The premise for my latest InformationWeek article, How To Reduce IT Service Costs In The Cloud, is that companies are paying unnecessary consulting and support fees for cloud apps, increasing their total cost of ownership by upto 50%. Several commentators disagree – their main contention is that services will always be required in order to provide a better fit with a customers needs or to integrate with other systems.

They aren’t wrong. Application integration, for instance, does require services. However, the cost of both middleware products as well as supporting services has been lowered significantly since integration became available as a service (ask Informatica). You will notice a similar trend with professional services in the cloud – they cost much less than professional services for on-premise software. In fact, traditional systems integrators have not yet been super successful in the cloud, primarily because it’s not providing them as much services revenue as on-premise software has been.

My point is that quite a few (but not all) of the professional services in the cloud are either costing much less (most people would agree with that) or are not required (since they are either redundant or available for free).

Let’s understand why. Cloud is a new technology but, unlike other new technologies, it’s a game-changer which drastically alters the existing business models. The new model forces cloud providers to provide certain services for free, so that they can keep customers long-term (this wasn’t needed in the on-premise world), not because it’s some gimmick (in fact, since the cloud model is subscription-based there isn’t any room for gimmicks – sustained customer satisfaction is of paramount importance). Just the way Starbucks provides internet for free, in the hope you will buy their coffee (and scones, which I like), but if you don’t, you still get something (internet and a decent environment to use it) for nothing.

All this is great news for customers of cloud apps. They will be the ones to benefit most.

Now, does this mean that there will be no professional services needed and all systems integrators will eventually go out of business? Not at all. There will always be areas needing services. There may still be a lot more consulting services required, for instance, to sort through the mess created by a proliferation of niche cloud providers. Systems integrators that provide application support may have to start focusing on providing that support to cloud providers, instead of companies. In summary, if you are a provider of professional services, cloud computing will force you to rethink your portfolio, value proposition and target customer base … at a minimum.

Alok Misra