Cloud builders: Six challenges when surfing the cloud tsunami

wave crashingIn this second *Surfing the cloud tsunami post, I look at six challenges for infrastructure integrators and Consultants & Systems Integrators (CSIs) who embrace a cloud builder business model.

Cloud builders design, build and implement private clouds. They often complement their services by providing hosting and managed services for those private clouds. Their customers are companies with a need for private clouds, but also cloud providers who want to deliver cloud services to their own communities, stakeholders or customers (thus turning their private cloud into a community or public cloud).

Cloud builders are typically found among traditional infrastructure integrators and hardware resellers like APX, D.FI, Overlap, SCC and so forth, but also inside CSIs like Sogeti, Capgemini and IBM Global Technology Services (GTS). To implement private clouds, they leverage hardware and software technologies from vendors like IBM (PureSystems, Tivoli) and often adhere to cloud certification programs like the IBM cloud computing specialty.

Cloud builders develop skills and services in areas like:

  • Cloud consulting: implement a cloud roadmap, define target cloud architecture, build services catalogs, design DevOps processes, transform to cloud
  • Cloud architectures: leverage reference architectures (for example, the IBM CCRA) to build target cloud infrastructure and services
  • Cloud technologies: choose the right hardware and software technologies and components for each workload, use or project
  • Cloud services management: standardize, automate, industrialize cloud services delivery
  • Hybrid cloud: leverage public cloud services where useful
  • Cloud financing: provide capital expenditure (CAPEX), but also operational expenditure (OPEX) or pay-as-you-go solutions
  • Cloud services providing: host and run customer’s cloud once built; provide shared, mutually managed services

Cloud builders go from cloud washing to cloud surfing

I regularly meet with IBM business partners of the cloud builder breed. Some still practice “cloud washing” by rebranding their traditional infrastructure virtualization offerings and managed services with some cloud lingo, without actually embracing cloud.

Those who have decided to really surf the cloud tsunami meet challenges that also turn out to be opportunities.

Six challenges for cloud builders

  1. Dealing with a talent shortage: Tensions rise on the cloud skills front. Cloud builders struggle to attract and to retain the cloud talents they need to stand out and be positioned as experts.
  2. Offering OPEX solutions: CAPEX is still favored by some categories of customers, but many want now-private cloud infrastructures to be delivered as OPEX, on a pay-as-you-grow (or shrink) basis. The pressure of public cloud pushes cloud builders and their technology providers to find innovative ways to provide private cloud solutions “as a service” too.
  3. Becoming (or not!) a cloud provider: Many cloud builders have become managed service providers (MSPs) but lack the breadth and depth of specialized cloud infrastructure providers. They typically offer infrastructure or application hosting wrapped in virtualization and managed by their staff, with low levels of standardization, automation, industrialization, self-service and elasticity. Will they succeed in a commoditizing infrastructure as a service (IaaS) market? Should they instead try to become cloud brokers and leverage other vendors’ cloud services?
  4. Resisting vendors: A majority of cloud builders are infrastructure integrators or hardware/infrastructure software resellers. The vendors they deal with either push them to continue to stay focused on traditional reselling business (they struggle with cloud too!) or push them to “move up the stack” and resell or integrate their new business applications. Thus, cloud builders have a hard time resisting both traditional reselling business and counter-nature diversification.
  5. Changing the culture: Integrators’ sales managers and sales reps are not yet fully comfortable with cloud. So they resist it and find every bad reason to not sell it. Building a cloud culture in an existing reseller or integrator is indeed a challenging task.
  6. Focusing and partnering: Most cloud builders want both to build and operate clouds by themselves. Some diversify their cloud portfolio but want to deliver the related products and services themselves. They send a bad signal to potential complementary partners who could be otherwise leveraged. It is difficult to move from “we do it all by ourselves” to “we focus here and partner for the rest.”

customer cloud needsPlease stay tuned for the second part of this post, in which I’ll discuss how cloud builders can turn these challenges into opportunities. 

*Surfing the cloud tsunami
In the “Surfing the cloud tsunami” series, I look at the IT ecosystem’s migration to the cloud, with a focus on:

  1. going beyond virtualization to cloudIndependent software vendors (ISVs) reinventing their business beyond SaaS
  2. Integrators and CSIs moving to cloud builders
  3. MSPs migrating to industrialized cloud delivery
  4. Value-added resellers and distributors becoming cloud resellers, cloud brokers, cloud aggregators
  5. Providers of business services leveraging the cloud to disrupt the IT market
Comments: 12
Loic Simon

About Loic Simon

Loic helps IBM business partners reinvent their business and develop partnerships in the Cloud. He leads "Club Alliances" and "Club Cloud des Partenaires" where ISVs, integrators, MSPs, consultants and other cloud providers share experience and expertise, engage complementary partners and accelerate their cloud business with IBM. Loic blogs and shares on Cloud, with a focus on the evolving Cloud Ecosystem.
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12 Responses to Cloud builders: Six challenges when surfing the cloud tsunami

  1. Oscar Thompson says:

    Thanks for that. Immensely useful.

  2. James says:

    Some great tips here. I would also add that cloud security is a challenge every builder needs to think more about. As the demand for cloud services increase, security issues are also climbing and cloud builders need to put more thought into solutions for this. Just my two cents… Some good discussion on this topic here:….


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