I’ve been inundated with inquiries about cloud computing, from vendors and users. A lot of the discussion on cloud computing is about technologies in the cloud, maturity of cloud services, which workloads/services could be sourced in the cloud. I think there is a major challenge that isn’t discussed enough – how are we going to manage cloudsourcing?
If this was a “simple” outsourcing contract, it’s straightforward: we create a contract, with service level agreements, price, etc., etc. But unlike traditional outsourcing, cloudsourcing will be extremely dynamic, and extremely granular (unless you believe that everything will filter through a handful of megaproviders, which I don’t). Sourcing choices won’t be made once every few years, they could be made daily. Even worse, cloudsourcing will not just require finding a service in the cloud that meets business needs for a particular situation, it will likely be about logically doing systems integration – services integration – between many potential cloud service providers.
And the dynamic nature of cloudsourcing won’t only be reflected in internal decisions to use the cloud – the cloud itself will be dynamically changing. Today, one provider might have the best price, the appropriate quality of service. Tomorrow, their costs might rise, they might incur an outage, they might go out of business. Somehow we need to manage these dynamic decisions and the dynamic turmoil in the cloud to our best advantage.
Another issue is that business customers will be confronted with the same kind of opportunity they faced in the early days of client/server – IT says “no”, so the business customers went out and bought their own servers and packaged software. If business customers start making these decisions in the cloud, since they often don’t understand their service level requirements to the level of detail needed to cloudsource, the failures will be rampant.
I believe there are two entities that will be created to respond to this: in large enterprises, they will create a dynamic sourcing team that makes day-to-day decisions about sourcing. They orchestrate the services in the cloud to meet business needs. This team needs to be business- and technology-savvy – a rare mix of skills that we need to generate to cloudsource effectively.
Smaller businesses are even more likely to rely on cloudsourcing, but they will not have the skills needed to orchestrate cloud services efficiently. For them, a breed of service brokers will emerge. These service brokers will be an evolution of today’s VARs/resellers/systems integrators. They will take responsibility for the overall service level requirements in the business. They will likely be skilled in specific industries (and perhaps their unique regulatory requirements, etc.). They will be able to monetize their value by having deeper skill in the cloud market than small businesses can muster, and by leveraging a rapidly changing market to continue to find the best deals to keep costs as low as possible (and still meet service level requirements).
On the opposite side of the equation are businesses who are thriving in the cloud and the connections enabled by the cloud. For them, being “discovered”, finding a market need (even temporary) and filling it – this is how they succeed. It will be the challenge of dynamic sourcing teams and service brokers to sift through the noise and find the best providers – and orchestrate their services.