Cloud Provider Playbook

Plataforma de serviços em nuvem que ajuda os provedores de hospedagem locais a se manterem à frente do jogo.

Warren Playbook

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.

Introduction

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.

Cloud industry and market introduction

Market overview and growth predictions

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.

Managed services

We point out the managed services market segment separately as Warren has a very specific approach in addressing these services. Warren has no plans to build out hundreds of services as you can find on many big public clouds. By managed services, in this context, we mean Managed Databases, Managed Kubernetes, and other special-purpose services.
We see already that many of these services are better built and served by independent companies. Therefore, we partner with these companies and focus on making it easy for them to serve the Warren install base and its global end-users. This gives more options for end-users, more services for local providers and Warren can focus all its resources on the core infrastructure offering. We start with a limited number of service providers to build out the marketplace and over time open it up for everyone. From the financial point of view, the global Managed Services market size is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.9% and reach USD 354.8 billion by 2026 from USD 242.9 billion in 2021. Major factors that are expected to drive the growth of the managed services market include lack of skilled IT professionals, rise in demand for secure IT infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic, cost and risk reduction, and requirements for regulatory compliance and security.

Market from the end-users perspective

From the end-user perspective, the question of choosing the right cloud for their business starts by choosing between global public clouds (AWS, GCP, Azure, DigitalOcean) and local providers.
Present local providers’ Pros and Cons
Pros Cons
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):

  1. Instead of local providers building their in-house solutions (as it has been in the past) we pool this budget together and build one solution for all. To keep it up-to-date we package it as a managed service so everyone has the latest version. This enables us to attract the best talent for the job and will result in a much better end-user experience and service quality.
  2. To offer a wide range of convenience and developer tools, we are enabling a managed services marketplace on top of all providers using the Warren platform. This will make it financially feasible to offer managed databases and other services as the developers can build it once and it works across all providers. Important to note, that this will turn managed service developers into advocates for the ecosystem as a whole.
  3. The Warren platform has been built to connect local providers into a network from the beginning to enable end-users to consume underlying infrastructure from all providers as if it were one large provider.

The bigger picture - a vision for the future

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.

Partnership responsibilities

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.

Services provided by Warren

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.
Technical support team

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.

  • The Warren technical support team operates during working hours (GMT+3).
  • Around-the-clock tailored support is available as a part of a separate SLA contract.
Continuous platform upgrades

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.

Feature requests
Warren and the team accept feature requests from the partnering cloud providers. Moreover, we expect our partners to provide constant feedback on both the platform and accompanying services alike.
Onboarding end users
Self-service onboarding means that new potential customers can register their account, set up a billing account, and start using the provided cloud services immediately. This brings many benefits in terms of possible marketing automation and helps to onboard leads that otherwise would go cold. This feature is often missing from the local cloud offerings that your Warren cloud offering is competing with on the local market.

Services not provided by Warren

  • Infrastructure setup – Warren always assists and consults you on the configuration of the infrastructure setup.
  • First-level customer support – to your end-users. In the event of end-users facing Warren platform-related issues then our Level 2 support team steps in to support your support team.
  • DDoS mitigation – Warren can consult in terms of the setup of this kind of security feature.

Planning the cloud services provided

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.

Cloud computing workloads

Virtualized workloads are primarily covered with virtual machine self-service or API capabilities of the Warren cloud platform.

  • The paying customers of your company’s cloud offering can:
    Create virtual machines with a wide selection of operating systems to run every kind of application your end-users want to run in the cloud.
  • One-click applications can be produced to run on virtual machine images. This is a separate catalog presented to the user right after logging into the Warren self-service.
  • The quickly growing cloud-native market targeted either 3rd party managed Docker Swarm providers or the upcoming native Kubernetes feature of Warren’s self-service platform.

Distributed storage

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).

Block storage

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.

  • Backups – distributed storage backups can be enabled by the end-user with one click and can be restored as easily to the previous state.
  • Snapshots – are technically the same as backup images but serve a different workflow. For example, if the end-user would like to take a snapshot before they try new technology and the technology doesn’t work as expected then it is easy to restore your VM to its previous state before the failed experiment.
Object storage

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:

  • Backup storage
  • Log rotations
  • Disaster recovery
  • Data archives
  • Media storage

