Functionally rich, technologically modern, and architecturally reliable turnkey cloud commercialization solution packaged as a managed service and driven by your success to compete in the global landscape.
The main objective of this whitepaper is to outline the process of starting out as a cloud provider in partnership with Warren while making the most out of thesolutions and services provided by the Warren team and the software platform. At its core, the Warren platform is delivered as a fully managed service, and our success is completely dependent on the success of our partners, everything else derives from that core principle.
This playbook offers merely an overview of the most common practices for adopting Warren effectively and offering cloud solutions available on the platform’s self-service interfaces.
While the functionality set available on Warren is usually expected from every cloud provider, there are quite a few additions that make the experience with our platform stand out and boost your sales. We strongly encourage all partnering cloud providers to think out of the box and issue feature requests based on their end users’ expectations so we can deliver even better tools and help you attract more customers.
Worldwide Public Cloud Services End-User Spending Forecast for 2022 is $482B (Gartner, August 2021). Of that $121B is Infrastructure as a service specifically and is expected to grow around 30% per year for the next 4-5 years. Currently, the market is dominated by big public clouds like AWS, Google, and Azure. About 20% of the market is served by smaller cloud providers.
The common belief is that smaller providers are losing the market but in practice that segment is also growing at least 20% per year. With the growing popularity of multi- and hybrid cloud deployments to avoid lock-in and high prices of large public clouds, it is predicted that regional and local providers will have a big role to play in the future of infrastructure.
As stated in Gartner: “By 2025, 85% of infrastructure strategies will integrate on-premises, colocation, cloud, and edge delivery options, compared with 20% in 2020.”
This development is driven by the growing geopolitical regulatory fragmentation, protectionism, and industry compliance. Companies in the financial and public sectors are looking to reduce critical lock-in and single points of failure with their cloud providers outside of their country.
Considering these developments, the local data centers and cloud service providers are well-positioned to address the needs of the market.
Local providers have a strong advantage over global incumbents in the quality of support as they know the local culture, language, regulations and in many cases the needs of the end-user specifically. That has always been their strength and always will. Historically the weaknesses of local providers have been the limited capabilities of their platforms – that includes general capabilities and features, but also user experience and ease of adoption. These are the topics that Warren specifically addresses with minimal CAPEX to get going.
The next big step for Warren is to deliver fully automated collaboration capabilities to local providers and remove the final obstacle in offering global service to the end-users together while staying completely local and following our “Think Global, Act Local” philosophy.
|Lower prices (in addition to lower prices for computing and storage in general, the key saving point is that local providers give almost unlimited free local bandwidth to the users).||Outdated platform features/user experience - as a local provider it is increasingly difficult to keep up with global public providers as the level of investment into the platform is on a completely different scale.|
|Support - local providers have on-demand personal support in the local language and culturally in the same headspace. Quite often they personally know the client and their needs — that is a level of service that SME clients will never get from the global public providers.||Lack of convenience and developer tools - local providers do have some capability in this area, but it is strongly lacking compared to the hyperscalers. Also, they cannot offer some of the services well enough (like managed databases), as it is not financially feasible on a small scale.|
|Data sovereignty - end-user data is kept within the country. Therefore this solution is good for government and financial institutions that are sensitive to the topic.||No global presence - International clients would like to have the same user experience and platform globally for easy and cost-effective cloud management.|
|Better latency as they serve the final end-user basically at their doorstep.|
|Payment options (this aspect depends on the country) - as an example in the EU post-payment with credit cards and invoices are mostly used, but in Indonesia, prepayment and several specific payment methods are used (like top-up your account in a local retailer, etc).|
How Warren addresses the Cons (while keeping all the Pros):
The large public clouds have grown too big and are for quite some time been considered an oligopoly. With their strong lock-in effect and cumulative control over the most important aspect of our future – digital infrastructure – their dominance has become problematic for many. That includes countries, telecoms, smaller hosting providers, and regular end-users. Even the UN has sustainable development goals (SDGs) that touch this aspect – “Reduce inequality within and among countries“ (10). With Warren’s approach the revenues, profits, jobs, and data are kept within the countries it is generated.
From our perspective moving toward the distributed/decentralized cloud is inevitable. This fluctuating tendency has always been on the cards throughout the history of computing. Starting with the centralized mainframe in the 60s, moving towards decentralized desktops in the 80s, and back to centralized with the rise of cloud in the 2000s. It’s now time for the pendulum to swing back to a decentralized/distributed solution going forward.
