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As solution providers pivot away from their traditional role as technology providers of on-premise solutions, they must choose from a dizzying array of cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers, including Amazon, Google and Rackspace and, increasingly, technology giants such as Hewlett-Packard, Microsoft and IBM.
These big cloud providers can't serve businesses alone. The complexity of migrating to the cloud, varied pricing and usage models, and cloud providers' sometimes spotty services and poor communications mean there's an enormous opportunity for solution providers to step in and act as brokers to the cloud with services, consulting, software development, equipment and more.
Solution providers need to choose the right cloud provider to ensure they can survive and prosper in the new cloud era. It's not an easy task. They have to evaluate myriad factors to establish working relationships with these cloud hosters, all while revamping their own business and keeping up with a fast-changing industry.
The cost of operating in the cloud is an important consideration for solution providers evaluating a cloud strategy. Although service, collaboration and reliability can help or hinder a cloud engagement, pricing can't be overlooked.
Solution providers building a cloud business will have to contract with IaaS providers to host the IT assets of their clients, so what the IaaS providers charge will be a key component of their cost of doing business, said Jeff Kaplan, founder of consulting firm ThinkStrategies. "The lower the bulk costs of IaaS, the lower the costs to the [solution provider]," Kaplan said. In an iPad exclusive review, CRN tracked the complex pricing structures of seven IaaS providers to show what it costs to do business in the cloud.
The findings: Microsoft Windows Azure, Google and Rackspace are generally the most expensive cloud services providers, while HP and Amazon Web Services are the least expensive among established cloud providers. IBM SmartCloud's costs are in the middle range.
The figures are based on data compiled with the help of Cloud Spectator, a Boston-based research and analysis firm that measures and compares IaaS cloud server performance and pricing. Cloud Spectator analyzed the cost of a midsize cloud server workload of four processor cores, 8 GB of RAM and 100 GB of disk space to calculate yearly, monthly and hourly costs providers would charge. Such a workload would be commonly used by businesses and would be a middle ground between small server workloads and very large workloads.
Startup ProfitBricks, Cambridge, Mass., however, is offering a new pricing model that is markedly below all the established vendors. Its cloud pricing model lets users access less expensive and more flexible cloud services with a pay-per-minute plan and the ability to change workloads on the fly. With ProfitBricks added into the survey comparisons, its costs would be the lowest in almost every scenario.
To help solution providers as they make their move to cloud services, here's a look at the cloud provider landscape with all its pitfalls, opportunities, and the cost of working with each provider.