Thankfully, we’re seeing the end of the era when the use of the term ‘cloud’ was basically the wrong terminology for provision of a network server. We’re now witnessing the genuine concept of a business or consumer’s own cloud and the term is applicable in its true sense to a variety of services.
The sheer scale of different devices through which people access and share information has been a major factor in this boom in a true (and critically, unified) cloud concept, and it is this ecosystem expansion which presents the biggest opportunity for Communications Service Providers (CSPs).
This opportunity isn’t solely for those providing services to everyday consumers. At the enterprise level, a cloud which allows constant access, the synching of data and files with colleagues, and the fundamental security necessary is a highly compelling proposition to business.
Critical for the move to the cloud however is access – there is not much use in having all your information stored remotely if you can’t get to it. This is where CSPs can play a key role, and can differentiate on quality and reliability rather than just simply price.
Competing on price is not conducive to a long-term success story, as witnessed in the broadband market, where the industry’s growth years were centred on price-based competition. However, this was when bandwidth was used for small packet files and not high volume content such as video streaming, with the result that ISPs now have to deliver massive amounts of content for little financial reward.
Differentiation through quality however relies on companies delivering on promises. It sounds obvious, but for many companies the drive to own every element of the cloud value chain could diminish their core offerings in the process. For CSPs there is the challenge, and the delicately balanced argument, as to whether they should strive to become fairly good at most value chain deliverables or instead become superb at one or two and stand out as a valuable best-of-breed asset within a wider success story.
Furthermore, companies traditionally outside the sector may think they can deliver operator services within a cloud infrastructure and seek to gain market share. The result could be that everyone delivers an overall poor service whilst simultaneously devaluing their core products.
Shifting the mind-set to quality over price will ensure that only the best and most able companies will meet customer demands in the highly competitive cloud environment. Inherent within this is the need for guarantees over quality and service. An argument, surely, for vendors to specialise in what they are good at.
Underpinning this quality assurance should be a robust back office and transparent visibility into service delivery – without these, how can a customer be confident they are getting value for money? Service Level Agreements set standards which form the foundations of a successful contract, and provide back up to both parties in ensuring targets and quality levels are adhered to.
The cloud opportunity is one the CSPs are well suited to become an integral part of (and should reap the significant rewards from), but this won’t happen if quality is not placed at the centre of customer service.
By delivering high quality, reliable services –starting with the back office - those with a rich heritage in the industry will be able to meet (and go beyond) high customer expectations. This will help to ensure that competitors without Telecoms expertise) will struggle and the CSPs will remain the critical factor in delivering cloud-based network services.