Editor's note: As competition in Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) intensifies and more players enter the market, customers won't think twice about abandoning their current cloud provider if it disappoints them. Now more than ever, providers need to not only understand what enterprises are looking for in an IaaS provider, but they also need to know which benefits of IaaS resonate the most with customers.
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Indianapolis-based cloud service provider Bluelock recently surveyed more than 325 IT and business professionals to uncover what IaaS customers care about, their plans for future IaaS use, and what they expect from a cloud service provider.
In the first segment of this two-part Q&A, Bluelock's Chief Technology Officer Pat O'Day discussed with SearchCloudProvider how public cloud customers view IaaS and what customers seek from IaaS providers.
The survey concluded that customers believe reliability and performance are the most important benefits of IaaS. Why is that?
Pat O'Day: I think probably because it's table stakes for IT infrastructure in general. If you look at [what] the majority of people are doing out there today, whether it's Infrastructure as a Service or even Software as a Service, uptime and consistent user experience are really key to adoption. Even though people will talk about cost and scalability and all this other stuff afterwards, if the service isn't available and the experience isn't predictable, then people will pick a different service.
What does Bluelock do to ensure reliability and performance for its customers?
If the service isn't available and the experience isn't predictable, then people will pick a different service.
O'Day: Particularly around uptime, we use every high-availability capability we can think of. We focus a lot more on that than other types of providers do, so we use 2N data centers that are fully redundant to make sure we don't have any power, cooling or physical issues. In the platform itself, we use all the high-availability features from VMware, particularly vMotion and [Distributed Resource Scheduler]. We also have multiple data centers, so customers have the option of running in one or more data centers. The idea being that even if you had a huge amount of uptime and performance in a data center in one city, that city could have a problem due to Mother Nature and the only way to ensure your uptime would be to run in another geographic region. And then we do the same thing with security, because most people see [a possible breach only] as a risk of data compromise, but it's also one of the top sources of outages.
Customers identified the ability to "help change organizational behaviors by aligning consumption with cost" as one of the least important benefits of IaaS. What does that mean, and why did it rank so low?
O'Day: I think it's interesting, because I looked at that and I saw on 'most important' was 'reduce cost, waste and inefficiency,' [and] to me those two things are exactly the same thing -- they're just phrased differently. What I mean by that is you take a user who, if they're given a dropdown box and they can pick a cloud environment that has 2 gigs of RAM or 256 gigs of RAM, and there's no impact on their cost, they will probably err on the side of caution and consume a lot more resources than they actually need because they have no perspective on cost itself. But the minute you put a cost on there and they see they went from $20 a month to $2,000 a month, they're going to change their behavior in terms of how they're consuming the resources. So that reduces cost, waste and inefficiency.
Is that a conversation you have with customers as they're evaluating whether to use Bluelock, or is that something that happens once you've brought them on board?
O'Day: It's definitely a more mature cloud buyer that cares about those things. Initially, it's all about 'making sure I'm only paying for things I'm actually using.' But they assume that they're using things they actually need. If I only have two cars in my garage, I don't want to pay for five cars. But I may realize, as I mature, that one car plus a taxi occasionally is what I need. But it takes me living in the city long enough to realize two cars in Chicago or New York doesn't make sense, but it might have made sense in the [suburbs].
It sounds like there's a learning curve there for new customers.
O'Day: Yeah, absolutely. To me, it's similar to automation in the cloud; people talk a lot about Puppet and Chef and [DevOps] tools like that. [When] you really [appreciate] that you've got 30 or 300 virtual machines or instances running that are all roughly the same, you just have to patch all of them every month and you have to change the security configuration of all of them every month, suddenly automation becomes obvious -- that you should script some of that. But until you actually get to that scale, it's hard to imagine that you'd ever need to program scripts to take care of those problems versus just mouse-clicking through [them] like Minesweeper.
Survey respondents said they want an IaaS provider to have adaptability in its service delivery. What has Bluelock's experience been with that?
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O'Day: We're seeing everything in the entire spectrum [of customer demand]. That [includes] companies [that accept] the service is the service [and] don't call us and ask us to change; every once in a while, we'll ship a new feature, but we're pretty much out of the box -- what you see is what you get. And then you have, on the other extreme, people who say, 'Hey, I'd like to buy some cloud service or some Infrastructure as a Service,' and you [have] this prolonged 'What do you want? What have you got?' conversation, and eventually you end up with a completely customized cloud solution that is tailored to fit [their] needs.
What we're seeing is that most companies want the benefit of a lot of that already being worked out on their behalf because that lowers cost, it creates stability, [and] it creates consistency in the experience of using that service. Yet they're always bringing to the table one or two particular things that are a little different, based on the industry they're in or the region, or maybe even just a company standard they have. So it's more of an 80-20 fit, where 80% of it is a standard offering [and] 20% of it can be adapted based on what you need. And we try to address that with some customization allowed, but also we stratified our delivery offerings, so we have three different tiers of storage, three different tiers of virtual data center, [and] three different tiers of support. Instead of picking from 27 options or complet[ing] your own option from scratch, you can get that adaptability by selecting more from a multiple-choice menu, and that seems to make people pretty happy.
What other advice would you offer service providers looking to get into IaaS?
O'Day: What I tell most of the people I run into that ask that question is you've got to decide really quickly, because that adoption rate is becoming so high, [is] this is a business you really want to be in or do you want to be reselling someone else's service? There are a lot of people that have got what I could call fairly young, almost proof-of-concept clouds that they've stood up for their customers. A lot of colocation companies do that today and it takes an insane level of investment, feature development and really just competitive energy to keep up with the rate that the clouds are developing right now.