CloudCast Weekly: Cloud consulting services, check-in with OpenStack

In this week-in-review podcast, our site editors discuss the trend of providers offering cloud consulting services, plus the news around OpenStack.

Making decisions about adopting cloud can be tricky for some companies. In-house IT may not have the expertise to make the best decisions, but third-party consulting services run up expensive bills. This conundrum is pushing cloud providers into the role of consultants, raising a whole host of questions around potential conflicts of interest and possible mutual benefits for businesses and providers.

Listen in to hear site editor Jessica Scarpati and news writer Gina Narcisi parse out these issues and more in this week-in-review podcast for the week of Feb. 11, 2013:

  • Find out what services providers are offering to businesses exploring the cloud;
  • Hear what experts are saying about the issues of objectivity in cloud consulting, and the considerations for cloud-curious businesses that lack adequate IT expertise;
  • Also, learn more about the buzz around OpenStack: the highlights of Folsom, its last release and the recent birth of the OpenStack Foundation; plus expectations for the upcoming version, Grizzly.

The following is a transcript of the podcast.

Jessica Scarpati: You're listing to Cloud Cast Weekly, a podcast by I am Jessica Scarpati, Site Editor of SearchCloudProvider, and by my side, as always, never failing, even on a crazy Thursday like today, is Gina Narcisi, our wonderful news writer.

Gina Narcisi: Hey, Jessica, I try.

Scarpati: Yes, and we appreciate it always. So we're here to give you guys a quick kind of wrap-up of some of the stuff that's new on the site this week. And, Gina, why don't you start out with your story about whether cloud providers can really be good consultants for their customers, right

Narcisi: Right, definitely. So my story was about cloud consulting services, sort of the idea of providers trying to ease customers into the cloud. But it's definitely difficult, because it's kind of a question as to whether they can actually be an objective party. Obviously, at the end of the day, they're still trying to sell their services.

So I did talk to Dimension Data, who recently announced their Cloud Readiness service, and it sort of helps organizations to assess what they think their ability is in terms of migrating applications to the cloud and how prepared they think they are. It kind of starts with filling out a survey themselves, and then it goes into a workshop and then as an assessment period. And then Dimension Data helps. The decision makers for the company figure out if and what kinds of applications they should be moving, internal readiness, and they work together to figure out if this is doable over a two-week period.

And so the company did tell me, Dimension Data rather, told me that the readiness service is, you know, it would be good for customers of any stage -- if they've migrated, you know, a few things to the cloud, if they're completely new to the cloud. And it can just be useful for whatever stage that they find themselves in. And I did talk to a few analysts, as well, who definitely had some opinions on whether providers can be objective enough. They talked about the specific customer size.

Basically, mid-size customers would really benefit from a service like this, because they have enough IT where somebody would be able to answer the questions on the initial survey, which is important. If you don't understand, you know, your own infrastructure, you're not going to be able to answer those questions properly. And you might make a decision that doesn't make sense money-wise or ends up not working out at all, which is bad for the customer but also bad for the provider. You definitely don't want people dropping out of your cloud.

So a mid-size company would have IT, but they wouldn't have maybe enough expertise to be able to decide if the cloud is right for them without a little extra help. So the Cloud Readiness service could really target a mid-size market.

Scarpati: So, did you get a chance to talk to Dimension Data at all about how they decide also when they work with customers, like which ones they should move to the cloud, how they're managing that line of wanting to get people to buy their services but also trying to remain like an objective advisor and one that the customer is going to trust?

Narcisi: Right. I mean, Dimension Data seems to be a little bit unique in terms of just the other cloud readiness services that I've kind of seen out there, because Dimension Data is also a service integrator, so they're kind of used to helping people decide if something's right for them and help them put it in place. So their cloud services -- That's really not their only business.

Scarpati: Ah, that makes sense.

Narcisi: Yeah, so it seems to be more objective than if just, you know, a cloud provider with just cloud services was trying to offer a service like this. I think it would be hard for them to be purely objective.

Scarpati: Yeah, and I definitely remember Tom Nolle, one of our favorite site experts, talking about this. And I don't remember if it was in one of your stories or one of the tips that we ran, but, yeah, I remember him saying that providers absolutely should not pressure customers to move everything into the cloud because, one, it's just not realistic.

Narcisi: Yeah.

Scarpati: And two, if people do that and then everything winds up being awful, they're going to make that association between that experience and the cloud and the specific cloud provider. And they're going to say, "Oh, cloud sucks. Nothing works." When, really, some things shouldn't have been there in the first place.

Narcisi: Right, absolutely. He definitely had some strong opinions, and that's why I was excited to interview him. For this particular story, you know, of course, a lot of his quotes didn't make it in, but all good stuff. He was talking about how would some companies it's "garbage in, garbage out." So if you can't make your own decision and maybe you don't have the IT in place to begin with, you have no business entering into one of these cloud readiness services, because you actually might be pressured to, in some way, adopt some sort of cloud services that you might not be ready for at all.

Scarpati: All right, Gina. Another riveting roundup. Thank you so much.

Narcisi: Thanks for having me, Jessica, and good luck to all our listeners who are out in this storm that's coming up.

Scarpati: Thank you. Yes, if you're on the East Coast and specifically the Northeast, we hope you make it through the snowpocalypse okay, and I promise I'm never going to use that term again. But I had to just once.

Open Stack has one thing in common with hurricanes, and it's not just its ability to gain more mass and momentum as it spirals, like those treacherous tropical storms. Each version of Open Stack gets a new code name and works its way through the alphabet. The latest release, Folsom, came out this fall. Its next reincarnation will be Grizzly, which is due out in April. Around the same time Folsom was released, the Open Stack Foundation was born. The foundation was tasked with promoting the development, distribution, and adoption of Open Stack. And the group has some big names attached to it, including AT&T, HP, IBM, Cisco, Dell, Intel, VMware, and many more companies that will probably be mad that we didn't name them. Sorry, guys.

We recently had the opportunity, though, to catch up with Alan Clark, chairman of the Open Stack Foundation, who shared some of his thoughts about Folsom's greatest hits and what improvements we can expect to see in Grizzly. In the two-part Q&A, Clark, who has a day job at SUSE, says, "The Open Stack community has been working hard to improve the platform stability, and one of the big criticisms that has shadowed Open Stack has been whether it's really stable enough and feature-rich enough for a cloud provider environment." Some of this work was incorporated in Folsom, but there's still more work to be done, Clark says.

It looks like we'll see some of the fruits of these labors in Grizzly, but ultimately its users, him calling all cloud providers, will be the judges of that. Be sure to check out the Q&A series on our home page this week to learn more about where Open Stack's been and where it's going.

And that is all that we have for this week. Hope you enjoyed it. Be sure to check out all we talked about and more at Thanks for listening.

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