Looking at the market from a futuristic perspective it’s easy to think that blockchain and decentralized apps (dApps) will take over the world now. In practice, that big of a change rarely happens as some companies still use apps and databases that were built in the 80s, so before we reach the state where our phones and laptops are the backbone of the internet we still have a long way to go. While we still need traditional data centers, the decentralization part has to happen above that level. By doing this we will remove the single point of failure, distribute control across many providers and countries, get lower prices (regulated by the market competition), and better support for the end-users. All without rewriting every application in the world and still complying with local laws.
Growing your business with the Warren platform is more of a partnership than a customer relationship. Warren’s offering consists of a software platform and accompanying managed services provided by an experienced team based in Europe, Estonia.
The technical support is carried out via a support ticketing system and a dedicated Slack channel. The Slack channel is used for day-to-day technical support where Warren developers are always available to support, make amends (if necessary), and offer advice however they can.
Warren delivers planned bi-monthly deployments of software upgrades to deliver new features and maintain the existing functionality.
The upgrade deployments do not involve any downtime or maintenance window. This keeps the platform up to date and keeps the software delivery process very flexible and robust.
It is important to clearly define the target audience of your sales and marketing activities to be able to plan out efficient market entry.
The target audience and their cloud expectations of your service portfolio set the criteria for the underlying data center infrastructure you want to allocate to serve your customer to the best of your abilities.
Example 1: If your target customers are more demanding for high performance than cheap price then you are best making an investment into higher-spec hardware like 25 Gbit network interfaces and NVMe disks that significantly improve the block storage IO performance.
Example 2: If you are going big to the object storage market then obviously you would need servers with a lot of disk bays and cheap and slow hard disks.
Below are listed some of the most popular solutions your company can offer after launching with the Warren-based cloud offering.
Virtualized workloads are primarily covered with virtual machine self-service or API capabilities of the Warren cloud platform.
Both storage products of object and block storage rely on a distributed storage technology called Ceph. It is redundant to every kind of hardware failure and keeps your data distributed across the whole Ceph storage cluster. That means that even in case of multiple simultaneous hardware failures your data will stay intact because of its nature of distributed and replicated storage.
Another huge benefit of distributed storage enables the Warren platform to perform live migrations in case of hypervisor server hardware failure. That means that Warren automatically migrates the VM to an available hypervisor node and links it to the virtual hard disk stored in a distributed Ceph cluster with no interruptions. Your end-user virtual machines, therefore, experience no downtime in case of hardware failure.
You are also able to move virtual machines and their storage around to the desired hypervisor for example if you want to isolate a potential bad actor from other users to investigate further or separate resource-heavy workloads from the rest to dissolve potential resource starvation. These operations can be carried out from the Warren admin panel and take seconds to complete (depending on the size of the VM storage disks, backups, and snapshots).
In addition to the virtual hard disks that you can add to your virtual machines, there are two more block storage products that you can easily monetize.
A storage option is focused on storing large amounts of data with lower performance needs. Also normally a lot less expensive compared to block storage. In Warren stack, this feature is optional and/or can be added later, but is important for many end-users and is often consumed together with other resources.
Some of the most common object storage use cases include:
The Warren cloud platform is set up by the Warren team as a part of the services included with the Warren platform and managed services package.
From purchasing hardware until the production release of the public cloud solution a constant exchange of information will take place and is tracked and stored in a Warren Onboarding Project (WOP) spreadsheet provided before the onboarding process. The communication itself can take place either in a dedicated Slack channel, over conference calls, or via emails.
The initial information required to launch a production-ready Warren-based public cloud service is available in more detail in the Warren Onboarding Project (WOP) document itself. The details required in the WOP document include:
|Control nodes (recommended)|
|CPU per node:||16 Core|
|RAM per node:||128 GB|
|Boot storage:||2 * 512 GB SSD|
|Network:||2 * 2 * 25 GB|
|Compute nodes (recommended)|
|Amount:||Recommended minimum 4 nodes|
|CPU/RAM ratio:||1 core * 12 GB RAM (Min of 32 cores)|
|Boot storage:||2 * 256 GB|
|Network:||2 * 25 GB|
|Block storage nodes (example)|
|Amount:||minimum 3 nodes|
|CPU per node:||16 Core|
|RAM per node:||96 GB|
|Boot storage:||2 * 256 GB SSD|
|Hot-swap storage:||6 * 2TB or 3 * 4TB NVMe|
|Network:||2 * 25 GB|
For production environments that want to offer high-quality service, it is highly recommended to use specialized network hardware for routing your cloud traffic. We recommend the Juniper MX series, but equipment from other vendors is often supported as well.
