18/08/2011

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

Less than 2 months ago I was chairing some of the presentation streams and panels of the Cloud Computing World Forum, Europe's best attended Cloud event of 2011, held this year at Olympia in London. The conference sessions were generally good quality, but walking around the exhibition stands of the event I was struck by three things:

- A big emphasis on Infrastructure providers and a feeling that there were plenty of vendors re-branding whatever product offerings they had as "The Cloud"

- A big concern over how the average business person attending the show would make sense of the possibilities and business benefits within this wall of jargon and "technospeak" they were confronted with

- The puzzling lack of business application providers - there were a few there, but well hidden.

Sadly the emphasis on jargon and an inability to articulate the real advantages is normal for the IT industry and any technology paradigm shift. Whether it was mainframes, mini-computers, distributed computing, the advent of the IBM personal computer, networks or the shift to client/server technology, we've never been very good at getting to the real issues. It's one of the things we try and address. As an industry, we need to do better, but the emphasis on Cloud topic as storage and Infrastructure as a Service needs to change. Forrester Research have recently published a report that forecasts the global cloud computing market will grow from a $40.7 billion in 2011 to $241 billion in 2020. However, the most striking thing about the projections comes courtesy of their diagram as published by Larry Dignan on ZDNet:

You can see there is some growth in Infrastructure (as a Service), Platform (as a Service), and Business Process (as a Service), but by far the most significant jump and share of the cake is in Software (as a service) - from $21.12 billion in 2011 to $132.57 billion in 2020. The benefits of cloud storage, or the ability of an IT department to develop applications quickly and securely on a cloud platform is important, but the real action comes with off the shelf, Cloud based business applications, and this Forrester graph shows that dramatically.

The lack of visibility of these application providers at the World Forum is partly to do with the style of this kind of show, partly to do with the current lack of mature products in many application areas, but mostly to do with the nature of Cloud technology as a platform for innovation. There are some well known bigger players in the Cloud application space like Salesforce or NetSuite, but most of the providers are good, but smaller companies capitalizing on the same benefits they are offering their customers. For example, here in the UK if you look for a Cloud accounting product there are more than 75 to choose from (and yet only 1 of those was at the Cloud show). Those companies don't have the big marketing budgets required to pay for and staff a stand at that kind of industry show - something we're working with the CCWF organizers to try and fix for next year. In any case these apps providers find their customers in a much more direct way using the Internet and word of mouth. However, the industry and IT related publications need to change focus and spend a lot more time talking about the Cloud business applications that enterprises of all sizes will be looking for in the next five years. We'll certainly be doing that here.

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 www.cloudadvocates.com

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