Monday, 11 July 2011

Clouding the Issue

Recently, a senior executive of one of Britain's best technology companies questioned if The Could will ever take off.

In fact, he challenged me to name a single application that ran in The Cloud upon which a business depended and before I answered, CRM/ was not included in the list while NetSuite didn't have enough international support.

Most people are floored by such a question who call themselves Cloud experts as everyone thinks that Cloud means taking applications from behind the firewall and putting them somewhere outside. The tight, secure ring fence known as firewall has always protected companies well.

My answer to that executive was that over 70% of his daily transactions occur on the web as his ecommerce front end was an extranet service that was not only presented to customers by an internet based portal but it was served by servers based somewhere in Europe. Whatsmore, when the main servers in the UK updating this application are over-used, they grab virtualised resource from under-utilised servers and storage somewhere - anywhere - else. This is Cloud computing and without it his business would be dead in the water, be too costly to run and prey to all his competitors.

Banks serve customers over the web via Internet Banking Services and IFA portals, we buy our groceries, flights, insurance, gadgets, gifts, greeting cards, flowers, wine and much more millions over of secure transactions all over the world every second of every day. The Cloud is truly all around us and without it commerce would effectively cease. As the High Street empties of retailers and transactions, the internet fills the vacuum with a huge growth in sales and volume of trades.

The Cloud is commerce.

The problem about serving traditional office productivity applications from outside the firewall is that it strikes fear into executives. No longer can they feel as if their email is safely cluttering their network and accumulating exponentially in vast, expensive storage facilities and redundant servers are safely gathering expensive dust in long-forgotten rooms, they would have to face trimming their bills, laying off IT staff and be able to smoothe their IT costs as they get maximum ROI on their IT spend instead of woolly equations from well paid IT staff keen on saving their jobs.

FUD is the order of the day. Software vendors like even the mighty Microsoft are in a pickle as creating a truly web based version of their products is very tough while the sales model is so radically different that they fear their revenues will fall or cannibalisation of existing customers installations.

It is time to get real. Events like the Sony XBOX hacking are mammoth and illustrative of big issues but lapse security is lapse security, whether in The Cloud or behind the firewall, the issue remains. Some of the most secure systems in the world as just as vulnerable to professionals who have equal intelligence and skills.

A friend has insisted on rewiring his house with CAT V cable so he has a a point in every room because he fears WiFi is unsafe. So why not pay extra to have your house rewired with old technology and then watch the world move ahead as WiFi becomes the standard way of network communication? If it was that insecure we would all be on our knees and penniless by now is my theory.

The Cloud is underpinning much of what we do today. There is still a long way to go to get strong alternatives known to office productivity tools we use today. Office 2007 has remained the same since 2007 surprisingly and it costs £350 to upgrade to 2010 and whatever the Exchange cost plus Windows 7 upgrade at £189 too. Google for $50 a user a year has had 125 feature additions in the last year.

The Cloud is truly here and the world has already changed.

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