Alternatively for small businesses, it is possible to use Juniper vMX routing software. Every deployment of course also needs switches, but there are no specific requirements for them. In the case of all network devices, it is expected that redundancy is always taken care of to deliver quality service.
|Leaf switch:||2 * Switch (Minimum 32 x 25GbE ports)|
|Management switch:||Minimum 16 x 1GbE ports|
|Spine switch:||Only needed if multi-rack (every other rack)|
|Router (vMX example)|
|CPU per node:||16 Core|
|RAM per node:||32 GB|
|Boot storage:||2 * 512 GB SSD|
|Network:||2 * 2 * 25 GB|
|Object storage node (example)|
|Amount:||minimum 3 nodes|
|CPU per node:||16 Core|
|RAM per node:||96 GB|
|Boot storage:||2 * 1TB SSD|
|Storage:||18TB SATA HDD (depending on needs)|
|Network:||2 * 25 GB|
The Warren team has close relationships with hardware vendors and is happy to connect with suppliers in different regions. Please contact us for more details at [email protected].
One of the key priorities of Warren platform development is to deliver functionality that makes running your cloud business with a very low operational cost. That means you are not required to have a large technical team since Warren takes care of some cumbersome tasks for you out of the box or in some cases simplifies the operational tasks significantly.
Therefore Warren naturally features an admin dashboard of the business metrics and the necessary tooling required to support the end-users and manage your cluster with ease to keep the management of your cloud cluster as simple and quick as possible.
The platform’s unique impersonation function enables you to tune into a customer account to be able to see and control their resources as you would be logged into their account. This offers an effective way of providing first-level support to the end-users and troubleshooting whatever kind of issues they might be experiencing.
With Warren, every user can have one or more billing accounts connected to their account. This gives you the ability to control the financial state of the accounts connected to the user account.
With the billing accounts admin interface, you can
The list of VMs gives you control over all the virtual machines provisioned in your cloud cluster. You as an admin can:
The list of physical servers or hypervisor nodes that host the virtual machines in your system. In addition to listing all the physical nodes, from this section, you can set different states of your hypervisors to manage their state or role in the operation.
This is particularly useful to carry out hardware maintenance work of some specific hypervisor by simply selecting the status “maintenance” that will effectively live-migrate the existing VMs to different hypervisors with the present state “accepting”.
Another common use case would be when you want to host some VMs on some specific physical server. You would then have to set the hypervisor to “maintenance” mode to live-migrate all the VMs to other hypervisors and immediately after into “not accepting” state for the Warren system not to allocate any more VMs to that hypervisor automatically. Then you can migrate some specific VMs to the hypervisor you want to isolate from others for whatever reason (could be anything from abuse to a priority client requesting an isolated server).
The rest of the list is self-explanatory enough not to cover separately. Perhaps another significant section would be “settings” that enable the following configuration options.
The first level of support of the cloud offering is always provided by the partnering cloud provider and not the Warren technical team. This is possible as Warren is delivered entirely as a managed service itself and the end user-facing issues are generally not caused by a platform malfunction but instead become evident from the expected behavior of the self-service platform. The support requests can be mostly categorized as technical consultation and therefore open an opportunity for the provider to engage the consumer in a new business arrangement if it so makes sense.
While the Level 1 support is naturally provided by the partnering infrastructure provider and not by the Warren team, the support services made available are an integral part of successful cloud business. Therefore a support service that is responsive, always available, and consistently effective is often even more important to a successful cloud business than the cloud resource offering itself. Warren recognizes the same applies to the managed Warren cloud platform and is determined to deliver cloud support to the highest standards.
A bare minimum of the end-user support service is generally provided by an in-house team of a minimum of two seats. Make yourself stand out from the competition by providing excellent support to your end customers. For example, make the support service:
To make the support process easy for providers and enhance the experience for the end-user, we have pre-integrated Intercom service into the platform. Intercom covers a wide range of services from live chat for support to customer engagement and email marketing.
You can read more about Intercom service and its features here: www.intercom.com
Depending on the target market addressed and the solutions, services targeted to the respectful audience, the market entry has to be tailored accordingly. To set the tone for the headspace we start with an example of a real-life market entry.
In the following paragraphs, we outline some of the most popular marketing and sales channels, strategies, and tools the Warren platform enables you to carry out effortlessly.
Warren platform’s white-label logic allows local providers to customize the look and feel of the platform to reflect the provider’s brand and communication style. Theming of the platform is a part of the service with no extra cost. Platform theming will be done during the deployment of the platform simultaneously. If the provider has separate brands for different client segments or markets then multiple interfaces can be configured against one deployment. Additional themes are created and set up for a one-time fee per the theme of 750€.
