Note: It’s been a while since I blogged actively, and I’m attempting to return to writing short-form posts on a regular basis.
In my current role within Gartner for Technical Professionals, I talk to a lot of cloud architects, engineers, and other technical individual contributors who are concerned that seeking outside assistance for cloud implementations will lead to long-term outsourcing, lack of self-sufficiency, lack of internal cloud skills, and loss of control. (The CIOs I talk to may have similar concerns, although typically more related to CIO-level concerns about outsourcing.)
Those concerns are real, but getting expert outside assistance — from a cloud managed service provider (MSP), consultancy / professional services provider / systems integrator, or even an individual contractor — doesn’t have to mean a sliding down a slippery slope into cloud helplessness.
Things I’ve learned over the past 5+ years of client conversations:
- Use of expert external assistance accelerates and improves cloud adoption. Organizations can strongly benefit from expert assistance. Such assistance reduces implementation times, raises implementation quality, lowers implementation costs as well as long-term total cost of ownership, and provides a better foundation for the organization to enhance its cloud usage in the future.
- Low-quality external assistance can have a devastating impact on cloud outcomes. Choosing the wrong vendor can be highly damaging, resulting in wasted resources, and failure to achieve either the expected business or technical outcomes.
- There must be a skills transition plan in place. Unless the organization expects to outsource cloud operations or application development over the long term, the MSP or consultancy must be contractually obligated to transfer knowledge and skills to the organization’s internal employees. This transfer must occur gradually, over a multi-month or even multi-year period. It is insufficient to do a “handoff” at the end of the contract. The organization needs to shift into a new mode of working as well as gain cloud competence, and this is best done collaboratively, with the external experts handing over responsibilities on a gradual basis.
- The organization needs to retain responsibility for cloud strategy and governance. It is dangerous for organizations to hand over strategic planning to an external vendor, as it is unlikely that plans produced by an external party will be optimally aligned to the organization’s business needs. For similar reasons, the organization also needs to retain responsibility for governance, including the creation of policy. An external party may be able to provide useful advice and implementation assistance, but should not be allowed to make strategy or policy decisions
You can cut years off your migration efforts, and significantly accelerate getting your foundations laid (building a Cloud Center of Excellence, etc.) by getting the right entity to do at least some of it with you, rather than doing all of it for you.
Back in January, I announced the creation of a new Gartner Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Infrastructure Managed Service Providers. This MQ will evaluate MSPs that deliver managed services on top of Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform.
We are currently putting together a contact list of providers to survey. We expect to begin this process in late July. We encourage MSPs who are interested in participation to add their names to the contact list.
MSPs should fill out THIS FORM.
At the beginning of February, as part of a little bit of organizational deck-chair shuffling here at Gartner, some analysts were transferred to teams that better reflect their current research focus. I am one of those people; I’ve been transferred from our Technology and Service Provider (T&SP) division to our IT Leaders division’s Infrastructure Strategies team, reflecting the fact that I’ve mostly been serving the IT Leaders constituency for several years now.
My planned research agenda for 2016 remains the same, and I’ll continue to work with the exact same people and clients, but I now have a new team manager (Rakesh Kumar — and hopefully a better alignment between the things that I’m actually doing and the way Gartner sets goals and incentives for analysts.
I will continue to write research for both our end-user (IT Leaders) clients, as well as for our T&SP (Business Leaders) clients. Vendor clients should note that my transfer does not change access privileges to my documents targeted at vendors, or inquiry access. You will still need to hold a Business Leaders seat to read T&SP content that I author, or to ask inquiry questions related to that content.
My research agenda for 2016 centers on five major themes:
- The managed and professional services ecosystem for cloud providers
- Large-scale migration to the cloud
- Excellence in governance
- The convergence of IaaS and PaaS
- The adoption of containers
I’ll talk briefly about my interests in each of these spaces.
Managed and professional services
The MSP ecosystem, especially around AWS and Azure, is a vital part of driving successful cloud adoption, especially with late-majority adopters. This is my primary research focus this year, as I build out both research for end-users (IT Leaders clients) as well as service providers and technology vendors. This is largely a run-up to a new Magic Quadrant slated for Q4 2016 publication.
Large-scale migration to the cloud
Customers have begun migrate existing workloads to cloud IaaS at scale (i.e., migrating entire data centers or substantial portions of their existing infrastructure estate). This is no longer just early pioneers, but mainstream, non-tech-centric companies, often in the mid-market, usually with the assistance of third parties. These customers typically articulate needs that have been more commonly associated with outsourcing in the past — cost-optimization, better management of infrastructure and apps, staff reduction, keeping pace with technology evolution, and the like.
