When Big Businesses Collaborate in the Cloud, Rapid Innovation Will Follow

Most businesses now accept that the cloud is no longer bleeding edge technology, but has evolved into a practical solution to common business challenges. “The cloud” has even permeated pop culture. And whether the future of cloud computing pivots on managed services, data bursts to the fog or commodity hosting, one thing is clear: the cloud is here to stay.

But it’s also clear many businesses aren’t completely comfortable yet. Transitioning workloads from dedicated on-premises hardware to the cloud is still a challenge, and managing that process can be unpredictable.

To help ease that transition, leaders in this rapidly shifting industry should consider synergistic approaches to research, development and go to market strategies.

It is time for cloud competitors to seriously consider collaborative efforts.

What is Competitive Collaboration?

Google, Amazon, Rackspace, Softlayer, Microsoft and others are carving the path for the majority of business to transition to the cloud.

While the hosting path is splitting into managed and unmanaged services, the market’s evolution, regardless of service levels, is demanding standardization and rapid innovation. Businesses needing to transition workloads efficiently, as well as converging workloads, create explosive demand for cloud adoption. We see this every day in the Rackspace Partner Program as our channel members strive to meet their clients’ cloud demands.

This rapid evolution, coupled with inherently short product life cycles in the cloud industry means competitive collaboration should be a key component of market leaders’ strategies. Competitive collaboration means market leaders pooling resources to drive innovation for a short period of time, then dissolving the partnership and pushing innovative outcomes toward profitable solutions in-house.

Tremendous capital investment and expert human resource requirements coupled with aggressive time constraints make teamwork more appealing to reduce time to market and create industry standards (resulting in rapid access to broad annuity revenue sources).

Cost sharing through economies of scale and setting industry wide standards (implementation processes, transition efficiencies, configurations benchmarks, etc.) will be key as market adoption evolves, where repeatable workload transition processes must be developed by cloud leaders in order to penetrate the market. These procedures and consistent workload transition plans will allow for scalable market saturation of the cloud.

Dynamics that drive Competitive Collaboration

We understand competition is natural, and should be nurtured in the fast paced technology industry. But temporary collaboration among companies who normally compete benefits the market and those who choose participate.

When selecting a competitor to collaborate with on cloud initiatives, choose with care. Mismatched business practices can undermine efforts and stifle the benefits of competitive collaboration.

As with any relationship, level setting should be a priority. Initiate conversations with these key ideas top of mind:

  1. Enter with a clear set of strategic goals
  2. Be transparent about desired outcomes
  3. Build an ethos of open idea sharing and seeking mutual benefits
  4. Cooperation has its limits; be realistic

Learning from partners during the open window period is vital – capture the capabilities of your alliances, learn from established best practices, build skills and disseminate those newly acquired skills throughout your organization.

Management of the partnership between competitors is the single most important component for both companies if they’re going to benefit fully from competitive collaboration. Companies looking to partner might consider using an OpenStack platform, an inherently transparent platform on which cloud companies can build foundational relationships. These dyadic relationships can later evolve into a dynamic collaborative relationship.

Benefits to Cloud Consumers

Through collaborative efforts, competitors can begin to establish a set of industry standards, allowing consumers to benefit from apples-to-apples comparisons, likely resulting in total cost of ownership (TCO) calculators that result in meaningful comparison matrices. The industry can also expect to witness accelerated technological advancements and innovation — when big businesses collaborate, rapid innovation will inevitably follow.

Competitive divides between managed cloud and commodity cloud are growing; businesses need to understand which is right for their needs. Those who don’t have either the in-house expertise or the inclination to develop it are wise to choose a managed cloud solution, for efficiency and to guarantee uptime.

Competitive collaboration plus partnerships through channel programs up and down the stack drive value for end customers. In order to drive success with the majority of the SMB through Enterprise market, we all need to consider partnerships.

Rising to the top of the cloud market will be challenging for any business, but collaborative approaches to research, innovation and market strategies will pull the entire market skyward. Challenges will only increase as cloud federation evolves and the velocity of cloud adoption accelerates.

Liz Thompson was a Partner Marketing Manager, responsible for programmatic management of the partner ecosystem at Rackspace. She was named one of The Channel Company’s 2015 CRN® Women of the Channel, which honors outstanding female executives across vendor channel organizations.

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