Taking a look back on Cloud Service Level Agreements (SLA) from approximately a year ago and seeing what has changed for the enterprise. The SLA is nothing new and have existed in information technology for many, many years. I can tell you firsthand that SLA remains critical to the selling proposition. The questions on uptime, outages and compensation do not have easy answers. It would be nice to see an industry standard on what 99.999% actually means.

The SLA is now out in the open to all users of a cloud utility. There is still an lingering question of uptime. Two significant changes in the past year have been the introduction of new cloud services, like Windows Azure, and the mass adoption of Twitter to report uptime experience in real time.You still do not have a meter or gauge detailing realtime usage or uptime. Concerns still remain around what actually constitutes an outage? A period of time? As a client, how would you prove it? If there was an outage and the client could prove it, how does the client receive compensation? These questions can be answered in as many ways as there are cloud or cloud application providers. It will be interesting to see how improvements to the cloud improve SLAs in 2010.

Amazon AWS announced Spot Instances of EC2 a few weeks back. I have been very interested in this concept. Auction pricing should be natural for the cloud computing utility model. They will be selling spare capacity from moment to moment. The cloud is attractive since servers often site idle. Sharing that resource makes sense. “Spots” are an extension of the concept to keep AWS at full utilization. Win for AWS and customers. I look forward to seeing how this play out during 2010!

Great read on the Spot Market by Jonathan Boutelle, cofounder of Slideshare @ Gaming the Amazon Spot Market

More information on the AWS Blog: Amazon Web Services Blog

Interesting reading. Worth checking this out. Some “real” posts coming soon.

Economist.com: Cloud Computing Debate

Solid read on the state of the cloud @ Fortune Brainstorm Tech: A kinder, gentler cloud.

Check it out.

Randy Bias’ Cloudscaling blog has a must read for anyone interested in Cloud Computing: The ‘Cloud’ Is NOT Outsourcing.

Check it out.

A follow up from last month’s post: Cloudy in Seattle. Azure has released their business model, pricing and official release date. Mid-November is still the official word for the commercial release.

Check: Azure Services Overview Pricing & Licensing Overview

Official Press Release: Microsoft Unveils Windows Azure Platform Business Model, Bringing New Revenue Opportunities to Partners Worldwide

TechCrunch: Microsoft’s Azure Gets A Business Model And An Official Release Date

Additional Azure Resources:
Steve Marx on Azure for Developers: Windows Azure: Cloud Computing in Application Services

Microsoft Channel 9 from pdc2008: pdc2008 Azure posts

Finally getting back to Cloudforce Seattle and the tons of info learned last week. The message was clearly that Salesforce.com is not just applications. Cloudforce Seattle was all about the platform moving to the cloud. I have a notion that there will be several “clouds” in the future. Clearly, Salesforce.com aims to be the enterprise cloud.

Taking an educated guess, but if I was employed by Salesforce.com I would see the cloud(s) through the following lens:

  • Amazon AWS: Raw horsepower for the cloud. BTW, a partner.
  • Google Apps: Powering the desktop cloud. BTW, a partner.
  • Windows Azure: Microsoft Redux. Not serious for the enterprise. Find every hole and angle to exploit.
  • Facebook: Pure social play. Not a competitor until they are a revenue threat.
  • IBM & everyone else: Legacy vertical stacks. Too many holes to exploit. Focus on Salesforce.com advantage for each opportunity.

The Cloud Model will adhere to 3 themes: Multi-tenant, pay-as-you-go and elastic. The cloud is multi-tenant. Period. That is the only way to scale and offer the elasticity that the model requires. Without multi-tenant, it is merely remote hosting of previous application server provider (ASP) models. Pay-as-you-go is an interesting concept. Gone are the days of large outlays of capital and then turn-and-burn for the ROI. The Cloud allows for modest investment upfront. You can try a service easily. The main objection has been and will be “lock-in”. Prospects do not like the notion that you will host and somehow own their data. The industry media has not helped this notion. The elasticity is the value in the cloud for both parties. The relative cost of adding more capacity to the customer is cheap and the price the customer pays for added capacity is as well. Make not mistake though, the old days of huge margin for enterprise software providers is long gone. Smaller Cloud providers will find themselves up against increased barriers to entry.

The business value proposition will be around 3 themes as well: No capital expense, modest operating expense and scales with your business. No capital expense has been, is and will be a huge selling point. Companies finance departments may not understand this concept. Capital budgets are different from operating budgets. How much operating budget is based on usage and a lot of customers will have difficulty with this pay-as-you-go concept. They want to plan usage and that in the past has been done on a capital outlay. Cloud customers will need to get better at capacity planning their cloud usage. Salesforce.com and other cloud providers will need to spend the time to educate that usage is the new pricing.

