Off-The-Rack Vs. Bespoke

By David M. Smith, Valentin T. Sribar  |  Posted 07-20-2010

Cloud Engineering: The CIO's Dilemma

Cloud services typically deliver commodity-like capabilities, often with consumer-grade service-level agreements (SLAs), and organizations increasingly will be dealing with the inherent challenges in this business model. This will create the need for "cloud engineering." Gartner defines cloud engineering as the process of designing the systems necessary to leverage the power and economics of cloud resources to solve business problems.

As cloud services are adopted, the ability to govern their use, performance and delivery will be too complex and untrustworthy for organizations to handle their integration and consumption with only internal resources. Hence, cloud service brokerages will emerge. Gartner describes cloud service brokerages as models (including a set of activities) for conducting cloud service governance (CSG) and integration-as-a-service. These service brokers will be an evolution of today's value-added resellers (VARs), resellers, and system integrators (SIs). They will take responsibility for the overall SLA requirements of the business. They are likely to be skilled in specific industries. Particularly for small businesses, these brokerages will have deeper skills in the cloud market than your company can effectively muster/ In addition, these providers will capitalize on this rapidly developing market to get the best deal for the services they resell or integrate.

Off-The-Rack Vs. Bespoke

Cloud engineering will be one of the primary activities of cloud service brokerages. The bottom line is that service providers deliver off-the-shelf services, but they often do not take into account the specific needs of your business. Nor do they recognize that their services might need to be in a composed solution with other services you are using. To do cloudsourcing properly, someone must enhance, integrate or tailor these services to specific business needs. In most cases, this does not mean changing what the service does. Rather, it means enhancing or aggregating services, as well as providing meaningful SLAs.

The basic idea of cloud computing is for companies to source services from other providers. If you have to create a completely new technology base and skill set to integrate or enhance those services (or engineer them), then your organization will spend more money than ever. Nonetheless, some enterprises will do their own cloud engineering. This likely will be more the exception than the rule. If your company chooses this route, you must take care to ensure that you are solving your business challenges, not compounding these. You also need to ensure that there is a compelling business reason to bring cloud engineering functionality in-house. The potential benefit should outweigh your costs and risks.

Beware of Lock In

Cloud brokerages, rather than internally sourced cloud engineering, can be the answer to this problem for most companies. As demand for such services grows, so will the associated cost and effort. This can eventually lead to lock-in, because once your organization has expended significant effort to either "enhance" services or to "integrate" them, you will be less likely to throw that investment away and move to a different service or provider.

A good solution is to work with cloud brokerages that can supply intermediation or aggregation of services to provide for the needs of your company. With the necessary qualifications, these brokerages are analogous to SIs in that they will provide cloud engineering on behalf of many customers. Their business depends on implementing and maintaining the cloud engineering on behalf of customers. These SIs then become VARs for the cloud services that they enhance. At this point, your company will not be so locked in, because you will be paying the brokerage for service, not the original provider. Should your company want to switch, you have the options to switch brokerages (theoretically), go to the originating provider, or ask the broker to provide different enhancements.

The future will not fit neatly into "public" and "private" clouds, but will be on a continuum that will include hybrid modes, virtual private modes and many combinations. As more cloud services become mainstream, we expect to see an increase in the ability to customize those that do become popular.

About The Authors

David Mitchell Smith is VP/Gartner Fellow and Valentin T. Sribar is Group VP at Gartner.