The ITAM Review

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ITAM in the Cloud Era: More questions than answers?

Last week was the ITAM Review 2017 UK conference. This was my first, proper, SAM focused, end-user conference and it was fantastic. The overarching theme was “ITAM in the Cloud Era” and the presentations, sessions and conversations were very interesting and enlightening.

One thing that really struck me is that organisations are still at many points on the “On-premises / Cloud spectrum” – from actively resisting the Cloud to embracing it and making it a key part of their future strategy.

 

There are many reasons for the reluctance to move to Cloud.

For some, it is that their industry or business doesn’t lend itself to Cloud, and that makes sense – Cloud is far from a perfect fit for everyone. However many of these organisations are actually looking to move to Cloud where possible – often for part of their organisation – and this is where licensing flexibility, or the lack thereof, from the software vendors can be key.

For others, it is that Cloud will cause too many problems in regards to SAM. They’ve spent years creating and refining SAM processes to give the organisation a great overview of their assets and they have good control over their software usage and spend too. It’s quite possible that moving to the Cloud would, initially, undo some of this hard work. If the business benefits of the move aren’t clear, it may seem like making work for the sake of it.

Unanswered questions

For others still, it is down to a lack of clarity. This is both internally and from partners and vendors. Over the 2 days of the conference I was able to see that there are still many unanswered questions among organisations.

“What exactly can Cloud do? What exactly can’t Cloud do? How is it purchased? How is it paid for? Will it integrate with all our current on-premises systems? Will it create confusion among users? What actually are the business benefits? Will it save us money?”

The answers to these questions, and others, generally vary from one company to the next and that makes it difficult for organisations to get clear information. While there are many overarching pros and cons of Cloud computing (easier to scale, flexibility, Opex pricing etc.), the importance and validity of each doesn’t necessarily translate from one business to another.

Many organisations, quite rightly, are reluctant to get started with Cloud until they have the answers to these questions. Vendors and partners must make sure they’re doing enough to help customers get the answers they need but equally, organisations must make sure they’re asking the right questions – not just of the vendors but also themselves.

“What do we want Cloud to do? What don’t we want Cloud to do? How do we want to purchase it? How do we want to pay for it? Do we need it to integrate with all our current on-premises systems? How can we prevent confusion among users? Where do we see the business benefits? Do we see it saving us money?”

Having a clear plan of what Cloud does (and doesn’t) mean to you and your organisation will help strengthen a customer’s position during talks with vendors.

Vendor Focus

There’s no denying that Cloud is a huge focus for many software vendors, and this can have both positives and negatives for customers.
Customers who are looking at adopting Cloud technology may well find that, as the vendors are so keen to get them onto the platform, additional discounts and support are available. Importantly these things won’t be available for those remaining with an on-premises solution.

This can put such organisations in a good position to negotiate with the vendor and benefit from their Cloud focus.

Conversely however, customers NOT looking to adopt Cloud  may find they start to feel pressured to move before they’re ready. Perhaps benefits and discounts they’ve enjoyed for many years start to become more scarce. Perhaps focus from their account management team begins to wane.

This can have a negative effect, where Cloud starts to look less attractive and the customer becomes even less inclined to move.

Software manufacturers, and their partners, should work with each of their customers to discuss Cloud, to help them understand the pros and cons, and to assist with technical guidance around potential business transformation. However, if at the end of that process, the answer is still “no” or “not yet”, vendors must ensure they don’t forget about their loyal, long term customers who aren’t yet ready to make the transition.

Per User Licensing

This is a key element of most Cloud services; they are licensed on a per user, rather than per device, basis. As we move towards a more user-centric world where many employees have multiple devices, perhaps within a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) strategy, this often makes a lot of sense. It can reduce licensing costs whilst simultaneously increasing user productivity and flexibility.

However, many organisations have parts of their business where per user licensing isn’t the right model. Typically these will be shift workers such as nurses and retail staff, where the organisation has more users than devices – thus making per user licensing a more expensive proposition. Even if an organisation wants to move to the Cloud, the licensing model can become a point of contention between them and the vendor.

Cloud Management

Management of Cloud services is high on many agendas. Again, there is no catch all answer to this as there are many types of Cloud services from a range of vendors.

I think it is safe to say that the rise of IAAS (Infrastructure As A Service) & PAAS (Platform As A Service) – things like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS) –  is presenting organisations with the most challenging challenges.

Cloud technologies such as these disrupt many of the accepted processes and roles present within organisations. Two questions I heard repeatedly throughout the conference were:

“Who is responsible?”

  • Who is responsible for deploying servers into the Cloud?
  • Who is responsible for monitoring costs in the Cloud?
  • Who is responsible for managing the “hardware” specification of servers in the Cloud?

“How do we control?”

  • How do we control who can deploy services in the Cloud?
  • How do we control the level and size of services deployed in the Cloud?
  • How do we control what licenses are used in the Cloud?

The answers to these questions are all key in helping integrate Cloud services into the world of rationalised and dynamic SAM organisations and bridging the disconnect between Cloud and SAM teams.

Conclusion

What we have started to do, and must continue to do as an industry, is work together to find the answers to these questions. To define best practices and work to tailor them to different industries and organisation types. To make sure Cloud works for us.

It’s almost 10 years since I started talking to customers about Cloud solutions but it’s clear to see that for many organisations, both customers and vendors, we’re still at the start of the Cloud journey.

 

 

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About Rich Gibbons

Rich has been in the world of IT and software licensing since 2003, having been a software sales manager for a VAR, a Microsoft licensing endorsed trainer, and now an ITAM analyst looking at software licensing and cloud.

A Northerner renowned for his shirts, Rich is a big Hip-Hop head, and loves travel, football in general (specifically MUFC), baseball, Marvel, and reading as many books as possible. Finding ways to combine all of these with ITAM & software licensing is always fun!

Connect with Rich on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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