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Phil Worms

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There were a couple of things that I will remember from my time at the Parallels Summit ’10 which wrapped up in Miami last week.

The first was that the Summit’s venue – the Fontainebleau Resort – has a rich movie and music heritage, with its beautiful grounds providing the back drop for pivotal scenes in Goldfinger (Bond), Scarface (Pacino) and A Hole in the Head (Sinatra), whilst it is also the title subject of a song written by Neil Young and performed by the Stills-Young Band on their 1976 album Long May You Run.

The second was that, and the theme for the Summit, Cloud Computing will be the next game changer in IT, and that, with a little thought from within the Industry, it will survive the hype and deliver on its promises.

The organisers pre amble had stated that by attending the Summit ‘you will develop strategies to transform your business; you will better compete in the market through differentiated offerings and improve profitability through growth and operational efficiency’. A bold statement and one which was certainly not going to be fully implemented within three days, but thanks to the excellent key note speakers and the networking opportunity, the Summit certainly provided plenty of food for thought.

These are the points that I have taken away and will be mulling over for the next few weeks (quite probably months and quite possibly years):

There is no simple definition of ‘Cloud’

During the summit, cloud was defined as ‘Consumer and business products, services and solutions delivered and consumed in real-time over the Internet’, ‘an enabler for Small Business to get access to the fully fledged IT services they need’, a ‘combination of PaaS, IaaS and SaaS enabling technologies’ and there even appeared to be train of thought that suggested Cloud is simply existing virtual server/hosting services rebranded and marketed. Perhaps the most brutally honest description was ‘Cloud is whatever my customers want it to be and what they want to pay for’.

What this simply highlighted was that as an Industry we have yet to crystallise a definitive simple meaning which is universally accepted and easily marketed. This situation is indicative of the evolutionary state of the Cloud and will eventually pan out in much the same way as access technologies ADSL, SDSL and Cable simply became ‘broadband’ in the mid noughties.

What was clear was the message that the existence of a cloud computing infrastructure is not an end game, it creates opportunities and encourages vendor innovation, and at the end of the day it will be the customer that lets us know ‘who has won and who has lost out’ in the battle for market share. One particular phrase which resonated with me was ‘Embrace the cloud and make it your own.’

Drop the Hype

See above. Almost to the man or woman, every presenter stressed that the Industry needs to stop stoking the hype fires and focus more on the benefits and the services that Cloud Computing will deliver customers. The term ‘Cloud’ has a really high recollection rate amongst businesses in general, but few are opting to avail themselves of the services - of making the ‘jump across the Chasm’ - with many of them slightly distrustful of the mixed messages and general vendor confusion. A recent IDC survey showed that 18% of business respondents stated that Cloud was simply ‘a renaming of an old concept’ and that a further 22% believe that the market is far too immature to even consider whether Cloud would be of benefit to their businesses. In other words the Industry has some work to do.

SMB Market is the sweet spot for the Cloud Services

As highlighted in my earlier blog post, the SMB market is seen as the real sweet spot for Cloud Service vendors provided the following criteria are met:

• Competitive Pricing
• Offers SLAs
• Option to migrate back to ‘on premise’
• Provides a turnkey/complete solution
• Understands my business
• Offers both public and private versions of the Cloud
• Large network of proven partners
• Can support me
• Technology and business innovator
• Reputation & Brand

And perhaps most importantly, a business that ‘I have already done/do business with’ was given as a key criterion by 50% of those surveyed – supporting the fact that ‘Trusted Supplier’ status will be a key USP for the Cloud providers.

What the results of this survey suggest is that the SMB seeks from its Cloud provider exactly the same set of standards/values that it would from any other provider of business services – peace of mind at a competitive price.

In the Shadow of Giants

One fear or notion, which was dispelled at the Summit was that the Cloud Computing market was set to be dominated by a few major brands – Google, Facebook (an interesting inclusion - but logical when you consider the size of its recent Data Centre investment), Amazon, Microsoft, HP etc.
One of the key reasons given by several speakers, was that (apart from the obvious: this is a ‘new’ market with plenty of headroom) Cloud Computing can be sliced and diced on so many levels or ‘layers’ gauranteeing  that no single company will successfully ‘own’ or dominate every layer. The consensus was that customers will buy as their computing needs require from every layer within the Cloud, be it the infrastructure layer, the hosting layer, the development layer and the apps layer. No ‘killer’ app was identified but most indicated that basic hosting, email, back up, data storage and archiving would drive the market past the early adopter stage.

Overall a great three days worth of thought provoking debate, excellent speakers, exotic location and the reinforced satisfaction of knowing that this is a very vibrant and innovative industry to be a part of.

Maybe the next time Auric Goldfinger is in Miami planning world domination and untold riches, he won’t have to consider a nuclear explosion in Fort Knox, he simply needs to look to the Cloud.

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Phil is a 30 year IT industry veteran with a passion for education and has personally led many school and higher education initiatives designed to engage young people and showcase the broad range of exciting and fulfilling roles in IT.

A full and varied career has seen Phil move through various senior product/project and marketing positions with companies as diverse as Centrica plc, One.Tel, VarTec Telecom and iomart Group plc. Phil is working on a project to create an intergenerational social hub that will celebrate creativity and achievement in Helensburgh, birthplace of television pioneer John Logie Baird.The Heroes Centre will provide people of all ages with the new media and content creation skills required to engage fully in the digital world. Follow his progress on Twitter and on Facebook