By David Terrar, CEO of D2C Limited, Co-founder Of Cloud Advocates

We've argued here on Cloud Means Business that Cloud Computing is heading in to the mainstream as an IT choice, but I worry about the impression that Cloud technology events like the recent Cloud Expo Europe give the average business person attending the show.

As I walk around this sort of Cloud exhibition I always try to put myself in to the shoes of one of my prospective customers coming along to find out what cloud is, and what value it could be to my business. Putting aside the 5 content streams at the show for a moment, a walk around the stands would leave me with a head full of mixed messages and the impression that it's mostly about Cloud infrastructure.

Every provider is repositioning whatever offering they've got in the kit bag with the "Cloud" brand leading to a whole host of Cloud definitions, rather than the clarity the industry needs to "cross the chasm" in to real market take up. We've talked about that before, but here is another show where most of the exhibitors were infrastructure players, managed service providers or companies with tools to help service providers or companies get their existing applications in to the Cloud.

There were a few cloud platform providers, and the only companies I could see selling Cloud apps for business where AstarCloud (a new Salesforce consulting and training partner), Unit 4 Group and Oracle (although I suspect their stand's emphasis was on tools rather than business processes). Since Cloud Apps (Software as a Service) is predicted to be the biggest spend compared to infrastructure and platform (as a Service), where are all those providers hiding?

I think this is a symptom of a trend highlighted by recent blog posts from Phil Wainewright on ZDNet and Randy Bias on the Cloudscaling blog. Both talk about a split in the cloud industry between CIOs and enterprises taking their existing applications in to the cloud, and those companies who are embracing public Cloud offerings that look beyond lower operating costs to agile operations, new ways of working and different business models. Phil picks out a great quote from Randy when he says:

“I could see that most everyone involved in the cloud computing space was spending time trying to retrofit the notion of ‘cloud computing’ to their existing business models and technology.”

The main focus of exhibitors and a lot of the content of the sessions was aimed at this retrofitting concept for existing on premise apps. This turns Cloud in to an alternative Data Centre where there are benefits but they are only part of the story. Added to this there was a lot of talk about hybrid Cloud and the acceptance that most companies will live with a mixture of existing on premise applications alongside applications moved in to the Cloud alongside pure Cloud apps for some business processes. This misses out on so many opportunities for innovation.

I could only get to a limited number of the presentations as I was chairing the Cloud Industry Forum stream at the show. By all accounts the content was regarded as strong and I would highlight my own customer Philip Woodgate of Goodman Jones explaining his experiences of how his practice has been using Cloud accounting for over 5 years, Barry Childe of HSBC explaining how they use Cloud to reduce complexity for their business units, or Geoff Newman of Recruitment Genius explaining how they have radically changed their business processes. We need more examples like this on the agenda.

So my advice to the average business person attending any of this year's Cloud conferences is to look to the presentation content for advice, but recognize that the exhibition space probably won't be the place to help them find the next generation of business and web applications that will really make a difference.

David Terrar is a consultant and software developer who specialises in the use of Cloud applications and social media in business. He is a co founder of Cloud Advocates, an association of consultants who aim to demystify the Cloud and provide pragmatic help and advice for businesses, organizations and accounting practices. To find out more, visit http://cloudadvocates.com/

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