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Cloud Partner: Service Provider or System Integrator?

Who is the right cloud partner for your company - a specialised cloud service provider or a versatile system integrator?

Who is the suitable cloud partner for your journey to the AWS Cloud? A specialised cloud service provider or versatile system integrator? The choice of the right cloud partner is not only an initial but also a crucial step for the entire process. In principle, you have the option to choose between cloud service providers and system integrators. In this article, you will learn about the experiences, competencies, and advantages you can expect from each on your path to the public cloud.

The public cloud: Structure, providers and requirements

"Cloud" generally refers to a global network of servers for storing and managing data, running applications, and delivering content or services.

"Public Cloud" and "Private Cloud" are comparable to having a "safe at home" versus a "safety deposit box at the bank." The Private Cloud establishes a dedicated network for a single customer, personalised but requiring substantial investment in procurement, operation, security, and IT management. In contrast, the Public Cloud doesn't entail additional investments in hardware or software.

Unlike a Private Cloud serving a single organisation, the Public Cloud offers services to many users, essentially on a rental basis. This is achieved with minimal capital requirements, maximum flexibility, and practically limitless scalability. The significant flexibility and a wealth of On-Demand services or Pay-per-Use principles strongly favour the Public Cloud.

For these reasons alone, collaborating with a Cloud Partner, such as a specialised Cloud service provider or a versatile IT system integrator, is recommended for migration.

The 3 commonest types of service in the public cloud:

  1. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for virtual resources such as servers, network components and storage - customers can put together their infrastructure as required and run any software on it.
  2. Platform as a Service (PaaS) where manufacturers provide customers with the runtime and programming environment – with flexible computing and data capacity.
  3. Software as a Service (SaaS) with direct access to applications or certain software, the operation of which is the responsibility of the cloud provider - the customer only uses what he needs.

The leading manufacturers in the public cloud environment

Cloud partners such as service providers or system houses do not develop the cloud platform themselves, but obtain it directly from a major cloud provider and mainly take care of the individual development and customization of your cloud environment. Leading public cloud providers or vendors include:

Amazon Web Services (AWS). The subsidiary of the online retailer, offers reliable and economical cloud computing for any size business and was named a leader in infrastructure and platform services by Gartner in 2020. AWS offers high security standards such as ISO certifications and servers in Europe (including Germany, France and Italy)

Microsoft Azure is a cloud platform from Microsoft with services such as Office 365, among others. Azure is also among the leaders in cloud infrastructures and platform services, according to Gartner

Google Cloud also offers various cloud computing services as a platform, which run on the same infrastructure that Google itself uses for Google Search, for example. Google Cloud is also recognized as a leader by Gartner

Other players: Alibaba Cloud, Oracle, IBM and Tencent Cloud

The “Wahl-O-Mat”: Cloud service provider or system house?

One thing you have to know in advance: after the election is before the truth! Because with the future public cloud partner, a whole series of business-critical decisions will be made - and implemented - on the way to the cloud. So check who connects to whom. With that in mind, here is the presentation of the candidates:

System Integrators are companies in the IT industry that have both software and hardware in their portfolio. In other words, complete solutions are primarily provided here. Many have specialised in products from certain manufacturers.

A cloud service provider provides you with a highly specialised team (for all public cloud services). What counts here is in-depth competence in one area – in contrast to the broad “reseller mentality” with the aim of primarily selling hardware and software to customers.

Your decision: The matrix

Agility & availability

Cloud service provider:

Smaller teams that mostly work in sprints of 1 to 2 weeks, high agility.

vs. System Integrators:

More complex structures due to numerous departments and hierarchies. Reduced agility.

Portfolio

Cloud service provider:

Specialist in a subject. This often includes training or managed services.

vs. System Integrators:

Broad portfolio of hardware, software and services. Often fixed on individual manufacturers.

Scalability

Cloud service provider:

Rapid scaling via automation. So are infrastructures and extensions

rolled out in minutes.

vs. System Integrators:

Also automated scaling - but each manufacturer interface must be addressed individually, which means more time and money.

Individualization

Cloud service provider:

Consulting and migration are tailored to the customer and managed services are played out automatically.

vs. System Integrators:

No difference. Possibly slight advantages for the system house, since solutions here often have to be set up completely individually.

Drivers of digitization? The core is in the business model

System integrators have long been said to be the main drivers of digitization. For some time, this was justified. In the meantime, however, cloud service providers have become the specialists most in demand for the implementation of digitization projects.

One of the main reasons for this is that cloud service providers always provide the required resources according to the customer's needs - and they open up all options for simple and rapid scaling.

This is an approach that essentially contradicts the traditional concept of the system house, where business is almost always associated with hardware sales. Cloud service providers, on the other hand, operate according to the "pay-per-use" principle, in which the customer only pays for what he uses or consumes. In addition, there is the option of testing pilot projects in the public cloud - with little effort and cost. In contrast, a system house almost always supplies complex complete solutions with fixed amounts of computing power and storage.

Ultimately, however, this thwarts the promises of digitization, which should above all be fast, simple and efficient. And this is precisely where cloud service providers play to their full potential in automating the solutions they offer. In addition, customers are advised to use standardised services, for example for billing or monitoring. One effect of this is the radically simplified administration effort thanks to the right cloud partner.

Conclusion with facts. And a personal assessment

Having special expertise at your side is also a financial advantage for cloud projects. With regard to a public cloud migration, for example, one must consider investment costs (CapEx) against operational costs (OpEx) by analyzing the total cost of ownership (TCO).

And the most common cause of unnecessary effort is the lack of diligence on the part of developers and admins. The cloud makes it very easy to activate fresh resources via self-service - but this can quickly lead to losing track.

The same applies to the topic of "Security". A distinction is made here between the security of the provided cloud (security of the cloud) and security in the cloud – i.e. all data, applications, etc. that users can configure themselves. Important: What you store as a user or company in rented cloud services always belongs to you!

In addition to services and solutions for migration, training and managed services, a cloud partner such as the specialised service provider also offers the opportunity to test individual business ideas - i.e. to implement pilot projects in the public cloud environment. These pilots in the public cloud environment hardly cost any initial investments.

And if the business case proves successful, it can be scaled up within a short time.

In conclusion, my personal opinion on the "duality" of Cloud Partners, such as specialised Cloud service providers and broadly positioned IT system integrators, is that both realms have their justifications today. The near future will likely continue to evolve towards Hybrid Cloud concepts, and for this approach, a small element of hardware is always necessary. In the long run, I am confident that Cloud will play a pivotal role in driving digitization. Competent and dedicated Cloud Partners are well-prepared to ensure the secure realisation of your digital plans in this evolving landscape.


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