5 KPIs to Evaluate Cloud and Managed Hosting Providers – Part 2

Editor’s Note: In a previous post, John Cupit explored the first three KPIs for evaluating cloud and managed hosting providers. In this post, John explores the final two KPIs that can serve as a starting point for your evaluation process.

PART 2. Engineering Gravity and CCMPs

Over the past nine years, I have developed a list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs – I also sometimes refer to them as “flags”) that I use in my personal evaluation of a Cloud or Managed Hosting provider. Over time I have developed KPIs that are critical in terms of selecting a viable Cloud or Managed Hosting provider. In a previous post I covered the first three KPIs. Here I discuss the depth of skills necessary in selecting a cloud and managed hosting partner and the importance of CCMPs.

KPI 4 – Engineering Gravity. A Cloud and Managed Hosting provider has to be a strategic partner in order to effectively assist you in reaching your strategic objectives.  “Strategic Partner” from my perspective suggests that the provider must possess engineering gravity – that means being deep and wide with respect to skill sets and an ability to manage customer environments as the partner finds them.

I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth as I write this. But the fact remains that any significant limitation in managing specific platforms, middleware, and applications is a weakness. Quite frankly, I have never understood why Cloud and Managed Hosting providers aren’t more organized like system integrators as opposed to ISPs. I look for Cloud and Managed Hosting providers who can understand and operate the customer environment “as-is,” but who have sufficient engineering gravity to support the necessary changes to the BC/DR plan or to the new data replication requirements of the managed environment. The provider must have the engineering chops to own the design and deployment of new technologies and services for the customer in the future. If the provider requires the customer to be responsible for the design and deployment of new technologies and services, my  advice is to not to walk, but run, away.

KPI 5 – Does the provider support a Common Cloud Management Platform? “We support the REST API.” I am really tired of reading Cloud and Managed Hosting providers responses to RFP questions with respect to how they manage cloud services which refer to support of the REST API. “We support vCloud connector” runs a close second.

The key factor that I look for is whether the Cloud and Managed Hosting provider supports a Common Cloud Management Platform (CCMP) which demonstrates appropriate functionality to accelerate migration to the cloud or managed hosting environment. In short, I look for the following functionality from the CCMP:

  • Does it provide a means to capture “Quick Win” opportunities to accelerate provisioning, orchestration, federation and management of the private or hybrid cloud infrastructure?
  • Does the platform clearly set forth Business & Technical Requirements for integration points?
  • Does the platform specification set forth the following:

–      Does it identify levels of automation supported from an orchestration and federation perspective?

–      Does it identify the current state of virtualization enablement for the cloud or managed hosting model?

–      Does it identify the current state of the provisioning and management process?

–      Does it identify capabilities and gaps on current management and/or correlation platforms?

–      Does it identify the applications, compute platforms, network infrastructure and SAN platforms supported on the CCMP?

From the customer perspective, I evaluate the following factors to determine the strength of the proposed CCMP:

  • Does it support a common services reference framework? The value of a reference framework is to provide a consistency in such aspects as terminology, deliverables and governance across a cloud or managed hosting model. This permits sensible reuse across the entire spectrum of capabilities and avoids the necessity for the customer or Managed Hosting provider to reinvent the infrastructure each time a capability is added.
  • Does the CCMP expose a set of business and operational management focused services (BSS & OSS) as well as provisioning, orchestration, federation, and management services?
  • Does the CCMP also include support for user interfaces serving the three main roles that should be defined within the CCMP? The roles should include the following:

–      A Service Consumer Portal to be used by Cloud Service Consumers for delivery, provisioning  & management (the actual cloud service instances are operated via a cloud service specific UI)

–      A Service Provider Portal serving Cloud Service Provider internal users and administrators for daily operations

–      A Service Development Portal used by Cloud Service Creators

  • Is the supported CCMP architecture agnostic to the actual software products used to implement the architecture? Is the architecture dependent on the software products which are deployed?
  • Is the CCMP is structured as a platform? The CCMP should expose a set of services which can (and sometimes must) be used within the context of a specific cloud service. The management services exposed by the CCMP to cloud service creators are not to be confused with the cloud services developed by cloud service creators.

From my perspective, this KPI helps to determine the speed at which applications and data can be migrated to the Cloud and Managed Hosting provider. It also provides a readout of the degree of complexity of providing appropriate management dashboards within the customer’s global operations center.

Most large Enterprises clearly understand Cloud and Managed Hosting models and the technologies that are used to sustain their operation. The difficulty in selecting a Cloud and Managed Hosting provider is the necessity to filter all of the marketing fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) surrounding the offered services and understanding the KPIs that indicate the potential for successful selection. While these KPIs may not always be applicable, they do tend to be a great starting point as you evaluate and select a Cloud and Managed Hosting Provider.

What are your thoughts on these KPIs? What else are you considering in selecting your Cloud or Managed Hosting provider?
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