When AWS launched in 2006, no one had anticipated that storing data and providing computing-related services over the internet would be so important. Over time, Google entered the market and was quickly followed by Azure, Oracle, IBM, Alibaba, and Tencent.
Now that cloud computing and storage have become mainstream, companies are being created in the public cloud.
Although a lot of workloads are still run in data centers, the public cloud has matured in terms of functionality and maturity, and can support any type of workload that a company wants to run. Amazon CEO Andy Jassy says the cloud still accounts for less than 5% of global IT spending, and so, there's still a long way to go.
In spite of the fact that cloud providers dominate the industry with their feature-rich platforms, end users are still facing many problems. The adoption of this technology has led to a host of problems such as cost, security, compliance, privacy, access control, and many others.
Keeping Up with the Cloud Through Integrations
In addition to cloud providers, there have been fast-growing firms in the data warehousing and enterprise database space. Data warehousing companies such as Databricks, Snowflake, and DataStax aim to address problems such as security management, cost control, and compliance management.
Solutions like these must be run on top of a cloud provider to solve problems for the end-user. As cloud providers and vendors recognize the need to develop innovative solutions on their platforms, they have opened up a partner ecosystem and third-party vendor ecosystem. Integration partnerships and third-party integration services provide the ability to address a greater number of use cases and provide a more connected experience for users.
While building an integration solution on the cloud can be lucrative and open vendors up to a large market, there are some important things to consider before building into this space.
What To Keep In Mind When Integrating with Cloud Providers
1. Utilize Cloud Provider API and Infrastructure to Build Integrations
Native forms of integrations are supported by the cloud providers. As a result of using the platforms' existing data sources, fetching data points or metrics becomes easier. A vendor can also leverage all the potential methods of the API, which ultimately provides end users with a better experience and greater functionality.
Some cloud provider platforms also offer resources to ensure customers are following best practices for utilizing their platform and APIs. AWS Trusted Advisor, for example, helps customers follow the best practices of AWS by using checks and rules against their infrastructure and resources.
A similar feature of Google Cloud Platform is its Recommendations Hub, which allows customers to optimize their costs according to best practices.
In addition to APIs, vendors should avail themselves of platform services that provide strong functionality. For complex solutions like Kubernetes or managed services, for example, cloud providers offer integrations like AWS Container Insights and GCP offers GKE Usage Metering to track the cost of the namespaces and labels. Both providers expose APIs for interacting with these default solutions. A company that is building a security offering or a cost platform may benefit from leveraging the data from these solutions as opposed to building it all from scratch.
Related Content: APIs and Integrations Explained for Non-Technical Roles
2. Take Advantage of Listing Integrations on the Cloud Marketplaces
With cloud adoption on the rise & cloud end-user spending projected to reach nearly $500 Billion this year, utilizing cloud marketplaces exposes vendors to hundreds of new potential buyers. Using a marketplace also simplifies and speeds up the sales process for both the buyer and seller, and exposes vendors to hundreds of new potential buyers.
A typical purchase without a marketplace involves many phases, such as negotiation, integration, compatibility, and so on. The marketplace serves as a middleman by simplifying the process required for both sellers and buyers.
Cloud providers and customers alike often prefer that their customers purchase services from marketplaces since they can take advantage of committed spend and other discounts they have with their cloud provider. Therefore, getting a solution listed on a marketplace reduces the long sales cycles, addresses customers' needs, and unlocks a new channel of growth.
3. Consider Enrolling In Partner Programs
Almost all cloud providers have a partner program, or a network of partners who resell their services, build on top of them, or provide support to their larger customers. For cloud providers, it is difficult to provide support and services to their vast customer base, so they rely on partners to do this.
Partner programs offer access to cloud providers’ expertise, new launches, exclusive discounts, and certifications. It is highly recommended for vendors to take advantage of the partner program to accelerate their adoption in the market.
Related Content: Leveraging Partner Data & Tracking Partner Influence on Sales
4. Establish Security Measures and Stay Compliant
In spite of countless policies, rules, and enforcements, cloud security remains vulnerable to attacks and breaches. Having sensitive and critical access to customers' workloads makes it even more difficult for the vendors on the cloud to ensure data security.
Security breaches affect the workloads of customers, and the impact radius increases depending on the level of access granted. The security of external environments is extremely important. Solutions must be secure by default and should always use least privilege access.
As for compliance, vendors should adhere to industry standards and certifications. Depending upon the type of information (financial, health care) they host, this becomes even more important, ands as data protection laws continue to change, getting ready for SOC 2, HIPAA, and GDPR compliance is necessary.
5. Stay Informed
Building a platform-dependent solution comes with some natural risks. It might be related to technology, platform dependency, and management of channel distribution. Unlike the latter, which depends on execution, the former concerns can be addressed by establishing processes for staying updated on the status of cloud platforms.
Platforms, APIs, and SDKs are often fundamentally changed, and cloud providers may retire certain services, consolidate them into larger groups, or may introduce breaking changes. Vendors have to respond faster in situations like these due to the fact that their complete solution is built on their platform.
One such example is Google shutting down Universal Analytics and replacing it with Google Analytics 4. Although this announcement was expected and a sufficient buffer has been provided, many products that have been built with UA are now using GA4.
Similarly, AWS replaced Detailed Billing Reports with Cost and Usage reports in 2019. This affected many cost management platforms that were built on AWS.
Following cloud platform status pages, API documentation, and the industry thought leaders in the space, as well as staying updated with conferences, and event launches helps to ensure no updates or breaking changes are missed. It also allows vendors to be cautious when something critical is going to happen in the space so that roadmaps can be adjusted accordingly.
"While it took AWS just more than 10 years to grow to a $10 billion business, it took only 23 months to then grow to $20 billion in revenue, 13 months to move to $30 billion, and just 12 months to get to $40 billion." - Andy Jessy, previously CEO of AWS
Taking advantage of the cloud's growth is a winning strategy. There are important things to consider when building a solution in this space, but it is worth the effort as it opens up a large market that is rapidly expanding.
As more enterprises seek multi-cloud options, it opens up new problems in terms of security, access management, collaboration and managing metadata of infrastructure. The need to address the burning problems in this space becomes larger as the adoption has increased. New entrants, open-source projects and many startups are taking a stab in these spaces and the number of solutions will only set to grow.
Anirudh Murali is the co-founder and CEO of Economize - a cloud cost management tool for DevOps teams to deal with growing cloud spending. He is a certified FinOps practitioner and has years of expertise in working and integrating solutions with cloud providers.