Nov. 16, 2012 03:35 AM
Our discussion kicks off a three-part series on how Thomas Duryea (TD) designed, built, and commercialized a vast cloud infrastructure to provide services to their clients. The first part of our series here addresses the rationale and business opportunity for TD to create their cloud-services portfolio built on VMware.
To learn more about implementing the best cloud technology to deliver and commercialize an adaptive and reliable cloud services ecosystem, please join Adam Beavis, General Manager of Cloud Services at Thomas Duryea in Melbourne, Australia. The interview is conducted by Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: VMware is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]
Gardner: Why cloud services for your consulting and business customers now? Have they been asking for it
Beavis: Certainly, the customers are the big driver while we are moving into cloud services. Being a traditional IT integrator, we've been very successful showing a lot of data-center solutions to our customers, but more and more we're seeing customers finding it harder to get CAPEX and new projects and they are really starting to look at the cloud alternative.
Gardner: Why then have you looked at moving toward cloud services as a commercial offering, rather than going yourself to a public cloud and then availing yourself of their services? Why build it yourself?
Beavis: We reviewed all the possibilities and looked at moving to some of the larger cloud providers, but we've got a strong skill set, a strong heritage, and good relationships with our customers, and they forced our hand in many ways to move down that path.
They were concerned about telcos looking after some of their cloud services. They really wanted to maintain the relationship that they had with us. So we reviewed it and understood that, because of the skill sets we have and the experience in this area, it would work both commercially and then relationship-wise. The best move for us was to leverage the existing relationships we have with the vendors and build out our own cloud.
Gardner: So who are these eager customers? Could you describe them? Do they fall into a particular category, like a small to medium-size business (SMB) type of clientele? Is it a vertical industry? Where is the sweet spot in the market?
No sweet spot
Beavis: That’s probably the one thing that surprised me the most. As we've been out talking to customers and selling the cloud, there really is no sweet spot. Organizations that you talk to will be doing it for different reasons. Some of them might be doing it for environmental insurance reasons, because having their data center in their building is costing them money, and there are now viable opportunity to move it out.
But if I were to identify one or two, the first one would be independent software vendors (ISVs). Cloud solutions are bringing to ISVs something they've looked for for a long time, and that’s the ability to run test and development environments. Once they've done that, they can host their applications out of a service provider and not have to worry about the underlying infrastructure, which is something, as a application developer, they're not interested in.
So we're seeing them, and we're working with quite a few. One, an Oracle partner, will actually run their tests in their environments in a cloud, and then be able to deliver those services back to some of their customers. In other cases they'll run up the development in their cloud and then import that to an on-premise cloud afterward.
The other area is with SMBs. We're certainly seeing them, for a financial reasons, want to shift to cloud. It's the same old story of OPEX versus CAPEX, reduced budgets, and trying to do more with less.
The cloud is now in a position where it can offer that to SMB customers. So we're seeing great opportunities appear, where not only are we taking their infrastructure into the cloud, but also adding on top of that managed-service capability, where we will be managing all the way up to the application.
We see us being able to provide it to anyone, from a small reseller to an ISV, someone who develops their own applications.
Gardner: Based on this mixture of different types of uses, it sounds like you're going to be able to grow your offerings right along with what this market demands. Perhaps some of those ISVs might be looking for a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) direction, others more of a managed services, just for specific applications. Was that important for you to have that sort of Swiss Army knife for cloud advancement?
Beavis: Exactly right, Dana. Each one is addressing a different pain point. For example, some of them are coming to us for disaster recovery (DR) as a service, because the cost of renewing their DR site or managing or putting that second site out is too expensive. Others, as you said, are just looking for a platform to develop applications on. So the whole PaaS concept is something near and dear to us on our roadmap.
Each one continues to evolve, and it's usually the customers that start to drive you as a cloud provider to look at your own service catalog. That’s probably something that’s quite exciting -- how quickly you need to evolve as a service provider. Because it's still quite a new area for a lot of people, and customers do ask for varying things that they expect the cloud to be or what a cloud is. We're constantly evolving and looking at new offerings to add into our service catalog.
We see it being more than just one offering in our eyes. We see us being able to provide it to anyone, from a small reseller to an ISV, someone who develops their own applications. Or, it's someone who works specifically with applications and they're not just interested anymore in running their own infrastructure on their site or caring for it. They just want to provide that platform for their developers to be able to work hassle-free.
Gardner: So this means that you've got to come up with an infrastructure that can support many different type of uses, grow, scale, and increase adaptability to the market. What were some of the requirements, when you started looking at the vendors that you were going to partner with to create this cloud offering?
Understanding customer needs
Beavis: The first thing that was important for us was, as you said, understanding our customers’ needs initially and then matching that to what they required. Once we had that, those words you mentioned, scale and everything, had to come into play. Also the cost to build these things certainly doesn’t come cheap. So we had to make sure we could use the existing resources we had.
We really went in the end with the VMware product, because we have existing skill sets in that area. We knew we would have a lot of support, with their being a tier-1 vendor and us being a tier-1 partner for them. We needed someone that could provide us with that support from both a services perspective, sales, marketing, and really come on the journey with us to build that cloud.