The platform has two payment options. Depending on the market and client segment, different local providers tend to prefer different options. For example, in the APAC region prepayment tends to be the preferred option, and in the EU mostly post-payment is used.
Prepayment – End users top up their account before usage. Free credit is given after the initial top-up. It is a safer option if end-user trust is low and the volume of new users is high.
Post payment – End user’s credit card is validated (or admin accepts invoice payment option) and then they are able to use the platform. After validation, free credit is also given. Payments are scheduled monthly. This is preferred by larger end-users and recommended in situations where trust is higher. The potential downside is handling fraudulent users. Risk can be mitigated by limiting the number of resources the users can create.
More detailed information about payment can be found in Warren documentation.
Stripe – a global and popular payment method that covers most credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, etc). Accepts 135+ currencies. Local providers need a merchant account with Stripe to use this method. Can be used with pre-and post-payment options. Regional coverage and detailed information available at www.stripe.com
Invoice – classical payment option mostly preferred by larger end-users. Needs local provider admin to accept each end-user to avoid exploitation. Design for post-payment workflow.
Duitku – a popular payment option in Indonesia. Local providers need a merchant account with Duitku to use this method. Can be used with a prepayment option. More information is available at www.duitku.com
Paypal – (Coming soon)
Custom – our team can also build out custom payment methods if necessary in specific markets.
There is a built-in feature in the platform that enables pricing tiers based on the resource the end-user is buying. For example, use lower prices for virtual machines with smaller sizes. From a hardware utilization perspective, it is more effective as smaller machines can be better distributed across servers and less potential is wasted.
Also, it is a good strategy to win market share and viral publicity with smaller clients and get most of the profit margin from larger clients/machines.
The system sends out emails regarding sign-ups, invoices, and other user experience-related notifications. These emails can be designed based on the provider branding. Some of these emails can also be customized and used for marketing purposes. For example, promoting referral programs or new offerings with sign-up activation to increase the conversion rate. For more detailed marketing automation, Warren has a Google Tag manager built-in that enables integration with hundreds of tools. More on this in the marketing automation section later.
Upon new end-user signup, there is an option to provide the new cloud consumer with free credits that can be used to try out the platform without an initial financial commitment – free of charge. The previously configured amount of trial credits is rewarded to newly registered users upon successfully setting up a billing account with a valid payment method (or initial top-up of the account balance). This helps to prevent abuse of the free resources allocated.
Not all cloud providers want to make their resources available for free to newly signed up users so the free credit allocation is entirely optional but highly recommended to get your customers a smooth start.
The Warren platform enables the cloud provider with an option to run referral programs. Every Warren cloud user account has a unique referral code that can be shared with other people to earn rewards credited to your account upon a successful referral of a new paying customer.
Using affiliate networks or better yet industry influencers, the Warren-based cloud business is easily able to run affiliate programs. The Warren billing system tracks every referral event and tracks the balance of the successful referrals and therefore enables the cloud business to reward the affiliates with manual cash payouts upon request.
Partnering with local digital agencies developing eCommerce websites, enterprise resource management software or mobile applications often want to host the products with local data centers because of data sovereignty and low latency advantages. Warren enabled providers to partner with such local companies and offer kickbacks of the percentage of their monthly hosting bills.
Software developers who produce software such as accounting, taxes, payroll, enterprise resource planning, etc prefer to deploy and host their software with local hosting providers. It is our experience that more often than not the local software vendors are looking for opportunities that enable end consumers to easily deploy the software packages with the Warren platform locally. All this can be easily managed with the Warren platform out of the box by the administrative users of your cloud business.
Depending on the target audience defined, marketing activities can be very different and are not aligned across all providers. There is however some overlap in methods we recommend to use by everyone.
The target audience also acts as a cornerstone to the keyword research used for some of the following marketing activities.
The Pay-per-Click model delivers immediate results, therefore it should be the first marketing effort executed by the freshly launched cloud platform.
After the first customers have been using the platform for some time you should calculate an average Customer Lifetime Value, Customer Acquisition Cost (conversion rate of the website visitors turning into returning paying customers who click on paid ads) which should predictably be used to continue investing into PPC. Based on your unique metrics of PPC channel success, planned monthly growth rate, alternative web traffic quality, and quantity (that is likely to become more cost-effective as your SEO efforts are starting to bear fruit).
This is a marketing method that we consider to be effective across all customer sizes and segments. PPC in search engines and social media platforms works very well in general if planned and executed professionally.
