Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Elizabeth White, Frank Huerta, Lori MacVittie, Michael Thompson, Rachel A. Dines

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, SOA & WOA, Web 2.0, Security, Big Data Journal, SDN Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

Everything-as-a-Service Creates Product Catalog Blues | Part 2

Embracing the inherent flexibility of services means using tools that are inherently flexible enough to do the job

In my last post, we learned that services are only like products if you are willing to oversimplify them. And if you oversimplify them, you can miss out on business opportunities.

Services (actions supported by things) differ in several important ways from products (things supported by actions). While product options are generally well defined up front by the manufacturer, customers for services want to mix and match pieces of different services and essentially create their own new service. The definition of the service can easily become fuzzier and fuzzier as you serve more customers. Customers know that customizing a mass-produced product is a challenge, but they think, surely it's easy to fine-tune a service. It doesn't come pre-formed in a box, after all.

Unlike products, services tend to be fuzzy around the edges, and they can be shape-shifters. The world of everything-as-a-service (XaaS) is going to enable a lot of shape-shifting through customization, bundling and mash-ups. Some service providers will embrace this, while others will struggle to keep up.

Embracing the inherent flexibility of services means using tools that are inherently flexible enough to do the job. Take the product catalog example. Do you handle services just like products, in an enterprise-resource-planning (ERP)-oriented way? Does your way of working demand that every service have a SKU or other unique identifier? Does every service option need a separate SKU? How do you handle one-off variants? Do those also need SKUs, or do they become out-of-catalog exceptions? Either way may cause a problem.

SKUs are fine, provided your products are in boxes. But services don't come in boxes. Already, some service providers find that the total number of basic services, including variants and options, exceeds the number of customers. This is not about to change. In fact, we can expect to see steady increases across the board in the number of basic services, service variants, options and bundles. The universe of possible services may be, in practice, almost infinite.

Numbers are cheap, but a traditional customer relationship management (CRM) or ERP-based approach that depends on SKUs will, eventually, become unmanageable. Sometime soon, product catalogs in their traditional SKU-based form will revert to being used only for products, which is what they were designed to do. Service providers who want to offer anything more complex will need something more flexible and scalable.

A good rule of thumb is if your service offering is such that you can't stick a barcode on it, then maybe using a SKU-based system is not a good idea.

What else is there? How can we manage this proliferation of service entities? How can we make this scalable? I don't think anyone has succeeded in adapting a traditional SKU-based system to be scalable and flexible enough to track the characteristics and pricing for a large and growing portfolio of dynamically created and adapted services.

Fortunately, at MetraTech we did not have to adapt a traditional product catalog. For our billing system, we designed an approach to products and services management from the ground up, on the assumption that whatever we might predict as the future for complex services, reality would turn out even more complex. By design, our approach to building the service portfolio is infinitely scalable with no constraints imposed by a pre-set numbering system. The rules for calculating prices can be as complex or as simple as needed, with a different formula for every customer, if needed. All services and service variants and options can be captured in the system, so nothing is off the record, but at the same time each service can be made available globally, just to specific customers or even just to one individual procurement person in one company. We know that services are not always going to be defined by human beings working in an office, so our architecture permits us to set up secure and controlled interactions with all types of Web-enabled applications. Call them agents if you like. In the frenetic new world of the Internet of Agents and XaaS, we're ready for business already.

More Stories By Esmeralda Swartz

Esmeralda Swartz is CMO of MetraTech. She has spent 15 years as a marketing, product management, and business development technology executive bringing disruptive technologies and companies to market. Esmeralda is responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution, product marketing, product management, business development and partner programs. Prior to MetraTech, Esmeralda was co-founder, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development at Lightwolf Technologies, a big data management startup. Esmeralda was previously co-founder and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development of Soapstone Networks, a developer of OSS software, now part of Extreme Networks (Nasdaq:EXTR). At Avici Systems (Nasdaq:AVCI), Esmeralda was Vice President of Marketing for the networking pioneer from startup through its successful IPO. Early in her career, she was a Director at IDC, where she led the network consulting practice and worked with startup and leading software and hardware companies, and Wall Street clients on product and market strategies. Esmeralda holds a Bachelor of Science with a concentration in Marketing and International Business from Northeastern University.

