Microsoft recently published a somewhat confusing blog post outlining its new Azure pricing model. While the content was difficult to parse, one thing jumped out from the post that's worth exploring further: Microsoft wants Cloud Service Providers (CSPs) to play a bigger role in helping SMBs manage their presence in the Microsoft cloud.
While a self-service option is still available for those folks who are inclined to go that independent route, the overall feeling from Redmond was that most SMBs don't have the skills or the inclination to go their own way, and if they are going to succeed in the cloud, they might need a little hand-holding.
There is some irony in this approach. After all, the cloud was, supposed to simplify the complex and democratize IT. Anyone with a credit card and modicum of technical savvy was supposed to be able to self-serve — buy the infrastructure and software they needed without technical guidance.
What Microsoft is saying with this new pricing strategy is that perhaps it was overstating the value proposition (at least, in the Microsoft cloud). Maybe a the owner of a dry cleaning operation in Peoria or a restaurant chain in Pittsburgh might be better off concentrating on their core business and paying a professional to deal with heavy lifting of running their compute operations in the cloud.
Shifting views on getting expert help
Perhaps it is an acknowlegement that technology is always going to be difficult for some folks to deal with. Regardless of whether you keep a bunch of beige boxes in a room onsite, or you have virtual resources in the cloud, it still requires some measure of expertise to get those machines up and running and to keep them going, regardless of your compute model.
That expert, the consultant, can run that side of your business for you. When you think about it, most business owners don't care to worry about the technical side of the business. They want to focus on serving their customers and improving their bottom line. That's really what businesses are supposed to do.
And while it may be true that every business moving forward is going to have to be a digital business, it doesn't mean that every owner of a small-to-medium sized business is going to have an IT staff dedicated to making that happen.
Sure, there are options for bigger organizations, and for the aformentioned independent-minded SMB, but overall, Microsoft is pushing you toward a CSP, because in its infinite wisdom, it thinks paying an expert is the most sensible way to go for most SMBs.
That's good news for CSPs, but it's also a concession that maybe the cloud isn't as simple as we once thought.
Photo by Alex on Flickr. Used under CC by 2.0 license.