This is my next greatest priority in terms of writing this year. I’m building research aimed at clients who are evaluating migrations, as well as those who are in the process of migrating. I’m also writing research that is aimed at the vendor/provider side, since this new wave of customers has different requirements, necessitating both a different go-to-market approach as well as different sets of priorities in service features.
Excellence in governance
As organizations grow their use of the cloud, the need for governance is vital. Governance is not control, per se, and IT organizations need assistance in understanding the emerging best practices around governance. The vendor ecosystem also needs to build appropriate products and services that help IT organizations implement good cloud governance — which differs in some vital ways from traditional models of IT governance.
The convergence of IaaS and PaaS
As the IaaS and PaaS markets move ever closer together, customers need guidance as to how to best adopt integrated offerings. Moreover, this has implications for providers on both sides of the spectrum (and their ecosystems), as well as vendors who sell technology to build private clouds.
Last year, I spent just about as much time talking to clients about containers as I did about cloud IaaS — that’s how much of a hot topic it was. This year, as container coverage is dispersed across a lot more analysts, it’s become less of a focus for me, but I remain deeply interested in the evolution of the ecosystem, not just in the cloud, but also within traditional data centers.
While these topics are some key broad themes, I’ll certainly be thinking about and writing about a great deal more. I tend to be a more spontaneous writer, and so I might sit down in an afternoon and rapidly write a note about something that’s been on my mind lately, even if it’s not part of my planned research. Indeed, I tend not to plan research except to the minimum extent that Gartner requires (generally “big rock” items like Magic Quadrants and so forth), so if you have feedback on what you’d like to see me produce, please feel free to let me know.
As has been noted in Doug Toombs’s blog post (“Important Updates for Gartner’s Hosting Magic Quadrants in 2016“), I will be leading the introduction of a new Gartner Magic Quadrant this year for managed service providers (MSPs) that deliver services on hyperscale cloud providers (specifically, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform).
This new global Magic Quadrant will be titled the “Magic Quadrant for Public Cloud Infrastructure Managed Service Providers”, and it is slated for early Q4 2016 publication (watch the editorial calendar for an official date). It will have accompanying Critical Capabilities that will be specific to each hyperscale cloud provider. In 2016, this will be a “Critical Capabilities for Managed Service Providers for Amazon Web Services”; in the future, as their ecosystems mature, we expect there will be a CC each for MSPs for Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform as well.
Stay tuned for more. In the meantime, I’ve begun building a body of related research (sorry, links are behind client-only paywall):
How to Choose a Managed Service Provider for a Hyperscale Cloud Provider. Hyperscale integrated IaaS and PaaS providers are not mere purveyors of rented virtualization. MSPs need to have a very specific skillset to manage them well. This is the fundamental “what makes a good hyperscale cloud MSP” note.
Best Practices for Planning a Cloud IaaS Strategy: Bimodal IT, Not Hybrid Infrastructure. We advise customers to think differently about cloud IaaS based on their priorities — safety and efficiency-driven IT, vs. speed and agility-driven IT. This tends to lead to different styles of operations, which in turn drive different managed and professional services needs.
Three Journeys Define Migrating a Data Center to Cloud Infrastructure as a Service. An increasing number of customers are migrating existing applications and even entire data centers into cloud IaaS. This sets out those journeys, and explores the managed and professional services that are useful for those journeys.
Use Managed and Professional Services to Improve Cloud Operations for Digital Business. Mode 2 and digital business applications are often architected and operated in ways that are not broadly familiar to many IT organizations. We explore different styles of adopting managed and professional services for these needs.
Market Guide for Managed Service Providers on Amazon Web Services. Our introduction to the AWS MSP market explores use cases, classifies MSPs into categories, and profiles a handful of representative MSPs.
Market Trends: Channel Sales Strategies for Cloud IaaS Should Focus on Developer Ecosystems. We provide advice to cloud IaaS providers who are trying to build ecosystems and channel sales strategies — but MSPs will find this note valuable when trying to understand what their value is to their partner cluod provider.
I’ll soon be publishing a set of notes directed at MSPs who are currently in this market, or intended to enter this market, as well. And I’ll be doing a series of blog posts about what’s ahead.