, testing, and backup and storage, but they're not running their high-value applications in it. Some operations are still maintained on-premise.
The other current concern for organizations is a lack of in-house skillsets in order to quickly move workloads to the cloud. Migrating legacy assets to the cloud becomes more challenging because of this. It requires some heavy lifting, as well as additional services and expertise that the company may not have. Cloud services are dynamically-changing, making it hard to keep up with new additions. This concern is a close follower to the security one, if not even more important.
Another issue which is central to the market is determining whether cloud services will bring value, and how appropriate optimizations can be made. Governance and policy are definitely lacking. Organizations can be hesitant to invest more on expertise and services, which they don't know to be opportunities for saving money.
A: They need to see business value before expanding further. There are a lot of specialized services within the migration assistance field. Cisco recently bought CliQr because of their focus on being able to forklift applications from one place to another. There's a fair amount of under-the-hood work that goes along with this. This is a new market and there's a shortage of native talent within it. One of the interesting things that Microsoft is doing within the enterprise space is to place their public and private stacks within the same skill basis. This eliminates the need to train people for two different specializations. This shows that there is an awareness around this issue and steps are being taken to address it. It’s called Microsoft Azure-stack.
What can you say about the availability and quality of support resources provided by cloud vendors?
D: Amazon Web Services has had a longer presence within this field. Their quality of support is farther along, offering performance management and recommendation tools. One of their tools is called Cloud Watch. It logs the performance of a client's services. Amazon has better auxiliary tools, but they are spread thinly. Amazon cares less about specific segments in the market, choosing to treat each client the same.
I do believe that Microsoft Azure has seen a lot more investment in auxiliary resources. They're implementing an ecosystem of partners that can assist any customer using their platform. This in turn drives more revenue to them.
Regarding support services within the private cloud, we've worked with Cisco and Accenture closely. Rackspace is not a deep partner for us today. They're starting to focus more on providing additional services in conjunction with public cloud vendors. In this regard, they have a much more consultative approach. For example Accenture is leveraging a backbone AWS and Azure platform and adding solutions on top of it, thus building out customized solutions that run on a public cloud foundation. They have a team of seasoned developers helping build private cloud environments. They also run and maintain them. This is a fundamentally different approach, involving holding the client's hand throughout the process. This is ideal for cases in which there is a lack of skillsets. The clients will pay accordingly, but it is what a lot of larger organizations are looking for.
Support services depend largely on who the vendor is and what the client is trying to accomplish, from disaster tolerance backups to running critical applications.
Organizations are figuring out what the best cloud solution is for them, with less emphasis on transparency, visibility, and value. We've seen the tide change within the last six months in regard to the last three items as well. There's no such thing as an unlimited reserve of money.
A: There’s a maturation in the market. Cloud services have transitioned from being a technical issue, to being a business one. As Microsoft says, it’s a model, not a location. From my perspective, the shift to cloud is similar to the shift from the old mainframe days to client-server. It has the additional advantage of making enterprise-level infrastructure available to much smaller organizations. This is a very exciting time.