Cloud Provider Commentary

Dec 21 2012   5:50PM GMT

Xerox developing user-friendly cloud portal, aims to add price comparison

Jessica Scarpati Jessica Scarpati Profile: Jessica Scarpati

As we’ve mentioned before, we can’t always squeeze everything we want to in a story. So while yesterday we shared some deleted scenes from my Q&A with Michael Cohn, co-founder of Cloud Sherpas, today we bring you some outtakes from my interview with Ken Stephens, senior vice president of cloud services at Xerox.

When I had asked Ken about his “New Year’s resolution” for Xerox’s cloud, he mentioned something I’ve been hearing a lot from cloud providers over the past year: Portals.

Does this mean we get to do another Star Trek reboot?

So many cloud providers I’ve spoken to are concerned with improving the usability of their customer portals. Now that we have the back-end figured out, it’s time to make the customer-facing stuff look pretty.

With that in mind, I asked him to explain what his ideal cloud portal would look like.

Over the past year, I’ve heard a lot of providers talk about portals. Is there something specific that you would like to change or evolve?

Ken Stephens: We have some innovation [in our cloud portal] that we’ve developed and will introduce. I suspect we’re not the only ones [to have done so]. Because today, when you go out and you buy a computer on the Dell site, as an example, you see a picture of it. Then, you pick and choose what your options are. It prices it for you, and you hit “buy,” “move to cart” or whatever. That works pretty well for buying hardware. But buying cloud services might be a little geek-ish. [You say], “I want 4 gigs of RAM.” You have to know the technology a bit to really get what you want in the cloud. I think that’s a little complicated.

What we will introduce — and again, I don’t think we’re alone — is [a portal in which] you will be able to go out and say, “I want to run an ERP application with about 100 users. I expect performance to be high, medium or acceptable,” with some definitions around that. You will hit “submit,” and it will come back and tell you what configuration that you need to run in the cloud and what it will cost.

Then, on top of that, I’ll introduce a service in 2013 that will do a comparison. Think about Progressive Insurance — the advertisement that Progressive does all the time. You go onto their site and plug in what you want for insurance for your car. It will come back and tell you the cost from State Farm and Allstate, as well as Progressive.

We will be able to do that in our cloud. You go in and say what you want. It will say, “By the way, if you buy it from Rackspace, it costs this much. If you buy it from Amazon, it costs this much. If you buy it from us, it costs this much.

You’re going to see some innovative things, in terms of [making cloud portals] easier to use.

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