Regardless of the marketing budget, you have at your disposal, we expect every cloud provider (especially new ventures) to invest in paid advertising.
SEO is a broad subject that is unlikely to deliver any significant results in the first few months after starting. It is important to keep your Search Engine Page Ranking as high as possible since the prospects on this channel have already decided to purchase cloud services or are at least gathering information to plan out purchasing in a relatively short time.
Since both methods (PPC and SEO) literally list your website as one of the options to the end consumer using a search engine to find cloud services. The two are very much related to each other and should be carefully considered to complement each other.
The competition of every search keyword is very different, all fighting for the highest possible position on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) of organic search results (that SEO addresses).
For instance, keywords like “cloud” or “IaaS” are more or less impossible to rank your company on the first page of a search engine on a global scale. That does not mean of course that the keywords should not be addressed. If you are unable to realistically win a prominent position in organic search results then your best bet is to use PPC to still show up within the list of sponsored results right at the top of most search engines.
Keywords that are less competitive are called “long-tail keywords” that describe more specific subjects. For example, the keyword that could bring your company website to the first page of SERP (of Google, Bing, etc) would usually look something similar to “buy cheap virtual machines in Indonesia” or “local S3 object storage in Estonia”. For both of these keywords, Warren providers are ranked very high (within the first 5 results) on Google page 1.
Although most companies nowadays understand why social media is important, not all of them are able to create successful social media marketing strategies for their business and execute them successfully. Selling digital products like cloud services is particularly well suited for leveraging social media channels.
Setting the goals for social media campaigns
Some of the most important aspects of how social media marketing can help your business grow significantly are consistently and well executed:
Choose the social media platform(s) where’s your audience lives
Like most digital marketing activities begin by defining the target audience you set out to communicate to. That being said, from the experience of Warren providers in many countries we can outline some that have shown the best results.
Forums and discussion boards
In some countries or regions, there are classical forums or discussion boards that are particularly popular and prominent. Therefore, many Warren cloud providers have seen good results having that type of presence while keeping the tone of the discussion very subjective while being biased in some conversation topics. We recommend staying informative and educational with your presence in such communities.
Create a posting schedule
Creating a social media calendar that lists the content you will publish throughout the week or month encourages consistency that is imperative for social media success.
Engage with your audience
Customers use social media more than any other form of communication to speak directly with a brand. Start simple and use the social media platforms that you have selected. Consider moving towards social media listening tools to stay up to speed with the social media conversations about your cloud and to manage your company’s reputation to keep prospective customers away from competitors.
Tracking and metrics – to adapt, learn and improve
Once you have established your goals, platforms, schedule, and begun posting, you’ll want to keep track of your progress. This can be done through the analytics systems of social media platforms, or through Google Analytics.
Warren platform’s fully supported Google Tag Manager allows you to track, record, analyze and act on certain events that occur on the Warren platform user interface. Since Google Tag Manager is integrated with most marketing and sales automation tools (including Segment, Intercom, Pipedrive, etc) you can build out an entire system of how you handle your leads and customers. This enables you to send marketing messages to your end-users for example:
This has turned out to be very effective in converting sign-ups to paying customers and growing ARPU over time.
Organizing educational live gatherings with the target audience of existing customers and more importantly, new prospects help to convert existing leads and create new ones. It is also important from the brand-building perspective and properly positions the company on the local cloud market.
Organize digital events or webinars on the recent developments of the company to increase the current customer value and engage with new potential customers.
It is highly recommended to collaborate with local institutions as this signals trust, innovation, and stability for the rest of the market. Offering some free/discounted resources to the university to use in school activities builds a future user base as students move into the workforce after graduation. From a general branding perspective, this collaboration can be used in PR marketing by both parties – supporting local entrepreneurship, keeping data in the country, etc.
Each vendor can collaborate with other vendors (mostly) who do not originate from the same region.
We also encourage you to consider outsourcing the marketing activities to marketing agencies specialized in marketing cloud solutions or at least operating in the industry in a wider sense.
Marketing agencies operate either in a single country or sometimes have a larger regional reach. So in case, your target market(s) reside in the countries where English is not a primary language spoken then better results could be obtained by producing the content in a local native language.
As stated at the beginning of the document we covered merely an overview of the most common practices for adopting the Warren platform and related services.
We will be expanding and adding new chapters into this playbook as the market and Warren ecosystem develop further in the coming years. Your input and findings that might make the playbook more useful for other local providers joining the network are much appreciated.
We are also happy to introduce providers to each other to learn and exchange ideas, explore co-marketing opportunities and offer even better services to the customer.
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