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Subscriptions, at the heart of all cloud services, are like software licenses used to be, except on steroids. Procuring them, tracking them, staying in compliance, and recycling them from departed employees to new are all major challenges often due simply to a lack of tools. Getting them and keeping them under control are a great addition to service portfolios that easily expand a partner’s scope.

Software SKU sprawl. It was something we lived with. Courses were offered to train people in the art of divining which SKUs needed to be purchased for a particular application configuration. Server software; did you want the SMB version? Enterprise? Enterprise Pro? Enterprise Premium? How many users? You also needed to purchase client access licenses (CALs).

Some resellers hired “experts” just for the purpose of configuring software purchases. Not configuring the software. That was easy. No, configuring the array of SKUs required the experts.

Going from Grid to Cube

We all remember the grids we received from the largest software providers to help us select the right SKU based on the combination of users and devices.

In the cloud, be prepared to add another dimension. The model for assembling cloud subscriptions is more a cube than a grid. Like three-dimensional chess compared to the traditional game.

You begin by determining which cloud provider you need to accommodate your applications. Beyond the big players, AWS, Azure, Google, and IBM, there are untold thousands of others. Each has their own protocols, their own specifications, their own characteristics. Choosing your cloud is a whole new science unto itself. Here are some of the subscriptions and considerations you need to configure and contract.

  • In today’s growing multi-cloud environment, you may have more than one provider to price for!
  • Having made your choices, it’s time to identify each of the elements you’re going to contract with your subscriptions. If only it were “the cloud” you subscribed to. That was a fantasy, a hallucination.
  • You need to subscribe to compute service for processing of your applications and data.
  • The data needs to be stored somewhere so you need to subscribe to a specific storage program and capacity.
  • Data is usually managed by a database engine. You have your choice from dozens, even hundreds of them.
  • You also need to contract the network you’ll be using to manage your cloud environment.
  • If you plan to use application software, you’ll need to license that, too.
  • Given that your cloud is your new datacenter, you’ll need services to run it. More licenses.

You thought this was easy?

Next Stop – Virtual Machines

Just about everything that happens in the cloud happens on a virtual machine (VM). Each VM is considered a “server instance.” This can correctly be interpreted to mean that VMs share characteristics with physical servers. Some may be configured for highly transactional applications like ERP. Others may be structured to handle processing of “big data” entities. Still others may handle such complex processes that the only way to do it is to keep the entire database in RAM. Others are simply file managers.

Here’s a sample partial list of available VM configurations from one cloud provider:

  • Entry-level economical VMs for dev/test
  • Economical burstable VMs
  • General purpose compute
  • Protect data in use
  • Optimized for in-memory hyper-threaded applications
  • Compute optimized virtual machines
  • Memory and storage optimized virtual
  • High Performance Computing virtual machines
  • Storage optimized virtual machines
  • Memory optimized virtual machines
  • Largest memory optimized virtual machines
  • GPU enabled virtual machines

Each has its own price and its own SKU, and each is configurable, creating even more SKUs.

Which Pricing Program Makes Sense?

Somebody went into overtime coming up with rules for pricing programs. As usual, many are based on duration of commitment. There’s a discount for paying up front. There are even discounts when you surrender the right to ever make any kind of adjustments on your program. Discounts if you use cloud only during specific times of day. Flash sales when they have spare capacity to sell. Even discount programs just for development and testing.

There are reserved instances and convertible reserved instances, hybrid use discounts, committed use discounts, and sustained use discounts, but be careful because these may be applied automatically.

How would you like your storage? Object? Block? File System? Data Warehouse? Check to see if there are egress charges, API request changes, and other fees. Would you like fries with that?

Going Over the Cliff: Services

Think we’re nearly done? Think again. There are hundreds upon hundreds of services you can take advantage of. Due to space considerations, some the categories they fall into include:

  • Application Integration
  • Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning
  • API Management
  • Blockchain
  • Business Productivity
  • Compliance
  • Compute
  • Containers
  • Content Delivery
  • Data Analytics
  • Databases
  • Desktop & Application Streaming
  • Developer Tools
  • DevOps
  • Healthcare & Lifesciences
  • Hybrid & Multi-Cloud
  • Identity & Access
  • Internet of Things
  • Management Tools
  • Media & Gaming
  • Migration Services
  • Mixed Reality
  • Mobile Services
  • Networking
  • Operations
  • Security & Identity
  • Serverless Computing
  • Storage
  • User Protection Services
  • Virtual Reality
  • Web

Park an average of a dozen or so services under each of these and you get an idea of how many different SKUs you’re potentially dealing with when you go to purchase your subscriptions.

But Wait! There’s more…

We’ve just addressed the major cloud infrastructure and platform providers. Then we start to look at software-as-a-service with programs for the home user, the school user, the small business user, the large business user, with or without telephony integration, additional storage, and more.

If you thought the transition to cloud robbed you of the value you bring to clients, think again. There’s huge value in being able to wrangle all this detail and integrate the various services. That’s why Cloud Service Providers (CSP) are still on the rise!