By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini
SM: Let me switch over to the last topic that I want to cover with you. My blog is read by entrepreneurs, and one of the things we are doing is a program called 1M/1M – One Million by One Million. The program’s mission is to help a million entrepreneurs reach a million dollars in annual revenues. So, we have a very strong focus on entrepreneurship and entrepreneurs in general. One of the reasons I am doing this series Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing, bringing people like you for an in-depth conversation about cloud computing and discussing what you are doing with your IT strategies is to give entrepreneurs visibility into what you see, what you think, and what are some of the blue-sky areas on your radar screen that would be interesting opportunities for entrepreneurs to look into. My next question to you is, What do you see on your radar as blue-sky areas for entrepreneurs in cloud computing?
MS: When you say blue sky, do you mean where entrepreneurs should be looking in terms of thinking ahead to get people like me to buy?
SM: Yes. What problems would like to see solved?
MS: I would tell you that the biggest hurdle that we see in this area is people being inflexible in terms of service offerings. What they typically do is look at the marketplace and decide on their service offering, then they come up with a service offering that hits most of their customers. What they are not doing is breaking down the service offering into building blocks and saying, ‘Ok, these are the pieces that are most likely in demand for a particular package, but we can custom make the package based upon what you really need.’ Everybody talks a good game about it, but when you ask them specifics, all of a sudden you get blank stares. The example I gave you earlier about our requirement of ‘Can we jump on a restore of data that was deleted from the database a week ago and maybe is no longer residing the data base at all, even in some sort of a scrub fashion?’ or ‘Can we have a way to be able to restore it to in a timely fashion, maybe within an hour?’ or ‘Can we get somebody who will jump on that?’ Well, no. What we hear from vendors is that their response time to such a customer requirement is 4 hours! Alright, but what if we are willing to pay extra? If we ask a vendor, ‘Can you do that within an hour if we pay extra?’ The answer is – ‘Well, we really don’t have that in place; we really don’t know how we will do that!’ To put things in perspective, compare this with a similar use case from years and years ago. Back then, people would not print your own flyers. You would not print your own information on your laser printer, but you would send it out camera-ready to a printer. The printer would have a typical 36- to 48-hour turnaround time, but if you went to that printer and asked that if you needed an urgent flyer in an hour, what was the cost of doing in that work? The printer may come back to you and say there is a 300% increase in price, but at least he gave you an opportunity to do it in an hour. The idea was that he was an entrepreneur, and he said, Well it is going to be really hard to do and I have to push other jobs off. But if the guys want to pay 300%, I will do it!
What we find with these cloud-based offerings today is that they don’t do it! It doesn’t matter what you are willing to pay, it is not there.
The other thing that I would like to bring up in case of cloud services is that there is a disconnect in terms of accounting. There is a disconnect in terms of the set of people who will set you up and get you initiated as a customer and the other set of people who you work with when you are a customer. In a small entrepreneurial environment, that doesn’t happen because you are covered in as a customer. But cloud-based solution providers can’t really operate in a small environment; they are doing this on a grand scale that is when it becomes profitable for them. So the other things I would like to see is, if I had my druthers, that better handholding that can [take] effect with a single phone call, I have that one throat to choke, and know that it will be taken care off.
SM: It sounds like the areas that you are frustrated with and seeing problems in are related to service levels and the promptness of receiving that service. Is that an accurate observation with respect to cloud vendors?
MS: Yes, excellent observation. With all these providers, when things are going, when things are as expected then things work. But when things need to be nimble and we need to make changes on the fly, then it becomes very difficult to do that.