When looking for the highest-value cloud platforms to integrate with, technology providers must exercise proper due diligence in examining their cloud partners.
The de facto indicator of the health of a cloud provider has traditionally been the size and breadth of its customer base. While serving as a valuable barometer, however, this information possesses inherent shortcomings.
Most companies will share these figures if asked, and you can almost always count on seeing the vaulted marquee customer logo slide in a PowerPoint at any given presentation. However, the tear-up-and-tear-down nature of cloud, coupled with the casual purchasing habits enabled by credit cards, means customers can pop in and out of existence and never be heard from again.
Furthermore, there's a very real possibility that even those customers billing full-time on that vendor's cloud are using several different providers, each with its own ecosystem.
Understanding what these companies are deploying on the vendor's cloud is also key, but in the absence of a case study or reference agreement, the curtain remains closed on what level of innovation is actually occurring on that platform.
Now, that being said, there is absolute merit in examining an approximate customer count and looking at which companies are using the platform. But I want to raise a more observable and inferable criterion for evaluation.
Examining a cloud provider's ecosystem can glean a wealth of information, such as:
An anaemic ecosystem might signal integration and on-boarding friction. Similarly, a stagnating or declining ecosystem could be indicative of a lacklustre support infrastructure or attentive buyer base. A thriving ecosystem, on the other hand, is bereft of the above symptoms and operates within a defined, established and fluid model.
Look at the solutions coming to market via that specific cloud provider's platform. Are they truly innovative? Are they helping the partner and provider differentiate in the market? If the absence of this is systemic, it might be indicative of lack of strategy or direction.
High levels of redundancies in specific competencies are indicative of a lack of discretion when choosing which partners are inducted into the ecosystem. Competition is good, but B-list technologies serve to distract customers away from better solutions (like yours!).
A vibrant ecosystem is a healthy, diverse and fertile place to nourish and grow innovative solutions. There are certain enabling elements that make this possible:
- A scalable, capable, secure and extensible API driven platform
- Rapid and frictionless on-boarding
- A defined model to let partners know what is expected of them and what resources they should expect
- Enveloping support system sourced in house as well as community driven
Most important is access to a wide and diverse potential customer base. This includes access via the provider's market segments, verticals, channels, internal IT and consulting services.
Identifying those providers that provide the most reach—the most 'windows' for 'window shoppers'—will let you achieve the most return on your investment in integration work, on-boarding, marketing and selling.
It's easy to get short-sighted and just focus on the vendor and the platform itself, but to be successful we must filter through all the signal noise created by the influx of new vendors, zoom out to view the surrounding ecosystem and then include it in our decision making process.
No one ever has a magic crystal ball, but at least now you will have a compass.
Andrew McCreath is Director, Cloud Solutions, Savvis EMEA, a CenturyLink company. Follow him on Twitter at @AndrewMcCreath.