It’s to be expected, really. You want to go out clubbing, and the object of your affections, who is significantly older than you, wants to get an early night because they have a parent-teacher meeting first thing in the morning.
Clearly, in this scenario, retail Public Cloud Providers (PCPs) are the younger member of the relationship – looking to move fast and break things, as it were. Large, regulated Enterprises are the older partner, looking to put their feet up at the end of a complicated and trying day. They can’t move as fast as the PCPs, because they have accumulated responsibilities in the form of regulatory and board oversight, and have less agility in their old bones than the more nimble PCPs.
When PCPs are dating/courting startups, or Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in less regulated spaces, the pace of adoption and engagement in the relationship is often faster and less complicated. This is because the younger organisations in the partnership may have similar interests, with fewer individual areas of specific concern. The equation is one of best price and warranty for the service provided, and it often ends there.
Newer organisations tend to be more cloud-ready as well – they’ve grown up with modern application methods and technology and are carrying less technical debt. Many large enterprises have applications that pre-date the foundation of today’s PCPs – and the management of these legacy applications can be critical to the day-to-day functioning of the enterprise.
Larger Enterprises also have a significant overhead in the form of regulations that they are accountable to meet, security and compliance controls to adhere to and boards that may be highly risk averse.
Does this “age-gap” means that the relationship is doomed?
Not necessarily; it just means that the younger partner needs to be more aware of the specific needs of their older paramour. Some PCPs are clearly very aware of this. For example, Microsoft Azure is focussing heavily on providing hybrid cloud services, including Active Directory integration and Azure stack for on-premises use to enable the lines between the enterprise and the PCP to be less of a challenge to adoption.
In their turn, the elder partner needs to be aware that contracts and master services agreements may need to be reassessed while still maintaining the appropriate risk management posture. Workload selection also has to be carefully managed – the “wrong” workloads migrating to a cloud environment will clearly result in unhappy outcomes.
What else can PCPs do to help? They can make information readily available to simplify the transition to a cloud environment by making compliance resources available, as AWS did recently with their Cloud Compliance center.
They can simplify and make more transparent their usage and pricing structures. For the past few years, articles have been published (e.g. here, here and here) about businesses pulling workloads back from public cloud environments, in part because of “sticker shock”. (There are other reasons, including availability issues that have been identified as driving the pullback).
In addition, PCPs can put together chains of services that legacy application managers can consume more readily. For example, AWS Lightsail, Farscape, Beanstalk and Migration Services are a step in the right direction. These still don’t remove the overwhelming variety and complexity of sub-services that PCPs offer, but compared to e.g. Google Cloud Platform, they provide a friendlier face to newcomers to public cloud environments.
Is this May-December relationship still worth pursuing? Absolutely – because there can be significant value for both parties if approached correctly. Large Enterprises can use public cloud environments as a catalyst for application modernisation, risk reduction and capital budget weight-loss (although OpEx clearly needs to be very carefully managed). PSPs can benefit from the steady, predictable income that a well-funded, firmly established partner can provide (and can learn how to further develop offerings that are suitable to these organisations, growing the business). As with any relationship, the key is to ensure that expectations are set appropriately at the outset, and then met or exceeded.