IBM offers dos and don'ts for service providers winning new OpenStack customers

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Demand for OpenStack is growing quickly. IBM offers advice for service providers to help clients get the best from the open source cloud management platform

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Speaking at the OpenStack Summit in Barcelona, John Arwe, a member of IBM’s senior technical staff, offered up some pointers on the do’s and do not do’s of working with customers who are interested in OpenStack. Here we present a few of them – with some small edits from Computerworld UK for conciseness.

Arwe offers some insights from the service provider's point of view that will be useful for IT teams and CIOs to consider as well.

Do: Define the cloud

"One of the first problems we had was our own clients were being told by their CIOs you have got to be in the cloud. And sometimes the CIO kind of knows what that means, and just as often not really, let alone if their definition of the cloud is the same as the OpenStack definition of the cloud," Arwe said.

"Our own technical leaders in some cases, sales people in others, some of them had been doing virtualisation since the 1970s and they have their homegrown processes. Some people would say sure you can do cloud, you don’t have to change any of that other stuff – don’t worry about it.

"If you know OpenStack you know that’s not really true, OpenStack has its ideas: this is my playground, everybody else get off. So you have to be careful about that. Probe them a bit and see what they mean – if they say we want to do cloud, find out what that means to them."

Don’t: Forget your clients might not have a technical background

"The questions one client didn’t know they needed to ask was: are you willing to give up custom scripts and things that you used to build and manage your guests for years, that are hooked up into your compliance systems?

"The answer of course was no, we don’t want to give those things up, so there’s an organisational debate going on. You have to figure out how you want to do compliance – you don’t have to do it on OpenStack. You can’t expect the kinds of enterprise clients you’re going to get, especially from executives or managers of IT infrastructure groups, to understand all the technical details of OpenStack."

Do: Distinguish between public and private clouds

"The third thing is the assumption public and private clouds have the same needs. Another way to think about this is: are you trying to be a service provider or just try to run your own devops stuff in the cloud? They are very different business models – and that forces different effects on you. There are very different usage models and you have to have different metrics sometimes for your own development group."

Do: Find out what your customer needs, specifically

"Another thing that can go wrong is why are they doing this – what do they really need out of it? One of the criteria that blindsided some people in a development organisation is they came in and said: 'Alright, we have been working on this for two months, it’s just about there, we’re ready to demo to the executives'. And this other group demoed with another cloud provider and they were able to provision 20 in 10 minutes – the moral is, you have to understand what your competition is, even within the company."

Do: Demonstrate how you’ll make life easier for end users, as well as operators

"People resist change naturally. If you can provide something to them in a way that makes lives easier, your conversations are going to be so much better.

"It’s not just using OpenStack with the people running it, the operators – it’s the end users. Keep the end users happy, and the operators are happy, their managers are happy, and they’ll buy your stuff, oddly enough. So you have to keep in mind that fact, not just making the operators happy but also the people the operators are dealing with."

Don’t: Underestimate the importance of regional regulations

"Your clients have to deal with compliance – in the US there are healthcare rules, in Europe there’s rules about where your data is – all these things matter more or less [depending on] which government you happen to be dealing with at the time or which industry.

"If it takes them three or four months to get through their internal certification process to make a new VM go online – which is not uncommon in the enterprise space – and you tell them every six months you’re going to be doing a complete upgrade of the whole thing, they kind of toss a hairball on that."

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