Managed services market

Warren features the necessary underlying functionality needed to offer managed services either by the cloud provider inhouse team or a 3rd party who has specialized in some specific service category. Managed Service Providers (MSPs) are companies who offer IT products and solutions as a service. The MSPs featured on the Warren platform are aiming to stand out by service offerings that are:
  • Redundant
  • Higher performance
  • Highly available
  • Always up to date
  • Secure
Managed services provided generally fall into the following categories:
  • Databases
  • Message queues
  • Security platforms
  • Storage and recovery
  • Backups
  • Network services
  • Managed data center and IT infrastructure services
  • Managed communication and collaboration services
  • Managed information (resource) solutions (like SAP or Microsoft Dynamics etc)

Warren platform setup process

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:

  • Introduction – high-level project timeframe, contact details, legal information.
  • Scoping and preparations – cloud services to be provided, payment model and gateway details, design materials, TLD and subdomains, mandatory pre-launch feature requests.
  • Hardware overview – hardware-related information, management VPN credentials, networking configuration, growth plans.
  • Hardware and access details – list of physical servers, specifications, and access details.
  • Network topology diagram
  • Platform configuration – pricing of the cloud resources, initial free credits, end-user support system details, admin access email addresses.
  • User acceptance testing
  • Public launch and support – launch details, brief and high-level marketing plans for the first 6 months.

Example onboarding document

Minimum hardware requirements

Warren supports multiple data centers and can scale up to thousands of servers. The hardware requirements below enable an initial minimum setup to get Warren up and running and get you started as a public cloud provider. The following examples focus on a classical deployment with separate control, compute, and storage nodes. Block storage can also be deployed as a hyper-converged setup if necessary. The Warren platform is hardware agnostic and works well with most hardware available (including Open Compute, Intel-based, AMD-based).

Control domain servers
To run a redundant Warren cloud platform we require a minimum of 3 separate physical servers.
Control nodes (recommended)
Amount: 3 nodes
CPU per node: 16 Core
RAM per node: 128 GB
Boot storage: 2 * 512 GB SSD
Network: 2 * 2 * 25 GB
Virtualization hypervisor servers
Although there are no strictly defined minimum system requirements for virtualization hosts, it is recommended to start with at least 4 nodes to enable all features.
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 servers
Warren requires a cluster of Ceph distributed storage for block and object storage. Here is one example of a recommended block storage node, but these can differ quite a bit depending on the size of the cluster and workload requirements.
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
Network hardware

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.

Switches (example)
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)
Amount: 2 nodes
CPU per node: 16 Core
RAM per node: 32 GB
Boot storage: 2 * 512 GB SSD
Network: 2 * 2 * 25 GB
Object storage servers (optional)
Object storage is a completely standalone service and has no specific relation to the rest of the cluster. Therefore, the deployment of Warren can be done completely without it, and also the size and scaling are not correlated specifically with the rest of the services.
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 support@warren.io.

Operating your business with Warren

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.

Admin dashboard

The dashboard, only visible for admin users of your company, gives a good high-level overview of the hardware usage, financial performance, and business intelligence.

Supporting end-users by impersonation feature

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.

Billing accounts

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

  • Get an overview of every billing account in the system
  • Add or remove free credits
  • Apply discounts to specific accounts
  • Activate invoice payments for trusted customers
  • Limit the amount of resources the user can provision
  • Track reseller performance

Virtual machines

The list of VMs gives you control over all the virtual machines provisioned in your cloud cluster. You as an admin can:

  • Migrate VMs over to different hypervisor servers
  • Start and stop VMs
  • Check activity logs related to the virtual machine
  • Unassign public floating IPs
  • Connect to the virtual console to troubleshoot or control the VM
  • Enter VM rescue mode to troubleshoot the VM that for example does not boot.

Hosts (hypervisors, physical servers)

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).

More admin features and settings

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.

Managing and adding new VM images and KVM-enabled apps to your app catalog to enable one-click installation of some software your customers are likely to be interested in or requested specifically.

Customer support

How end-user support is handled

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:

  • multilingual – support language native to the countries of your target market helps to attract customers who are used to the lack of support made available by hyperscalers.
  • around the clock available – make your support available when it is needed. 24/7 support plans can be available as premium services and present a new revenue stream for your cloud business.
  • easily accessible – ticketing systems are sometimes not the best tools to engage with the end consumer. Make the support provided even more accessible with instant chat that can be made available with support tools such as Intercom or Zendesk. Keep traditional channels like email or phone also available (at least upon request).
  • add a personal touch – know your customers and their business to be able to support them as expected.

Intercom integration

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

Market entry

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.

Example of market entry in user growth (APAC region)

This is the actual growth of a local provider in the APAC region who grew from 0 to 1.7K clients in 14 months using the Warren platform. Their user growth over the last 12 months is 18% (CMGR). Their focus has been on online marketing and using a gradual pricing strategy – clients with a smaller resource need with lower margins to take the market and higher margins on larger compute resources to earn profit.

