The Cloud Industry Forum (CIF) is highly sceptical about Star's messaging for its new Cloud Alliance.
Star appears to have rebadged and reshaped a club of friendly vendors with whom it has historically worked with the stated target of transparently meeting the needs of UK SMEs.
CIF believes that the cloud is a great place for businesses to collaborate and that it will change the way the IT supply chain is structured and operates. But we also think this looks like a commercial partner programme of non-competing businesses.
Star business development staffer Grant Tanner has seemed to suggest that the new Cloud Alliance will only operate in the end user's commercial interest. Star also seems to imply that the IT channel, which has supported the UK SMB market for many years through its trusted relationships, has no more value.
Apparently, a rigorous process was implemented – by Star, we assume – to whittle down thousands of would-be cloud providers and enablers into a list of just 15-17 businesses that can meet the needs of the UK SMB market.
Yet the only firms making the cut, I believe, were firms that do not appear to compete with Star. I believe it has also worked with many of these firms on opportunities in the past.
I would love to hear from some of the hopeful companies that did not make the cut. Will any come forward?
Unfortunately, I wonder whether Star and the Cloud Alliance will be able to demonstrate full transparency with regards to open-market competition unless the new group also complies with an independent and certified Code of Practice, like the one operated by CIF.
The risk is that some end users may see this new alliance as nothing more than a collaborative commercial working agreement between a private group of companies.
Unless, of course, the transparency is limited to a set of integrated proposals from a pre-conceived supply chain that is not open to competition.
I also take issue with Tanner's claim that CIF is just a talking shop. CIF is professional, independent and not-for-profit. It can be trusted to be impartial and not operate to the agenda of specific vendors.
CIF is also open to everyone that wishes to participate, and it actively encourages healthy but transparent competition.
It has a published and independently overseen Code of Practice and certification scheme aimed at enabling end users to make better and more informed decisions by cutting through hype and enabling providers to clearly communicate their capabilities.
Star is clearly trying to find a place in the growing cloud computing market. We welcome any advances that assist end users. As a result, we look forward to seeing the Cloud Alliance's Code of Practice and Service Level Agreements, as discussed on its new website at the time of writing.
We want to learn more about how this benefits end users and fulfils the claims of transparency, avoiding any issues with 'margin upon margin'.
Andy Burton is chairman of the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF)
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