Sunday, March 30, 2014

An FAQ on Cloud Consulting Companies

As CEO of MomentumSI, I get asked lots of questions about cloud consulting. Here's my attempt to answer some of the most Frequently Asked Questions!

How do you classify cloud consulting companies?

The first dimension is 'public cloud' or 'private cloud' (behind the firewall). The second dimension is the technology layer at which they work (IaaS, PaaS or SaaS). The third dimension is the speciality within the layer. For example, a services company might only work in 'public cloud at the SaaS layer' - but specialize in 'sales and marketing' solutions. The fourth dimension is the type of services that they provide. Some companies only do 'strategy and planning', while others will do 'training and mentoring', 'implementation' or 'managed cloud services'.

From a consulting perspective, which clouds are getting the most traction?

There are lots of clouds across the aforementioned dimensions. For IaaS + public cloud, Amazon is clearly in the lead. For IaaS + private cloud - the company that us selling the most deals is VMware - but the media darling / thought leader is OpenStack with an early lead going to the Red Hat distribution. On the PaaS side, I can't really give anyone credit for dominating the market. From a public PaaS perspective, you'd have to acknowledge + Heroku ( On the private side, Cloud Foundry seems like an early thought leader - but it's way too early to tell. At the SaaS layer, we see lots of, Workday, Microsoft (apps) and Google (apps). There are a ton of others getting traction - too many to mention.

Who are the boutique cloud consulting companies?

I have to mention my company first, MomentumSI. Our strategy was simple: initially, focus on public cloud (AWS / Google) with an emphasis on automation (think DevOps and Cloud Management activities: ServiceMesh, vCAC, Puppet, Chef, RunDeck, Docker, Ansible etc.) Recently, we're seeing an increased demand for OpenStack and VMware private cloud implementations.

Other notable boutiques include: Mirantis (Russian firm with core engineering expertise on OpenStack), Appirio / Bluewolf (focused on, Cloud Sherpas (focused on Google Apps), 2nd Watch and Datapipe  (focused on AWS Managed Services).

Are the offshore I.T. companies involved in cloud?

Yes - but many of them are very early. Companies like Infosys, Cognizant, TCS, Wipro, HCL and EPAM were hired to develop enterprise software, maintain and operate it. They are being asked to help with lift and shift migration efforts - and in some cases, refactoring the applications to work better in the cloud. They focus on migrating 10's or 100's of applications for a single customer. This market is still early.

Are the Very Large consulting companies doing cloud work?

Yes and no. Many of them are doing true cloud consulting while others are classifying last-generation stuff (e.g., virtualization, hosting) work as 'cloud'. Traditionally, these companies are most commonly used for strategy and roadmap services. CSC, Dell Services and others have made some aggressive moves to build their offering but mostly focused building out their cloud, not on the consulting side. Capgemini made an early push but it's not clear to me if it has turned into a large piece of their business. IBM's acquisition of SoftLayer and subsequent push on BlueMix implies that they're playing to win. I'm confident that Accenture has done something - but I lack visibility into their efforts.

Are the hardware vendors doing cloud consulting?

I've witnessed Dell getting some interest in their OpenStack offering. I'd speculate that HP public sector will have some consulting drag-along related to data center modernization efforts - and eventually will see opportunities generated from Moonshot and USP. Both EMC and Cisco have access to a wonderful roster of infrastructure buyers. I've seen EMC in some interesting consulting deals; Cisco not so much. Hitachi, Fujitsu and other specialty shops are interested in breaking out of their molds but will likely require a more full-fledged transformation to make the jump.

Who is leading in public sector cloud consulting?

Despite the fact that I live outside of Washington D.C., I don't follow SLED/Fed. From what little I've actually witnessed, Booz-Allen has had some early wins. The larger defense contractors (Boeing, LMCO, Northrop, etc.) are playing their usual risk averse role. I don't have enough visibility to comment on SAIC, CACI, CGI, etc. ... well, maybe I could comment on CGI ;-)

What are the data center service and hosting companies doing?

Sungard has made a focused attempt to build out their cloud offerings including vendor neutral consulting. Unisys and Xerox/ACS both made an initial push - but it's unclear to me where the current offerings stand. Many of the traditional hosting companies like Rackspace, Verizon, AT&T and CenturyLink have built out their managed service offerings and will provide 'workload migration implementation'. Generally speaking,  most companies in this space are treating cloud like the fundamental threat that it is. They are creating inventive offerings that embrace new partners and approaches. In my opinion, not all of them will make the transition. Those vendors who don't adapt to the customer buying process will be most challenged. Failure to provide unbiased consulting, no hybrid cloud offering, etc. will push customers away.

What are the VAR's (Value Add Resellers) doing in the cloud?

The VAR's are often the first point of contact for purchasing hardware and software. They realize that if those purchases move to a cloud based model, the potential for disintermediation exists. Several VAR's have begun reselling cloud offerings like it was just another SKU. They leverage their large call centers, shopping portals and existing procurement vehicles/contracts to execute high volume, low-margin transactions. Generally speaking, the VAR's have partnered with focused consulting companies to perform the implementation work.

Warning: This is just one opinion. If you need more data, I'd recommend the analysis of Lydia Leong (Gartner), Carl Brooks (451 Group) and James Staten (Forrester); they've all been following the cloud space since the inception. The CloudCast and the GigaOM Cloud sites are also very insightful. Visit MomentumSI for more information on our services.

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