Remember back in the day when we used to distinguish between ASPs (application service providers) and MASPs (Managed Application Service Providers)? I predict that a similar distinction will soon emerge that will likewise separate the managed from the unmanaged cloud services. I also think that each will serve a productive function for its own particular set of users.
An example of the unmanaged variety would be salesforce.com’s cloud service that pulls subject matter content from social networking sites and search engines to serve a customer support role. An example of the managed cloud would be the recently announced cumulusIQ’s SAP virtual helpdesk. Key attributes include:
- The cloud is limited to a preselected group of experts
- Experts are paid and trained to serve customers
- All aspects of the service are carefully managed, including approval and recruitment of experts, end-user interaction, and the quality and timeliness of the knowledge content produced
Just as with ASPs, many users of unmanaged cloud services will look for value-add when it comes to the quality, timeliness and specificity of the product they receive. They’ll find that the cost benefits alone of a widely shared resource -- whether hardware or knowledge -- are not a sufficient competitive advantage. They also want a head start when it comes to actually putting that resource into productive use.