And then obviously our other vendors underneath, like EMC, who are also incredibly supportive of us, integrate very well with those products, and Cisco as well.
It had to be something that we could rapidly build, I won't say out of the box, because it’s a lot that goes around building a cloud, but something that we knew had a strong roadmap and was familiar to all our customers as well.
The move to cloud is something that is new to them, it's stressful, and they're wondering how to do it. In Australia, 99 percent of customers have some sort of VMware in their data center. To be able to move to a platform that they were familiar with and had used in the past makes a big difference, rather than saying, "You're moving to cloud, and here is a whole new platform, interface, and something that you've never seen before."
Needless to say, we're very good partners with some of the other providers as well. We did review them all, but it was a maturity thing and also a vision thing.
The story of the hybrid cloud was something we sat down and saw had a lot of legs: The opportunity for people to stick their toe in the water and get used to being in the cloud environment. And VMware’s hybrid cloud model, connecting your on-premise into the public cloud, was also a big win for us. That’s really a very strong go-to-market for us.
Gardner: As a systems integrator for some time, you're very familiar with the other virtualization offerings in the market. Was there anything in particular that led you away from them and more toward VMware?
Beavis: It was definitely a maturity thing. We remember when Paul Maritz got on stage four years ago and defined the cloud operating system. The whole industry followed after that. VMware led in this path. So being a market leader certainly helped.
Needless to say, we're very good partners with some of the other providers as well. We did review them all, but it was a maturity thing and also a vision thing. The vision of a software-defined datacenter really came into play as we were building Cloud 2.0 and that was a big winner for us. That vision that they have now around that is certainly something that we believe in as well.
Gardner: Of course, they've announced new and important additions to their vCloud Suite, and a lot of that seems to focus on folks like yourself who need to create clouds as a business to be able to measure, meter, build, manage access, privacy, and security issues. Was there anything about the vCloud Suite that attractive you in terms of being able to run the cloud as a business itself?
Beavis: The fact it was packing stuff as a suite was a big one for us. The integration of the products now is something that’s happening a lot more rapidly, and as a provider, that’s what we like to see. The concept of needing different modules for billings, operations, even going back 12 months ago, made it quite difficult.
In the last 12 months with the Suite, it has come a long way. We've used the component around Chargeback, vCenter Operations Management, and Capacity Management. The concept now of software-defined security, firewalls, and networking, has become very, very exciting for us, to be able to all of a sudden manage that through a single console, rather than having many different point solutions doing different things. As a service provider that’s committed to that VMware product, we find it very, very important.
Gardner: Margins can be a little tricky with this business. As you say, you had a lot of investment in this. How do you know when you are succeeding? Is there a benchmark that you set for yourself that would say, "We know we're doing this well when "blank?" Or is this a bit more of a crawl, walk, run approach to this overall cloud business?
Beavis: Obviously that comes with a lot of the back-end work we're doing. We take a lot of time. It’s probably the most important part. Before we even go and build the cloud, it’s getting all that right. You know your direction. You know what your forecast needs to be. You know what numbers you need to hit. We certainly have numbers and targets in mind.
That’s from a financial perspective, but also customers are coming into the cloud, because just like physical to virtual, people will come, initially, just with small environment and then they'll continue to grow.
If you provide good service within your cloud, and they see that risk reduced, cost reduced, and it’s more comfortable, they will continue to move workloads into your cloud
If you provide good service within your cloud, and they see that risk reduced, cost reduced, and it’s more comfortable, they will continue to move workloads into your cloud, which obviously increases your bottom line.
Initially it’s not just, "Let’s go out and sell as much as we can to one or two customers, whatever it might be." It’s really getting as many logos into the cloud as we can, and then really work on those relationships, building up that trust, and then over time start to migrate more and more workloads into the cloud.
Gardner: Adam, help us understand for those listening who might want to start exploring your services, when do these become available? When are you announcing them, and is there any roadmap that you might be able to tease us with a little bit about what might be coming in the future?
Beavis: We've got Cloud 1.0 running at the moment, which is a cloud where we provide cloud services to customers. We have the automation level that we are putting in Cloud 2.0. Our backup services, where people no longer have to worry about tapes and things on site, backup as a service where they can just point to our data center and backup files, is available now.
Also DR as a service is probably our biggest number one seller cloud service at the moment, where people who don’t want to run those second sites, can just deploy or move those workloads over into our data center, and we can manage their DR for them.
New cloud suite
But there's a big one we're talking about. We're on stage at vForum on Wednesday, Nov. 14, here in Australia, launching our new cloud suite built on VMware vCloud Director 5.1.
Then on the roadmap, the areas that are starting to pop up now are things like desktop as a service. We're exploring quite heavily with big data on the table, business intelligence as a service, and the ability for us to do something with all that data that we're collecting from our customers. When we talk about IT as a service, that's lifting us up to that next level again.
As I said earlier, it's continuously changing and new ideas evolve, and that’s the great thing working with an innovative company. There are always plenty of people around driving new concepts and new ideas into the cloud business.
Gardner: This discussion kicks off a three-part series on how TD designed, built and commercialized an adaptive and reliable cloud services ecosystem. Look for the next installment in our sponsored series when we delve more deeply into the how and what behind Thomas Duryea Consulting's cloud infrastructure journey.