Monday, February 18, 2013

Open Consulting: Announcing EucaStart 2.0

This blog highlights significant structural changes we are making to our EucaStart consulting engagements. We believe these changes will enable customers to get a greater return on their Eucalyptus cloud investments, move into production more quickly, and have greater confidence in their cloud infrastructure. We also hope that consulting companies will review the methodology and work with us to continue to improve the process for our joint customers.

Note: The content below is under internal review and subject to change.

EucaStart 1.0 Review

In Eucalyptus consulting, the EucaStart was a three or four day onsite engagement composed of three main components:
  • A day of knowledge transfer on Eucalyptus,
  • An architectural review and planning session based on customer equipment, and 
  • A day or two spent actually installing and configuring a Eucalyptus cloud.
The goal was to provide a simple, quick way for customers to get up to speed and get their journey into the cloud rolling as quickly as possible for both proof-of-concept and production deployments.

Something seems out of order...

We did not invent this methodology. It is successfully replicated across hundreds of software companies all around the globe. The problem with this approach for Eucalyptus, however, is that cloud computing is more complex than the average software deployment project, and thus more prone to technical challenges that can be difficult to overcome in such a short time period. While EucaStart engagements have been successful by and large, we have suspected for a while that they could be improved and provide an even better customer experience. Thus, I am excited to announce (and in the spirit of our new open strategy, publicize) EucaStart 2.0 - a better way to cloud.


EucaStart 2.0 - Ensure Every Customer is a Successful Customer



So what is coming as part of this upgraded service? For starters, we are no longer looking at cloud deployments as a single-shot, multi-day engagement. Instead, we are going to take our customers on a well-defined journey towards cloud, and we are going to hold their hand the entire way. We are also going to create checkpoints along the way that ensure a customer is really ready to deploy and use a cloud before we build one for them. Right now we are looking at a six-stage process (seven, if you count pre-sales activity) that will involve all of the teams that are part of Eucalyptus Customer Success - Sales Engineering, Professional Services, and Support. It's a work-in-progress, but here's how we're looking at it at the moment (again, subject to change, relabeling, etc. in the future):



A Look at the Stages


In Stage 1, a EucaStart 2.0 client will have one or more employees enrolled in one of the live-online Design, Build, and Manage courses offered by Eucalyptus Professional Services. This is a three-day class that is designed to take a customer from a cursory understanding of cloud to the point where they can install and manage a proof-of-concept or small production deployment. This will provide the customer with both theory and hands-on experience necessary to help us help them make good decisions when implementing Eucalyptus in production. This stage replaces the onsite knowledge transfer component that was part of the original EucaStart offering.

In Stage 2, a EucaStart 2.0 client will participate in one or more conference calls with a Eucalyptus Cloud Architect to discuss the purpose and intended use of the cloud. Topics discussed here will be architecture and design, hardware choices and trade-offs, storage considerations, and planning for future growth of the deployment. In addition, a thorough overview of datacenter operations, hardware monitoring and maintenance, and other best practices will be reviewed so that we know a customer has what they need in place to support their private cloud prior to deploying one in their environment. This stage replaces and dramatically enhances the architecture review and planning session that was part of the original EucaStart offering.

  • Note: As the diagram indicates, Eucalyptus Sales Engineers and the customer may elect to simultaneously participate in one or more Eucalyptus proof-of-concept projects in parallel with Stages 0-2.

In Stage 3, a EucaStart 2.0 client will receive a summary of the architectural discussions, including diagrams and a bill of materials (BOM), assuming they are buying new equipment for their production cloud. It is expected that the customer will then make their cloud hardware purchases at that point, and will purchase what is on the BOM. Once the hardware arrives, the customer will set it up, including all networking, storage, servers, and operating systems - again, per the specifications set out in the architectural summary.


In Stage 4, a member of the Eucalyptus Customer Success team from either Sales Engineering, Professional Services, or Support will perform a pre-installation check of the customer's environment to ensure that the customer has followed all specifications in the architectural summary document, and that the environment is behaving as expected. They will also review once again with the customer to ensure that datacenter operations, monitoring, and management procedures are known and in place prior to cloud deployment.

In Stage 5, a Eucalyptus Consultant will perform installation and configuration of the customer's Eucalyptus cloud. This will be expected to take one to two days. The customer will have the option of having the Eucalyptus Consultant onsite during the install, or once again, this part of the engagement can be performed remotely in order to avoid incurring T&E expenses. It is worth noting that this is the first time in the EucaStart 2.0 process that anyone from the Customer Success team other than a Sales Engineer will have traveled to the customer's site. If a customer wants to avoid travel-related expenses, this part of the engagement can be remote as well.

Finally, in Stage 6, the Eucalyptus Consultant will perform a live hand-off to a member of the Eucalyptus Support team. Prior to the Consultant signing off, the Support team member will run through a validation exercise to ensure that the cloud has been configured and is operating properly. Once this validation occurs, the EucaStart 2.0 process is complete, and the customer then transitions into the EucaManage phase, which is aided by Eucalyptus Support.


The biggest downside we see to this is that it intentionally slows down cloud deployments. For example, we expect that a customer will wait to purchase hardware until a thorough discussion with a Eucalyptus Cloud Architect has taken place (unless, of course, they plan to deploy their cloud on existing equipment, understanding the trade-offs involved if that equipment is not tuned for their use case). We expect that a customer will invest the three days to complete the full Design, Build, and Manage course. We expect the customer to allow a thorough pre-installation readiness check prior to Eucalyptus cloud deployment. On the flip side, we expect customers will end the process with a functional cloud deployment, on the right hardware, with the right knowledge needed in order to keep it up and running. That's our definition of success, and we believe our customers will appreciate the extra care and attention.


Proposed Pricing

As for costs for this engagement, right now we are looking at keeping it the same as the current EucaStart (talk to your sales rep, and let me know if you need one.) While this is significantly more involved from a Professional Services standpoint, the fact that most if not all of the engagement can be performed remotely for most customers means we can manage more than one of these at a time per Professional Services resource. If that turns out not to be true we may have to increase the price, but I suspect the extra charge will be minimal compared to the value gained from the process. If you are a bargain shopper then, you might want to get this booked sooner rather than later... :)

So what do you think? If you have been part of a EucaStart in the past, do you like this flow better? Does this make you more or less likely to engage with us to help you get your cloud up and running? If you are a consulting company, can you use this framework to help deploy customer clouds?

I want to hear from you - love it or hate it. I can be reached at jason.eden@eucalyptus.com.

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