I’ve turned one of my earlier blog entries, Smoke-and-mirrors and cloud software into a full-blown research note: “Software on Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud: How to Tell Hype From Reality” (clients only). It’s a Q&A for your software vendor, if they suggest that you deploy their solution on EC2, or if you want to do so and you’re wondering what vendor support you’ll get if you do so. The information is specific to Amazon (since most client inquiries of this type involve Amazon), but somewhat applicable to other cloud compute service providers, too.
More broadly, I’ve noticed an increasing tendency on the part of cloud compute vendors to over-promise. It’s not credible, and it leaves prospective customers scratching their heads and feeling like someone has tried to pull a fast one on them. Worse still, it could leave more gullible businesses going into implementations that ultimately fail. This is exactly what drives the Trough of Disillusionment of the hype cycle and hampers productive mainstream adoption.
Customers: When you have doubts about a cloud vendor’s breezy claims that sure, it will all work out, ask them to propose a specific solution. If you’re wondering how they’ll handle X, Y, or Z, ask them and don’t be satisfied with assurances that you (or they) will figure it out.
Vendors: I believe that if you can’t give the customer the right solution, you’re better off letting him go do the right thing with someone else. Stretching your capabilities can be positive for both you and your customer, but if your solution isn’t the right path, or it is a significantly more difficult path than an alternative solution, both of you are likely to be happier if that customer doesn’t buy from you right now, at least not in that particular context. Better to come back to this customer eventually when your technology is mature enough to meet his needs, or look for the customer’s needs that do suit what you can offer right now. If you screw up a premature implementation, chances are that you won’t get the chance to grow this business the way that you hoped. There are enough early adopters with needs that you can meet, that you should be going after them. There’s nothing wrong with serving start-ups and getting “foothold” implementations in enterprises; don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Almost a decade of analyst experience has shown me that it’s hard for a vendor to get a second chance with a customer if they screwed up the first encounter. Even if, many many years later, the vendor has a vastly augmented set of capabilities and is managed entirely differently, a burned customer still tends to look at them through the lens of that initial experience, and often take that attitude to the various companies they move to. My observation is that in IT outsourcing, customers certainly hold vendor “grudges” for more than five years, and may do so for more than a decade. This is hugely important in emerging markets, as it can dilute early-mover advantages as time progresses.