Cloud providers aren’t sharing their metadata – and it leads to bad trust with customers


The verdict on cloud vendors has come in from a new research study by Forrester: must do better in assuaging compliance fears, building support issues, and making customers feel wanted.

The survey, of 275 IT decision makers in the United States, United Kingdom and Singapore, revealed some eye-opening findings. 39% of UK respondents agreed with the statement “my cloud provider doesn’t know me or my company”. One in three argued “my provider charges me for every little question or incident.” 45% agreed with the statement “if I were a bigger customer, my cloud provider would care more about my success.”

Lilac Schoenbeck is VP product marketing and product management at iland, who sponsored the study. She admitted surprise over the level of negative sentiment customers have towards their providers. “As a cloud provider, that kind of thing just feels really bad,” she tells CloudTech. “I would hate to think that somebody that was basing so much of their business on their infrastructure had those negative feelings about me.”

The perceived lack of support from cloud vendors to their customers, Schoenbeck argued, was a lot less surprising. 26% of respondents said the onboarding process took too long. 21% say the onboarding lacked a sufficient human aspect. 18% had bill shock over their support costs.

Nor were the issues over compliance. 62% said on-demand access to necessary reports would ease the pressure, along with complete reporting of the compliance status of the cloud provider (54%) and suggestions for achieving compliance (43%). “[Compliance is] something that’s really risen to the fore in the last 12 months around cloud,” Schoenbeck explains. “You can see people being much more aware of their responsibilities.”

The nub of the issue is the release – or not – of metadata, information about the performance, configuration and operations of each cloud workload. While typically most cloud providers have access to it, it’s a different story for the customers. Every respondent in the survey said they were financially or operationally affected by unavailable metadata; but Schoenbeck argues this is not the full story.

“Cloud vendors have [the metadata], it’s just a decision about whether or not they’re going to invest in sharing it with their customers – and that’s not a small investment,” she says. “It’s easy to share a CSV that’s far too large and far too old for anybody to care about. For performance data to be useful, you need to get it in almost real time, and make accurate decisions based on it almost immediately.”

She adds: “I think that’s often the challenge. I was a little disappointed to see the breadth of that challenge across the industry.”

This change in customer expectation correlates with the maturity of the cloud market. Over 70% of companies surveyed said they had been using cloud services for more than one year, while 84% and 76% of UK and Singapore respondents respectively said they relied on two or more cloud providers. It’s a challenge vendors increasingly face. When enterprise storage provider Egnyte gained a client win from Box in Red Bull North America, head of EMEA Ian McEwan explained for customers with previous experience, it’s about trust, and understanding the vendor can better meet their business needs.

“What I’d like to see is that this experience of multiple vendors creates a more savvy customer,” Schoenbeck explains. “Ultimately, in any kind of technology, but specifically in an emerging technology like cloud, having a more savvy customer means that you can more powerfully partner with them and achieve their business ends in a better and faster way.”

But with this research, is iland throwing cloud vendors under the bus? “I think it is more an element of prioritisation – almost an element of benign neglect,” says Schoenbeck. “If you looked at the arc of most technologies, they do find themselves in this place where the technology is paramount, and that is the interesting piece, and nobody is really concerned with the end user. Over time, things shift.

“I think we might be at a pivot point where that benign neglect in the name of technological progress is giving way to an understanding that, ultimately, this is a business model and you need to serve your customer,” she adds.

Forrester gave three takeaways for cloud customers following the research:

  • Get the metadata you require: ensure provider exposes performance, security and cost data.
  • Find the clarity for compliance: look for cloud with strong reporting and compliance alerting.
  • Ensure your cloud is supported by humans: don’t settle for being ‘just another account number’.