Evaluating Cloud Vendors: The Ecosystem Matters

The number of tools, plug-ins, and developers can really matter when evaluating cloud vendors, it's all about the ecosystem.

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The two major axes for measuring the ecosystem are products and people. In my experience, the number of people committed to the ecosystem is more important in the long run than the product. If there is plenty of demand and a good supply of practitioners, the plug-in and add- on products will be forthcoming.

Handicapping the Early Scramble

It can be tricky to evaluate cloud vendors when the category is in its early days and there is no clear winner, either in features or ecosystem. If the cloud category you're looking at is strongly impacted by ecosystem effects listed above, you need to gauge:

• Current size and growth rate of developer community

• Relative happiness of the developer community (as indicated by posts into the community forums, number of job/consulting openings, etc.)

• Size and growth of the number of plug-in products or services

• Number, quality, and profitability of vendors participating in the ecosystem

• Number, scope, quality, and documentation of relevant APIs

• The cloud vendor's investment in the quality of the platform and the growth of the ecosystem

• Number of staff the cloud vendor has dedicated to that growth

This might seem like you're a Wall Street analyst trying to predict the future. And in a way, you are—so it won't hurt for you to see if any of them has opined on the vitality of the cloud vendors in the category you're working with.

David Taber is the author of the new Prentice Hall book, "Salesforce.com Secrets of Success" and is the CEO of SalesLogistix, a certified Salesforce.com consultancy focused on business process improvement through use of CRM systems. SalesLogistix clients are in North America, Europe, Israel, and India, and David has over 25 years experience in high tech, including 10 years at the VP level or above.

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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