You can view her other blogs at www.metratech.com/blog.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Cloud Expo Breaking News
Almost everyone sees the potential of Internet of Things but how can businesses truly unlock that potential. The key will be in the ability to discover business insight in the midst of an ocean of Big Data generated from billions of embedded devices via Systems of Discover. Businesses will also need to ensure that they can sustain that insight by leveraging the cloud for global reach, scale and elasticity. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Mac Devine, Distinguished Engineer at IBM, will discuss bringing these three elements together via Systems of Discover.
"In my session I spoke about enterprise cloud analytics and how we can leverage analytics as a service," explained Ajay Budhraja, CTO at the Department of Justice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
The Internet of Things promises to transform businesses (and lives), but navigating the business and technical path to success can be difficult to understand. In his session at 15th Internet of @ThingsExpo, Chad Jones, Vice President, Product Strategy of LogMeIn's Xively IoT Platform, will show you how to approach creating broadly successful connected customer solutions using real world business transformation studies including New England BioLabs and more.
All too many discussions about DevOps conclude that the solution is an all-purpose player: developer and operations guru, complete with pager for round-the-clock duty. For most organizations that is not the way forward. In his session at DevOps Summit, Bernard Golden, Vice President of Strategy at ActiveState, will discuss how to achieve the agility and speed of end-to-end automation without requiring an organization stocked with Supermen and Superwomen.
“We are starting to see people move beyond the commodity cloud and enterprises need to start focusing on additional value added services in order to really drive their adoption," explained Jason Mondanaro, Director of Product Management at MetraTech, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
"We are automated capacity control software, which basically looks at all the supply and demand and running a virtual cloud environment and does a deep analysis of that and says where should things go," explained Andrew Hillier, Co-founder & CTO of CiRBA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
There is no doubt that Big Data is here and getting bigger every day. Building a Big Data infrastructure today is no easy task. There are an enormous number of choices for database engines and technologies. To make things even more challenging, requirements are getting more sophisticated, and the standard paradigm of supporting historical analytics queries is often just one facet of what is needed. As Big Data growth continues, organizations are demanding real-time access to data, allowing immediate and actionable interpretation of events as they happen. Another aspect concerns how to deliver data in a meaningful way, one that really delivers on what end-users need to maintain a competitive position in fast-changing markets.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gigaom Research has been named "Media Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, will also lead a Power Panel on the topic "Choosing the Right Cloud Option." Gigaom Research provides timely, in-depth analysis of emerging technologies for individual and corporate subscribers. Gigaom Research's network of 200+ independent analysts provides new content daily that bridges the gap between breaking news and long-range research.
“The Internet of Things is a wave that has arrived and it’s growing really fast. The concern at Aria Systems is making sure that people understand the ramifications of their attempts to monetize whatever it is they build on the Internet of Things," explained C Brendan O’Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect at Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the Internet of @ThingsExpo, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Internet of @ThingsExpo 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading IoT industry players in the world.
“About two years ago Brother launched a new group called Brother Online. We thought it was a good idea for a hardware company to get into the cloud services market and our first step into that market was web conferencing,” explained Courtney Behrens, Senior Marketing Manager at Brother International, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
"So many teams have been stuck in their own practices for the last ten years and it's really hard to sell all the latest and greatest tools, but the reality is all the tools around operations have evolved so much you are starting to see a big shift toward upgrading that tool set, focusing more on automation, more on cloud," explained Dustin Whittle, Developer Evangelist at AppDynamics, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the DevOps Summit, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City.
“We provide disaster recovery services as well as solutions. We also provide back-up solutions that work across your internal on-premise assets as well as in the public and private cloud," stated Joel Ferman, Vice President of Marketing at InMage Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo® (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com/), held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Harbinger Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 15th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Harbinger Systems is a global company providing software technology services. Since 1990, Harbinger has developed a strong customer base worldwide. Its customers include software product companies ranging from hi-tech start-ups in Silicon Valley to leading product companies in the US and large in-house IT organizations.
“Distrix fits into the overall cloud and IoT model around software-defined networking. There’s a broad category around software-defined networking that’s focused on data center, and we focus on the WAN,” explained Jay Friedman, President of Distrix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the Internet of @ThingsExpo, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Internet of @ThingsExpo 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading IoT industry players in the world.
“Dell Cloud Manager is a cloud management environment for the consumption of cloud resources and we provide a consistent interface, both in terms of API and in terms of user interface for doing a wide variety of activities core to deploying and operating software in cloud," explained James Urquhart, Technologist & Director of Cloud Management Solutions at Dell, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 14th International Cloud Expo®, held June 10-12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City. Cloud Expo® 2014 Silicon Valley, November 4–6, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading Cloud industry players in the world.