Friday, May 18, 2012

AusCloud Forum May 2012

I had the pleasure this week of being OrionVM’s guest on the panel for this month’s AusCloud Forum (see tweets).

The panel I was on followed the three keynote speakers:
  1. David Yuile, CEO of AAPT on Powering the Cloud
  2. David Werdiger, CEO of Billing Brureau on SmartBilling
  3. Sheng Yeo, CEO of OrionVM on Carrier Clouds
The speakers were interesting in the most part, I think David had us the most entertained, but unfortunately he was in the dark for most of it (and really needs to read Beyond Bulletpoints as his first slide had tiny icons I couldn’t even read from the 5th row.
The panel was about “Enterprise in the Cloud” and put me in some very flattering company:
We had several great questions to answer, and some interesting variances in opinion. I wasn’t tracking well enough to keep everything in order, but some of the high points from my point of view were:

Cloud Has Arrived

It is clear that enterprises are switching to use the cloud, at least on new/internal projects. This was backed up at yesterday’s AWS Summit where News Ltd and Realestate.com.au both shared they have moved their development/test environments over to Amazon’s cloud. This is what we’re doing at Elcom. Our release testing now occurs on servers at OrionVM that get spinned up when we need them and archived  in between.

Hardware Must Be Sweated

Both Roger Lawrence and David Yuile were emphatic that enterprises have significant hardware (and skill) investments that need to be sweated before they will feel free to move to the cloud. Sometimes these can be re-tasked for other duties, but all too often they can’t be (few banks are moving their mainframe code just yet (although MicroFocus and Heirloom Computing both offer COBOL in the cloud).

Give Me Standards

David Yuile was heavy on the need for cloud standards, and he thinks that larger players should put some money up to ensure standards get worked on properly. He likened the current trepidation about cloud to the same feelings enterprises had about VLAN – and in a similar fashion he thinks some standards will help it go mainstream.
Roger pointed out that there’s a difference between standards and certifications, with the later being what most enterprises care about. I agree to a point, as a small ISV we can’t always afford to get all the certifications we’d like to, and being able to assure customers we can adhere to a standard is often all we need to do.

CIOs See New Savings, CEOs See New Possibilities

Roger had a very interesting point to make about how different occupants of the C-suite tend to approach cloud. CIOs tend to see the cost savings and efficiencies to be gained, whilst CEOs come from the point of view of what new possibilities the cloud offers their business. A case in point was that of a large construction company where IT costs were around 1% of revenue – any saving being negligible – but being able to reduce the wait between delivery of goods to clients and payment of invoices from 27 to 26 days was worth $34M in extra cashflow.

We Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

I think we have barely seen what the real effect of the cloud will be in the enterprise arena. Most technology shifts are not really embraced until the generation that grows up with it gets the chance to flex their muscles in the workforce and for the cloud that is still 5 years or so away. When you have grown up with streaming media as the norm, mobile access the primary means of internet access, true ubiquitous computing and commoditised cloud services how differently will you regard the problems enterprises (and countries) face today?

Cloud Helps Startups, But Not That Much

There is some lurking optimism that if we just commoditise the cloud and computing enough then startups will suddenly multiply and change the world. Unfortunately for that rather utopian idea the lowering of the barriers to entry helps everyone, big enterprise innovator and  garage startup alike – it also means more competition and noise to rise above.
An example comes from my wife’s cousin who has worked in the Australia games industry for over 15 years. The industry is currently deep in recession, but it looks like it’s healthy because so many developers are trying their hands at mobile games. The problem is that few (if any) of them are making any money (Halfbrick being a notable exception).

Microsoft’s Future (bonus)

Not particularly cloud related, but a subject dear to Roger and my heart and something that came out of one of the questions asked. We both have strong opinions on this, but what it boiled down to was the success of Windows 8 will define how much affect Microsoft has on the future.
Roger pointed out that Microsoft might lose it’s way, but like IBM, still remain a giant in the IT space. He also noted that Microsoft’s partners, as heavily invested as they are in its success, are a mighty (not so) secret weapon when it comes to their success in the business world.
Personally I think their Windows 8 Metro UI is inspired, and will probably be a great hit on tablets and mobile devices … it’s penetration into the business world will be limited by old non-touch LCD monitors (see “Hardware Must Be Sweated” above). However, Microsoft will both find ways to maximise the switch, and will care less than it used to if it can wrest majority control of the mobile/tablet space from Apple/Android.

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