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Reflections on CloudCamp

This past Friday saw the second instalment of CloudCamp in Auckland, of which Intergen were a silver sponsor. CloudCamp is an unconference where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies get together to exchange ideas. With the rapid change and innovation occurring constantly in the industry, a place is needed where technology and business stakeholders can meet to share common experiences and solutions, or discuss concerns and address challenges they may be facing in the Cloud.

At CloudCamp, delegates are encouraged to share thoughts in several open discussions in the drive for the advancement of Cloud Computing. For more information on CloudCamp and dates for future events be sure to check out http://www.cloudcamp.org/

Local organiser Ben Kepes had this to say on his blog about the event: “It seems that 2010 is going to be a big year – two factors would seem to account for this, firstly that we’re coming out of a recession and the barriers to expenditure are finally coming off, and secondly that every man and his dog, from start-ups to traditional vendors, are positioning themselves to deal in this brave new world.”

Some of the presenters from the sponsors really embraced the spirit of an unconference during their lightning sessions and presented exclusively about the topic and never tried to pitch their company, brand or products. Darryl Burling, from Microsoft, had a very interesting 5 minute session discussing the various business models around the Cloud and how sustainable, or not, each model was.

Whilst some partners and sponsors really embraced the spirit of an unconference, the majority of the lightning sessions were still delivered by vendors trying to sell their product or their services; I guess it is difficult to really embrace the spirit and speak about a topic in a purely agnostic manner. The topics and subjects spoken about were still very interesting though. Anne Bilek from enStratus had a very good session highlighting that they focus on a few key concepts around “Governance in the Cloud”.

After the rounds of lightning talks were done it was time to open the floor up to questions which were fielded by the great panel assembled from the attendees, on the fly.

Local lawyer Rick Shera, who focuses on law in and around ICT, had his hands full during the panel discussion as the topic of discussion kept coming back to the same general theme, that of data sovereignty and privacy. Who owns my data if I put it in the Cloud? What does the law say, can they protect me and my data? A number of delegates passionately challenged the line of questioning saying that holding up progress because of legal, or privacy concerns, was archaic and would not get anybody anywhere and that the Cloud was no different to any eCommerce venture that most of us have embarked on before. For me though, the fact that the majority of the people in the room who already understand the Cloud and the benefits of it have these concerns is a warning sign. If we are unsure about it, imagine how unsure and scared the customers whom we are trying to migrate to the Cloud are feeling. To date, during every discussion I have ever had with a client about moving their processing or their data to the Cloud this very question has been raised and I’ve been unable to answer it. It is becoming clear to me that the barriers to entry around the Cloud are not technical obstacles but mostly softer issues that need to be dealt with before customers will feel truly comfortable embracing this new way of computing. To ignore these questions hoping that the legal systems will catch up, or that these concerns will just disappear over time, is potentially shortsighted and dangerous.

Once the organisers managed to successfully wrestle the topic away from the legal and jurisdiction issues raised, the discussion touched on some other interesting aspects of the Cloud.

One of the key selling points around the Cloud is to break the vendor lock-in that many organisations currently find within their environment today. Ben Kepes, however, raised an interesting point when he said that the process of moving to the Cloud requires as much investment and commitment that once a company was operating in the Cloud it would be very difficult to switch providers. So will Cloud computing really alleviate the stickiness we see today, or will it just move this to a new platform?

Is the Cloud new? One of the lightning presenters showed a slide that depicted a progression in the computing industry; moving from the mainframe and progressing through the personal computer to the web and ultimately evolving to the Cloud. However, isn’t the Cloud a simple morphing of the mainframe that we had decades ago? Mainframes offered elasticity in processing power, they offered on demand provisioning and scalability all those years ago. Have we not just taken this concept and expanded the accessibility off-premise?

Companies have been successfully doing business on the web since the 90's and present at CloudCamp were a number of success stories within the SaaS (Software as a Service) model. There was representation from well-known success story Zendesk that offer a helpdesk in the Cloud who discussed their experience with running a business on this model. We were also very fortunate to have Vaughan Rowsell from VendHQ, a new Kiwi startup in the SaaS space offering a point-of-sale solution in the Cloud, sharing with us some of his experiences around setting up a new venture aimed at challenging the status quo in a very well established industry.

All in all I found CloudCamp to be a very enlightening experience which has certainly sparked a number of thoughts and ideas. The networking opportunities were fantastic and it was reassuring to discover that we’re not alone out their when we raise skepticism and concerns about operating in the Cloud. As usual I think it is safe to say that we live in exciting times and the Cloud has the potential to really change the way we currently think about computing.

Posted by: Ryan CrawCour, Solution Architect | 04 March 2010

Tags: Cloud Computing, CloudCamp

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