I think most people can agree that eating your own dog food – or drinking your own champagne, to the glass-half-full crowd – is a hallmark of a business that has created a successful product. The opposite is clearly true: when Alan Mullaly was brought in to Ford, he knew there was a problem when he was picked up from the airport in a Land Rover rather than a Ford car – and when he couldn’t find a single Ford vehicle in the executive parking garage.
For those of us in the software world, there’s another piece to that picture. To tell you how we discovered this for ourselves, I’m going to tell you a story.
It was six weeks after ParkMyCloud’s founding. We had the very first beta version of the product at our fingertips – but before sending it out to beta testers, we gathered the ParkMyCloud team in a conference room to do a bit of usability testing for ourselves. I created a ParkMyCloud user account and hooked up our AWS account so there would be instances to display.
“Now try it out, and let me know if you see any problems,” I told the group.
Heads down, focused on laptops, everyone diligently began to click around, playing with the first generation dashboard and parking schedule interface. For a moment, the room was quiet. Then a chorus went around.
“Hey, what happened?”
“Is anyone else getting this error?”
All at once, everyone around the table lost access to the application. It was gone. For a minute, we were left scratching our heads.
“Okay, what was everyone doing just before it shut down? Did anyone park anything?”
Finally, a sheepish marketing contractor spoke up. “I may have parked an instance.”
As it turned out, he had parked a production server. In particular, the production server running the ParkMyCloud application. D’oh!
Apparently, we needed governance. And we needed it fast. We got to work, and soon after, we released a version of ParkMyCloud that allowed for multiple users and teams for each ParkMyCloud account, all governed with role-based access control (RBAC).
We still use those roles today (incidentally, the “demo” team does not have access to production servers).
The lesson here is that using your application for yourself uncovers important usability issues. Some of these can’t be discovered as quickly as the one above, but only over time – like awkward flows, and reports that skip over meaningful data.
But of course, we also get the same benefits that the product gives to our customers – like saving money. In fact, after the approach was suggested to us by one of our customers, we adopted an “always off” schedule for ourselves. All of our non-production servers are parked 24×7. When our developers need to use them, they log in to ParkMyCloud and “snooze” the schedules for the length of time they need to use them.
This eliminates the need for central schedules, which works especially well for our multi-time-zone development team. Using this schedule, we save about 81% on our non-production servers.
I would encourage anyone who creates products to lead by example and use your product internally — and I assure potential ParkMyCloud customers that we drink our own champagne every day.
We are happy to share that ParkMyCloud has earned a place in the list of CIOReview’s 20 Most Promising Cloud Solution Providers 2016, an annual listing of 20 companies that are at the forefront of providing cloud solutions and impacting the marketplace.
“The companies selected for our 20 Most Promising Cloud Solution Providers 2016 list are an elite group of companies whose products and solutions are changing their respective industries,” said Jeevan George, Managing Editor of CIOReview. “We are proud to feature ParkMyCloud in this edition for its range of revolutionary solutions that is setting a new benchmark in the cloud arena.”
An article on CIO Review highlights how ParkMyCloud helps users optimize cloud computing costs.
About half of AWS EC2 instances support non-production workloads, such as development, testing, staging, and QA, and can be turned off at night and on weekends when developers go home. Yet most companies leave them running 24×7.
The concept of a managed service provider (MSP) helping customers to save money on cloud services is a tricky one. If customers purchase cloud services through the MSP, it may seem that reducing the amount the customers spends on cloud would reduce the MSP’s revenue. And is the idea of “saving money” really an outcome customers seek from their service providers?
We’ve been grappling with some of these questions lately. We spent our first year on-boarding customers directly to the ParkMyCloud platform. Recently, we turned our attention to potential partnerships with MSPs and Cloud Consulting firms. When we talk with them, we ask: what are your clients’ key priorities? How do you seek to deliver additional value?
Cost reduction as an element of total value
In our various conversations with MSPs, we pay attention to how they prioritize helping their customers save money. We heard that although cost reduction for clients was seen as important, it was often framed as a way for customers to get more bang for the buck – not as a reduction in total spend. MSPs reported that their clients typically have annual budgets that MSPs can spend on their behalf across all cloud or IT services. Therefore, staying within budget across all services was the primary goal, but any dollar saved on cloud compute services could then be put to work in other areas of the business. This keeps the end user satisfied by giving them more value per dollar, and the MSPs satisfied by providing more, and stickier, services to their customers.
In addition to cost savings, MSPs want to deliver productivity gains to clients. This can be done by directly implementing solutions on clients’ behalf. Increasingly, however, MSPs prefer to put tools in place that their clients can then use to optimize their own cloud infrastructure. Although many small businesses don’t have the technical expertise necessary to migrate their technology infrastructure to the cloud, once they are up and running, they are often able to self-manage parts of their own infrastructure.
As one MSP recently said to us, “we could probably write custom scripts for our customer to turn things on and off, but that really doesn’t scale. To be honest, I think they would prefer controlling their own environment”.
We know from our own experience that a number of our clients use ParkMyCloud as their go-to tool for scheduling, managing and reporting on their EC2 usage.
The Key to MSP Success in the Cloud
As the role of the traditional MSP continues to evolve, the most successful providers increasingly seem to understand that :
helping customers optimize their cloud spend is important; and
providing customers with self-service tools to better self-manage their own cloud environments is key to sticky customers.
Although there will be many goals against which MSPs and cloud consultants are measured, it seems clear that reducing/optimizing cloud spend and empowering customers with the right tools to manage cloud are two side of the same coin and key for MSPs to succeed.
Managed Services Face Uncertainty Over Cloud. http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2016/06/30/managed-services-face-uncertainty-over-cloud-report/
At the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit in New York City last Thursday, AWS CTO Werner Vogels gave the opening keynote. Any Vogels keynote will be peppered with announcements of new AWS products and services, and this one was no different.
Announcements included the launch of Amazon Kinesis Analytics and updates to Elastic Block Storage, Snowball, the AWS Key Management Service, and details on the forthcoming new AWS region. Vogels also welcomed Lyft, Airtime, and Comcast to the stage to discuss their learnings and gains with AWS.
Vogels also took time for a few moments of retrospective review about how far AWS has come – highlighting the way AWS and other cloud service providers shook up the entire economic model to switch from CapEx to OpEx, the explosion of AWS services in the last decade, and agility.
“A core principle from Lean is to eliminate waste,” Vogels said. “Waste is anything that doesn’t benefit your customers.”
“Where agility really lives is in dev and test,” he continued. “Many say dev and test are not serious workloads. I think dev and test are the most serious workloads in your business, because that’s where agility lives.”
It’s true. And we recently found that about half of compute servers in Amazon are being used for development, testing, and other non-production workloads, so these serious workloads make up quite a bit of customers’ resources.
“One way to save really significant dollars in dev and test is to switch your resources off when you go home. Typically you can save up to 75% on their dev and test costs just by switching resources off when you go home.”
Last week, Dale (ParkMyCloud CTO) held a tutorial web session to share (1) how to get started with ParkMyCloud, (2) what’s new in the platform, and (3) the best ways to use ParkMyCloud in your environment, including best practices from several of our customers.
If you missed it, not to worry. Here’s a recording of the session, with links to points of interest below.