This does next to zero for the sales cycle though. It is still as long and laborious. I speak from experience.

Immediately post-Cloudforce Seattle, I had identified 5 highlights:

  • Visual Force, Model–view–controller (MVC) framework for custom user interfaces
  • Mobile Lite, Free (for most) Salesforce.com mobile application
  • Force.com Sites and Free Edition
  • Integrated Content Library
  • Genius, Think iTunes Genius for Salesforce collaboration

Visual Force provides an MVC framework for custom user interfaces as a service. MVC (Model, view, controller) is a standard framework for development. Since most user interface development is done through this type of framework, it is an advantage. Less re-tooling for development staff, less hurdles to clear from IT. The MVC framework carries over to Force.com Sites and will allow for a rich visual experience. Smart move.

Mobile Lite and the Mobile product has a mantra: “Write once, run anywhere” to iPhone, Blackberry and Windows Mobile. I have not been able to look into this further, but I know first-hand the difficulties of going cross-platform in the mobile space. “It ain’t easy.” Mobile Lite is a free for most versions of Salesforce.com and provides a lot of bang for Sales. It can take call logs from the phone and update Salesforce. What Sales would not want to have to make sure that his or her activity was logged? The mobile development angle on Force.com is intriguing and I will dive into that deeper.

Force.com Site and Free Edition were the stars of the event. If there was one point they wanted you to leave with it was Force.com Sites. From the impressive Starbucks/Appirio demo to the equally impressive GameCraze demo site by EDL Consulting, Salesforce.com wants to provide the world with the capability of customer facing systems on the same platform. Free Edition is a call to developers to an application vendors to test the waters of the enterprise cloud. The barrier to entry cannot get much lower than free. I would expect to see some interesting startups come from this.

The Integrated Content Library was just plain cool. It allows tagging, ratings, comments and search capabilities of market-facing content. Sales no longer needs to search for the best deck through hundreds of e-mail threads. A user can then assemble a custom deck for the opportunity. The real coolness is in the tracking of the sent content to the prospect. Sales can generate a custom e-mail through Salesforce.com to include a link to the newly created custom content. Tracking based in the e-mail and link will tell Sales, if the email and link have been opened. For Sales, this is pure gold.

Additionally there is a Genius feature that can best be described as iTunes Genius for Salesforce.com. It allows Sales to find experts within the company who have closed similar deals through matching criteria. Deal size, product or owner you name it. To work well, Sales must be disciplined which is difficult to at best. It will be interesting to see what customers Salesforce.com offers as “Super Geniuses”.

There has been a lot of press about this event being in Microsoft and Amazon’s backyard. This tour did not start and will not end in Seattle. Seattle was chosen for effect, no doubt. Salesforce.com means to be the enterprise cloud. Period. If I am right, hire me. If I am wrong, then I will be down to one reader — which will still not be my wife.

Happy Monday.

At Cloudforce Seattle yesterday, Salesforce.com gave the best explanation of why you need to monitor social media for CRM, especially in Support/Services.

Your customers have already moved there.

Do they go to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn first to find answers? If so, how do you monitor and answer those questions? Are you able to create and reuse content? Being a Salesforce.com event, they demonstrated some impressive ways to monitor Twitter and create self-help content for use by CSRs and customers. If your customers are already there, you need to be there too. As the rapid rise of Twitter shows, you will have to be more nimble and react quicker in the future.

Attended Cloudforce Seattle today. Tons of great information and still processing it all. Usual Microsoft jabs by Marc Benioff, but nothing you likely have not muttered yourself. Lots of love for Starbucks and Amazon AWS from the Salesforce CEO.

Some highlights:

  • Visual Force, Model–view–controller (MVC) framework for custom user interfaces
  • Mobile Lite, Free (for most) Salesforce.com mobile application
  • Force.com Sites and Free Edition
  • Integrated Content Library
  • Genius, Think iTunes Genius for Salesforce collaboration

I will dive into these and other topics when I catch my breath.

Recently, I had a problem with my Nikon D70. Over 4 years of use without any issues and then the CF card reset without any warning. Some important pictures were gone. Or so I thought. I was not happy.

I came across this Lifehacker post Five Best Free Data Recovery Tools and gave Recuva a shot. Problem solved. The price was right too (free). It recovered the lost pictures on the card as well as several from years past. It also works with hard drives, memory cards and USB drives. Happy again.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, try Recuva.