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.

Landing website for cloud offering

It is important to produce an intuitive landing page for the planned cloud service offering to offer the prospects a seamless onboarding experience to the Warren self-service portal. Whether the cloud service offering website is going to be an expansion of the existing website or you plan to launch a new brand is entirely your internal decision. Few things to keep in mind:
  • Avoid additional friction in the end-user onboarding flow (don’t make them buy a domain or transfer it etc).
  • Let users into the console as fast and with as few obstacles as possible, you can always upsell and add these things later).
  • Allow users to log into the panel from every page of your website – especially the home page.
  • Promote the local support and other value propositions clearly.
  • Make prices easy to understand and don’t hide them.
  • If possible, show your team on the website to make it more personal.
  • If possible, show uptime statistics and live status.
  • Make API documentation easy to find on your website.
In case you choose to launch the cloud service under a new brand name, Warren can help you with making the offering more appealing by providing you with an appealing website if needed. This would be customer service and not part of the core offering. Pricing can vary as the level of detail and scope of the website may differ heavily. As an example, Warren has designed and built the landing website for Pilvio.

Platform configuration options to support sales strategies

Theming

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€.

Payment options

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.

Payment methods

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.

Gradual Pricing

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.

Automated emails

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.

Referral programs and free trial credits

Free credits

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.

Referral campaign

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.

Affiliate setup with cash payouts

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.

Collaborating with local digital agencies

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.

Collaborate with local software developers

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.

Digital marketing for cloud computing

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.

Blog publications
Setting up and maintaining an active blog is a great tool in building traction and community. New posts should be scheduled regularly and have a strong effect on SEO. As the internet is full of blogs and articles it is worth considering keeping the blog in the local language or bilingual. Some of the topics that could be covered:
  • A new application in the on-click app catalog. How to use them and what are the best practices. If the application is local market-specific or some vendors provide value-added services related to that application then this creates extra possibilities to cross-reference each other and/or write guest posts. These collaborations are also worth considering to be announced through press releases.
  • General best practices in infrastructure management and DevOp practices or tools. Promoting the narrative of keeping data in the local county from a security and legal perspective as well as supporting local businesses in general. These aspects are good to use in PR activities as it reaches the public interest threshold and is important for the local community.
  • If a local provider uses refurbished hardware or sustainable energy resources then these subjects are becoming important decision influencers also in the SMB market as it has been for Enterprise for a couple of years already. This subject will become increasingly important for more customers in the coming years. It is worth mentioning the company stance in regards to Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) criteria.
Enabling the comment section after blog posts are highly recommended to open up discussion with clients and use the channel also for feature requests. In some cases, these commenting sections also encourage users to support each other.
Paid advertising (PPC)

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.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

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.

Social media marketing strategy

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:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Generate leads and sales
  • Build a fan base and boost community engagement
  • Drive traffic to your website
  • Promote Warren platform frequent feature updates to the existing end-user

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.

  1. LinkedIn – Linkedin’s professional network is very useful in terms of reaching out to potential clients where the management level is generally very approachable.
  2. Facebook – Somewhat unexpectedly good results have been seen by the paid Facebook advertising that we can recommend for cloud marketing.
  3. Twitter – Twitter’s audience in the cloud and data center scene is somewhat more technical and can therefore be used to target different types of campaigns compared to Linkedin. For example, a campaign targeted to developers offering a free lower-end virtual machine (for a development environment for example) after a purchase of a production VM.

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.

Marketing automation

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:

  • When they sign up to your cloud
  • If they sign up and have not created a resource (like a virtual machine for example) within 3 days for example.
  • After creating a virtual machine resource, you could send an upsell message to the end-user to also consider managed database offerings.

This has turned out to be very effective in converting sign-ups to paying customers and growing ARPU over time.

Organizing industry events

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.

Collaborate with local municipalities and universities

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.

Collaborate with other Warren vendors

Each vendor can collaborate with other vendors (mostly) who do not originate from the same region.

  • They can share the operating system images and app catalog images.
  • Of course, sharing best practices that work in their market e.g. marketing automation.

Outsourcing options for marketing and sales

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.

Some of the agencies that would fall into this category are for example:
https://www.onegtm.com/
https://www.cloudmarkethink.com
https://cloudsuppliers.net/contact-us/

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.

Final thoughts

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.

Useful links

Warren contacts

Corporate address:
Tartu mnt 84a-33
10112 Tallinn
Estonia
hello@warren.io

Sales contact:
Henry Vaadrepass
Phone/WhatsApp: +44 7480 822228
henry@warren.io