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Cloud Expo: Article

Cloud Computing Procurement: As Easy as Remembering RFP

Any technology or service should be evaluated with a good set of criteria

When it comes to procurement, any technology or service should be evaluated with a good set of criteria. Executive decisions should not be weighted solely on a single selection criterion such as price. This applies to any cloud computing service as well.

The twelve criteria listed below (see Chart 1) forces executives to take a broader review of the many elements of the total cloud computing service, and not just price. Each criteria starts with an R, F, or P which makes it easy to remember the total framework for the Yardstick for Technology Procurement (RFP).

Chart 1: Yardstick for Technology Procurement (RFP)

RELIABILITY

At what percentage of reliability is the service? 99.9% 99.99? 99.995? How is this measured? What costs are associated with increasing reliability? (Cost/Benefit Analysis)

REDUNDANCY

Can the system survive a major disaster or is there a single point-of-failure? Does the vendor have a system that can handle mission-critical applications or is that better left off the cloud?

REDUCED OPERATING COSTS

Every system is going to proclaim they save operating expenses. Is there a significant difference between vendors' products?

FLEXIBILITY

How flexible is the basic platform to accommodate changes and/or additions to the initial applications?

FUNCTIONALITY

What does the cloud provide as to capabilities? Are these functionalities easily adaptable to changes in the business?

FAMILIARITY

Every system is sold as "user-friendly" so that is not a good criterion to use. Familiarity is a better term to understand how the average user navigates into the cloud and is comfortable with utilizing the applications.

PERFORMANCE

Most systems are talking about performance in areas of scalability, elasticity, and other criteria, are there any unique performance capabilities tied to one vendor or vendors?

PRICING

Price is still a consideration in any purchase, but now is only a part of the evaluation criteria instead of being 95% of the decision.

PERSONNEL

Which people will the user still need to have on premise? A liaison person? A systems administrator? An SLA administrator? Any other resources?

RESOURCES

Are all resources off-site or are there requirements that might include on-site physical resources? What are they?

REALITIES

What can be done with the cloud and what cannot be done? This sounds like a simple question yet many do not seek the answer to this and immediately look at the cloud as a "universal solution" to all their computing issues.

RISKS

What are the risks in going to a third party instead of keeping an application in-house? What about Intellectual Property or proprietary applications being put into the hands of a third party?

Source: James Carlini

There are many other questions to ask under each of the R, F, and P categories. This opens up discussions as to what's internally important to your enterprise and not what was important to the organization down the street that just installed a cloud application in their environment.

If you go through the review process using this twelve-step assessment tool, your selection will be much more well defined and "price" will still be a factor, but not the only factor in your decision.

Be Selective
Some say computing will become a utility, I disagree. Many organizations have proprietary applications that are so intertwined with their core business, they cannot pull them out and give them to a third party to operate. An example is the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and their trading platform. Would they really want to give their electronic trading platform, a mission-critical application that is part of their strategic competitive advantage out to a third party to manage?

If an application within your enterprise qualifies as a candidate for cloud computing, you should ensure the right service is selected by using all the criteria that has been mentioned and not just price.

This yardstick's focus on selection criteria has been used for clients throughout the years as well as integrated into the Executive Masters courses I taught at Northwestern University.

•   •   •

Copyright 2012 - James Carlini

More Stories By James Carlini

James Carlini, MBA, a certified Infrastructure Consultant, keynote speaker and former award-winning Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, has advised on mission-critical networks. Clients include the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, GLOBEX, and City of Chicago’s 911 Center. An expert witness in civil and federal courts on network infrastructure, he has worked with AT&T, Sprint and others.

Follow daily Carlini-isms at www.twitter.com/JAMESCARLINI

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