15 Tips for Software Companies: Understanding Cloud Computing

January 21, 2010 by Brian Wolff


Adam Stone over at Software CEO wrote a very timely article compiling the opinions of several respected industry experts into 15 tips for understanding cloud computing. 
I thought Adam’s article highlighted several ways that BlueLock thinks about the cloud differently (or the same in some instances).  I plan to break the 15 tips down into three blog posts providing my perspective on each point he makes.

Tip #1:  Be Careful how you use the term. 

Adam’s point is that “cloud is not cloud is not cloud” – so it’s best to think about what you need most for your applications and then look for cloud computing service(s) that solve those specific needs.  For example, if you need a better CRM system – you’re probably looking for a SaaS (software as a service) application.  If your developers are spending way too much time writing code for functionality that is not core to your software package – you’re probably looking for a PaaS (platform as a service) – an opportunity to use someone else’s code to extend your core software’s functionality (billing comes to mind).  If your developers or infrastructure team are spending too much time managing failed servers, network or patching OS’, or if they can’t keep up with the growth of your very successful company – you’re probably looking for IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service).

Tip #2:  Make the Trendy Pitch. 

The din of people talking about Cloud Computing is deafening, even Dilbert has gotten into the act.  No doubt, your CEO and CFO have even been thinking about the proposed advantages of cloud computing and how they might help the business.  There are ways for almost every company to leverage cloud computing.  There are most likely servers or processes in your company that could be improved by a provider of SaaS, PaaS or IaaS, so take a look around, find a business need and explore ways that a cloud provider might be able to help cut costs and increase efficiencies – this should make your CEO and CFO happy.

Tip #3: Take One Step at a Time. 

One misconception/mistake that I see over and over again is that companies evaluate sending their most mission critical systems to the cloud first.  You should think about your IT environments and applications plotted on a graph of concentric circles with your most critical environments/applications in the middle.  As the number of users goes down or the criticality of the applications or the amount of attention an application receives from your IT staff goes down, move those applications to the outer circles.  The applications in the outer rings should be the ones that are evaluated for cloud first.  There’s less risk, less integration (maybe) and a higher chance for success with these environments.  We’ve built a very crude tool (that will be refined over time) to help you evaluate your applications and where they fit on the “circle of risk."

Tip #4: Keep Your Eyes Wide Open.

I agree, due diligence on the provider is key.  As the gold rush continues, there are many companies rushing into the space to claim their fortune.  Many will come up with sand and dirt when they realize there’s a huge difference between running a data center and running an entire infrastructure with many, many clients.  In addition to all the points that Adam made about the questions to ask, my experience tells me that time in the market as a cloud provider (not just a co-location provider) is one of the best indicators of stability and staying power.  You’ll want to choose a provider with minimum of three years of success as a cloud hosting provider.  It was around the 2-year mark when we really started to hit our stride around managing the scale of our cloud environment, stabilized implementation and refined the management of our capital effectively, proving we could run a profitable business in the cloud.

Tip #5:  Make sure to get live support.

We’re a live support kind of company – because it’s relationships with our clients that matter, however, I would take a slightly different angle on this.  This is where I’m back to the criticality of the environments/applications.  If you’ve chosen a system that is less critical to the business, it might be perfectly acceptable to use chat, email or other means to get support from your cloud vendor.  Of course, they have to be responsive, that goes without saying.  But if you’ve chosen wisely, you may not need to talk to someone in order to get your problem resolved.  One caveat of course is that if you’re going to run mission critical applications in the cloud – then live support is a must.

So that’s the first five points around understanding cloud computing – stay tuned for the next five.  If you’re interested in learning more about how we do things at BlueLock  – send us a note here.

Coming in future posts:

Tip #6:  To avoid vendor lock-in, stick to open standards
Tip #7:  Location, location, location
Tip #8:  Consider using a middleman
Tip #9:  Monitoring uptime isn’t enough, you need an action plan
Tip #10:  A clause may look good in the contract, but be useless in the real world
Tip #11:  Set financial penalties for downtime
Tip #12:  It takes time to see ROI on SaaS development
Tip #13:  Savings are not in the cloud, but in headcount
Tip #14:  Follow the cloud into new markets
Tip #15:  Let the cloud lead you to new innovations

*If you’d like to read the original post by Adam Stone go here.