Developing Your Cloud Story (The Overview)

In my last post How to Define Your Enterprise Cloud Strategy?, I wrote about the thought process you need to do when starting to think about your cloud strategy. But, how can you make your cloud strategy document engaging and worth remembering? If you have ever attended a presentation skills training, you have learned that stories are much easier to remember than raw facts (I should tell that to my Biology teacher:)). So, let’s try to think of a story that we can tell in our Cloud Strategy document. A story that is familiar to the audience and they can relate.

For our project, I decided to go with the typical “Learn a New Technology” story. Here is how it goes…

Cloud Overview

Start with an overview of the current cloud landscape including deployment and service models, market trends and cloud vendors. The goal of this section is for the reader to learn the basic terminology, get familiar with the cloud computing market and vendors, understand the trends and in general, be able to speak the cloud language that you will use later on in the document.

Things that you may want to cover in this section are:

  • Definition of cloud computing
  • Service models (traditional and emerging)
  • Deployment models
  • Overview of the vendors and the services they offer
  • Market trends

This section should give a good background for the reader to build upon.

Cloud Deep Dive

Now, that you covered the basics, you can jump into a deeper analysis of the cloud technologies. The goal here is to provide the reader with enough information about the technologies for her to be able to make an informed decision about the cloud.

You can pick different pivots here. One I like is using the service models and covering the following topics:

  • History and maturity of each service model (IaaS, PaaS, etc.)
    Where it comes from, how has it evolved, and where is it now? You may even want to use Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for maturity here
  • Advantages and disadvantages of each service model
    Don’t use only the technical answer to this question. Think from other points of view like finance, people or market
  • Applicability of the model
    You don’t need to go into too many details, but you may want to hint into when to use each service morel. The typical answer here is: “Use IaaS for legacy applications and PaaS for new development.” You may want to talk about the gotchas of each service model (portability anyone?)
  • Industry adoption
    In the previous section, you hinted about the trends, but the latest and greatest may not have been adopted widely. In this section, you can provide deeper analysis of the service models adoption
  • Pricing models
    Last but not least describe the pricing details for each service model and do some basic cost analysis between models

With this information, your reader should be able to feel confident in her knowledge about the cloud and prepared to participate in technical discussions (or continue reading your Cloud Strategy Document).

Vendors Overview

No cloud strategy can go without giving a comparison of the leading cloud vendors. Your readers should get a good overview of the main players in the cloud market, understand their market share, strengths and weaknesses and the services they offer.

Pick and choose your vendors here depending on what your enterprise is looking for. You may want to go deep into the top 3 choices and provide thorough analysis, but you should also mention few other for comparison (in meetings, you should always anticipate the question: “What about this vendor? This service of theirs is very good!” from somebody who did some search on Google).

Here are the things you may want to cover:

  • Market share and trend for the last three years and projections for the next 3-5 years
    You need to prove even to yourself that your choice of vendor(s) is on the right track
  • Feature richness
    Do they have everything you need to put your whole application portfolio on their cloud?
  • Maturity
    Are most of their features in beta or are they generally available? Do you feel comfortable using beta features for your production workloads?
  • Regions availability
    Even if you sell only in one country, you may want to have some redundancy. Do they offer datacenters where you are and where your customers are?
  • On-Premise connectivity
    Even startups have their own data centers (sometimes you may call them closets), and you will need to establish secure and very often fast connectivity to your premises.
  • Legacy migration support
    Traditional enterprises need to migrate a lot of legacy applications. You will certainly need vendor support when it comes to migration. The more tools they offer, the easier for you will be to get on their cloud
  • Cost comparison
    The price wars are still going on (as of the time of this publishing), but you should have a good sense of the way vendors charge for their services – believe me they differ
  • Compliance
    It is hard to believe that there is an industry right now that doesn’t have to comply with any regulations. With this in mind, give an overview of the cloud vendors’ compliance certifications
  • Operational capabilities
    Having the capability to automate workloads is a very small part of the operational capabilities one vendor should enable. Monitoring, alerting, reporting, and support are an essential part of the operational capabilities for the cloud
  • Innovation trends for each vendor
    You can go wild here. Starting with their R&D budget to counting the number of new services (or even features) they release quarterly can give you a hint of how good are they in innovation. (Be careful with counting services and features though – sometimes vendors bundle few existing services under a new marketing name :))
  • Weak areas
    Despite their maturity, each cloud vendor will have some weak areas your audience should be made aware of. Whether it is the newcomer or the incumbent in the market, knowing their weaknesses will help you identify the risks in your strategy
  • Unique services
    Each vendor will have services that they excel in. Sooner or later you will need to think about multi-cloud solutions, and this will help you to better position your strategy

A comprehensive overview of the cloud vendors you choose will help your audience make better choices for their workloads and will support your further development of the strategy. If you are looking for an easy way to compare the services between different cloud vendors, I’ve started a Top 5 Cloud Vendors Service Comparison Page on GitHub that I plan to populate soon and keep up to date (feedback and contributions are welcome :))

Starting with the basics is always the first step everybody takes when learning. Giving an overview of the cloud terminology, market and players will help your audience easily understand and get onboard with the rest of your cloud strategy. In the next post, I will go over the next logical step in the learning process – what application patterns to use for developing your cloud application.