Cloud computing and SaaS, for all their successes and rapid growth, remain relatively new and unfamiliar to most computing buyers. Even when prospective customers are keen to take advantage of the low initial cost, rapid time to deploy and constantly refreshed technology of cloud services, they often find themselves stumped simply because they have no experience of buying cloud services and therefore don’t know what questions they should be asking.
The industry has a responsibility to help buyers out here. There’s now more than enough collective experience of the buying process to know what questions buyers have been asking. We probably also have a good idea by now, knowing what has gone wrong in the past, what questions they should have been asking but didn’t. Several industry bodies have therefore launched initiatives to set up certification and auditing processes that will give buyers more confidence when evaluating providers â as well as giving providers some standard benchmarks for how they implement and manage their services.
We’re not out of the woods yet, though. With several different initiatives coming out, how are buyers (and providers) supposed to know which ones to rely on? The next challenge for the industry is to provide some harmonization so that ultimately we can arrive at a broadly accepted template that can act as a solid foundation for trust in the cloud. Some customers will want more certainty than others, and therefore I can imagine that there’s scope for several different programs to co-exist, serving different segments of the market. But the industry as a whole needs to send out clear messaging about this segmentation to avoid additional confusion.
I’ll be at an open meeting this week in London that will bring together representatives of two new certification schemes to look at some of these issues. Hosted by EuroCloud UK (and co-located with SIIA OnDemand Europe 2010), the meeting will hear from Andy Burton, chair of the Cloud Industry Forum, which launches its Code of Practice for Cloud Service Providers next month; and from Andreas Weiss of EuroCloud in Germany, which is developing an Audit Seal for SaaS.