Streamlining proofs of concept with a self-service demo cloud, part 2

Posted by Hans Ashlock October 5, 2015
Streamlining proofs of concept with a self-service demo cloud, part 2

The first half of this series examined how a demo cloud solution can streamline field tests and proofs of concepts for technology manufacturers, service providers and independent software vendors. Whereas traditional PoCs processes can end up crunched between demanding requirements (i.e., that the solution being demoed work across complex, multi-vendor environments) and shortages of power and cooling resources, as well as space and time, a demo cloud can deliver infrastructure-as-a-service, with commonly used demo environments available through a self-service interface.

"Hosting PoCs in the cloud is a natural fit, allowing the ISV to focus on closing business, without having to worry about the provisioning of hardware and configuring the networking," explained Citrix documentation on the advantages of a demo cloud. "The proof of concept process is greatly simplified; a working demo can be up and running quickly, and prospective customers can see exactly what the experience would feel like for a user.
A significant portion - at least 35 percent by some estimates - of all demo equipment is wasted and/or unproductive, creating a strong business case for streamlined demo clouds that can deliver higher utilization and greater ease of use and ultimately yield shorter and more efficient sales cycles. In this part 2 of our series, we'll wrap up our look at what  demo clouds should provide in order to reduce costs and improve sales cycles.

Streamlining proof of concept testing with a demo cloud
Over time, PoCs often go beyond the basic demonstration of features and come to encompass advanced functional and performance tests. Such tests may require control over the physical connectivity - i.e., by using Layer 1 switches - to ensure accurate network performance. In addition, more complex demos and PoC can typically require control and provisioning of other types of equipment and gear such as traffic generators and custom appliances. Supplying this level of high-fidelity support for demos and PoCs can be challenging because of the range and complexity of infrastructure that needs to be provisioned. However, this is a critical requirement if a demo cloud is going to effectively replace the traditional approach to lugging gear around.

Moreover, an ideal demo cloud, as we noted last time, should easily integrate with management software platforms via APIs, have robust reporting and accounting features, and exhibit highly scalable, maintainable automation. It should have flexible administration and access privileges suitable for many types of users - e.g., developers, systems architects and power users - and ultimately enable non-programmers to create demo environments and leverage prepackaged libraries without having to write their own scripts.

With these requirements as well as those listed in Part 1, the following are key capabilities needed by a cloud solution for enhancing the PoCs process:

  • Scalable environments driven by user input: Engineers can reserve and then extensively customize their environments, with particular input forms that determine orchestration and provisioning. A single catalog can in effect support many different use cases and topologies.
  • Object-based design: Automation workflows can be built with objects that cover provisioning as well as infrastructure resources. Plus, the object library can be dragged and dropped by non-programmers for easy workflow creation.
  • Abstract resources: A system using CloudShell can pick any available resource in order to maximize availability and utilization during the demo.
  • Comprehensive reporting: Administrators can easily keep tabs on device utilization and reservation-to-activation ratios and construct custom dashboards for high-fidelity PoCs.
  • Power user support: Power users can make the most out of CloudShell by doing live customization of environments and creating ones from scratch if need be.

CloudShell is the cloud automation platform purpose build for creating demo and PoC clouds that yield smoother, more efficient PoCs and field tests by simplifying the creation, customization and teardown of environments. As a result, field sales organizations can shorten their sales cycles and remain competitive.

The takeaway: For years, PoCs have been beset by issues with inconsistent resource availability and underutilization of equipment that serve to undermine the demonstration of solutions in complex, multi-vendor environments. A platform like CloudShell creates a demo/PoC cloud with IaaS that can deliver common demo/PoC environments and streamline the process for end users.

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