How to avoid becoming a bad Amazon-clone when doing IaaS?
In previous posts I already expressed my doubt about telecom operators getting any real benefits from offering virtual servers and other IaaS aspects to their customers. It looks like “a 2000 déjà vu” in which operators started to offer hosted email after Yahoo and other showed them the way…
So if you don’t want to be a bad clone of Amazon AWS what can you do?
Alternative 1: The Mobile IaaS
Operators are all about mobile communication. However creating mobile applications is hard. Testing them is even harder. Let alone testing them on different hand-sets in a continuous automated testing approach.
This is exactly the type of services that a mobile operator can offer:
- Mobile hardware virtualization – instead of virtualizing an x86, why not virtualize the phone hardware, e.g. Nvidia Tigra2. A mobile operating system (MOS) developer could choose which hardware to virtualize: the amount of ram, which sensors, which CPU, which graphics card, etc. Afterwards different flavors of operating systems can be ran on this hardware: iOS, Android, Blackberry OS, Symbian, Windows Phone 7, etc.
- Mobile operating system virtualization – For less experienced developers they can already pick a pre-configured phone, e.g. iPhone 4. Afterwards a developer can launch applications on the phone.
- Automated mobile phone testing – After installing the application on the phone or using the build in browser to access a remote application, a developer should be able to run automated tests. This would allow for a continuous testing approach whereby a new version of a mobile app or an HTML5 application can be automatically tested by a whole set of mobile devices.
The business model would be the same as virtual servers: you pay by the hour.
Alternative 2: Telecom Infrastructure as a Service
Why not offer telecom infrastructure as a service instead of pure virtual servers? Admitted, the boundry between IaaS, PaaS and SaaS might be thin but ideas can be the following:
- Billing as a Service: this can go from offering a complete billing system as a service to MVNOs or other industries that need real-time billing capabilities. To the other extreme whereby you would only offer APIs for partners and developers to charge.
- Numbering Plan as a Service: more then just offering DIDs, you should be able to create services and associate them to a number formed by shortcode+mobile phone+app id => 12367012345601 => calling this number would forward the call to the application 01 belonging to the mobile subscriber 670123456 and 123 means the owner pays the call. 234 could mean caller pays. 345 could mean caller pays premium call and gives revenue share to owner. This could allow every subscriber to have multiple applications without having to pay €1-€5 for a virtual phone number.
Alternative 3: Mobile Development IaaS
Different from the mobile IaaS in the sense that we focus on facilitating the development and hosting of applications for mobiles. Developers would find tools to develop mobile application interfaces very easily. You write it once and run it on a large set of different mobile devices. Services like mobile push notification, device detection, charging, etc. should also be available. Also the hosting is optimized for mobile applications in which you have very strict low-latency and unreliable connectivity requirements.
Alternative 4: Beat Amazon AWS at Bootstrapping, Configuration Management, and other cloud operation automatization
If you are going to offer virtual servers, focus enormously on the bootstrapping and configuration management. Amazon and others have virtual images that allow a quick deployment of an existing configuration. However that is good if your application is stable and your software stack needs few modifications. Real-life applications and business solutions need a lot more flexibility. Setting up a database cluster, a webserver/proxy/memcache farm, a high-availability loadbalancer, an application server cluster, etc. are very manual tasks on most public clouds. True you can get an image with an apache, tomcat and mysql pre-configured, but you do not get a multi-node cluster image. To solve this you could use software like Chef or Puppet for provisioning and ControlTier or Capistrano for command & control. See my other blog post…
Alternative 5: Be the Salesforce for Telecom & Mobile Applications
This is more PaaS then SaaS but being a Telco PaaS in which in a Salesforce.com style you can use Web 2.0 and drag-and-drop to create mobile and telecom applications. Instead of having to code, people can create application via visual designers.
Alternative 6: No.de/Heroku/etc. alternative for quick web & mobile front-ends combined with custom protocols and on-site systems
Heroku is a PaaS for Ruby applications.
Alternative 7: The Zoho/37 Signals for Telecom Applications
Zoho and 37 Signals are companies specialized in creating one-purpose mini applications for small and medium enterprises. Instead of a Siebel, Zoho will give you a basic CRM that works out of the box and has virtually no learning curve.
Zoho allows others to build applications on their infrastructure as well and resell them.
The same concept could be applied to telecom. Mini telecom applications like a PBX in the Cloud, SMS marketing, etc. are build on a common infrastructure. Externals can extend the application portfolio and resell them.
Alternative 8: Hosted PaaS
Instead of offering PaaS you offer a hosted PaaS infrastructure for enterprises. Each enterprise gets their own PaaS. Companies like Longjump and WSO2 are in this market. Be sure to add in some telecom assets…
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