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Cloud and the Dark Side of “Easy On”

Cloud providers justifiably tout the ease and speed in which services can be implemented, but behind the curtain a dark reality lurks. “Easy on” is a key selling feature of cloud services and for good reason. I well remember leading enterprise application implementation projects in the pre-cloud era. The initial thrill of taking on a major new initiative that could transform the business was quickly overcome by the stark reality of years of highly complex work before going live, only to find out that you were several releases out of date and needed a multi-million dollar upgrade!

In my first major cloud project (to deploy a cloud service management application to 16,000 service engineers) we had users up and running in a couple of months. The business began seeing results quickly and as the software was upgraded we gained advantage of new features immediately. Soon after implementation, we began experiencing problems. It turned out all of the support and operational complexity had been masked from us. Behind the simple outward appearance lay dozens of different software, hardware, data centers and networks. The cloud service provider took first support calls, but getting issues resolved took a long time – and worse, we never were quite sure who was currently working the issue or the status.

Recent studies have identified service and support as the number one decision criteria for customers purchasing new cloud services. In fact, one recent study of the SMB market for cloud services found that the TOP THREE concerns were service related:

  • Provide an SLA to ensure application is accessible at all times (53%)
  • Provide 24x7 customer support (47%)
  • Provide better notification of upgrades, changes and downtime (45%)

Much as cloud providers would like to address these concerns, it’s very difficult operationally to do so because of the multiple back end providers. Cloud customers, in turn, typically use phone, web or email interface with cloud providers to raise and get status on service incidents, so they have no real-time or proactive visibility into issues or outages. As companies put more mission critical applications into the cloud, this dysfunctional support model is causing growing concern and slowing the adoption of cloud services.

Cisco believes the answer is simple. No matter how many different providers might have to get involved to solve a problem, to the original customer it should look like one organization.  All information, data and workflows would be shared in an automated way, eliminating manual practices and bottlenecks.
Cisco ServiceGrid enables such integration with a “connect once, connect all” approach, integrating all participants in the support process to the cloud platform only once, instead of integrating everyone one at a time. In speaking with customers who have moved to such a model, they report 40% or more reduction in case resolution times and lower support costs. More importantly, the end user sees what’s happening on the case while it is happening – no finding out hours or days later – resulting in real time SLA’s.

The promise of cloud is incredible, however, cloud customers and cloud service providers need to recognize and address the growing concern about how it will all be supported. Together we can remove a powerful obstacle to cloud adoption, by adding an “easy button” for multi-party support.

source: Techaisle SMB Channel Partner Survey 2012

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Multi-Party Support -- The Emergence of a Dynamic Support Network

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