Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Impressions from the MIT Forum Cloud Computing in Houston

The conference that met with hindrances for almost two years finally took place today. The turnout was even better than expected, and when the organizer, Roberta Kowalishin, asked people to raise hands as to who was business/technical, cloud novice/intermediate/professional, we saw that all sectors were equally represented.

The part most interesting to me was the panel discussion between Google, Oracle, SalesForce, and BMC leaders.

Scott Perry of Google/Postini said he envied the young start-ups he is seeing today. When he started Postini in 1999, they had to raise the capital of $11M to buy the infrastructure: SUN servers, Oracle databases, and the other expensive components just to start. Now, he said, he envies them who don't need any capital and can create a complete virtual company in the cloud. Everything is outsourced: payroll, CRM, but most importantly the computing power. VC's will be the last to get the new paradigm, because the startups don't need to be capitalized as before.

Equally interesting, though in a different way, was Marc Settle, CIO of BMC. They tried, he said, to dabble into the cloud, but due to various problems with applications and personnel those projects were killed. Thus, BMC could not move into the cloud, although 25% of its applications is delivered as SAAS. Thus, he was somewhat of a counter-example. However, he said that should he be starting a new start-up of 50 people, he would put everything into the cloud and have no infrastructure resources of his own.

Oracle's Bill Hodak explained Oracle's cloud strategy: enabling their software offerings to run in other clouds and help customers run their existing applications in the cloud. An Oracle database on an EC2 server can be provisioned in 10 minutes. But, they don't run their own cloud. As my own speculation, this may very well change with the acquisition of SUN, which includes both SUN server business and the SUN cloud initiative. In fact, SUN grid was one of the first in the industry, but got held up for two years by government regulations. Now Oracle may well take advantage of this work already done – but Oracle is notoriously silent about their plans for SUN.

Davi Levitt of talked about their 100,00 customers building applications on top of their platform. And he did not mean CRM, but other custom company apps, which they then roll out for tens of thousands of company users.

A funny altercation between SalesForce and Postini occurred when SalesForce's Dave claimed to be the grand-daddy of cloud computing, but Postini/Google Scott vigorously objected.

The overall impression? Despite the significant steps into the cloud (and we are talking about vendors with vested interest), the hype is still on, and the desire to claim first titles is obvious, because the potential is enormous.

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