Another Cloud Computing Conference

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I attended an invitation only conference last week for 250 top IT companies in North America, XChange Solution Provider 2010.  It was hosted by Everything Channel  and sponsored by the world’s top IT vendors.  Their goal was to present some go-to-market strategies and voice their ideas for the industry’s future… I think mostly to ensure they are all on the same page and heading in the right direction.  This year’s event was heavily focused on “the cloud”.  And that is music to my ears lately.  I was anxious to see what others had to say.  My feelings are mixed.

Tiffany Bova, Research VP at Gartner estimated their by 2012, 20% of businesses will own no IT assets!  In other words, 1 in 5 organizations will subscribe—whole hog— to an Infrastructure-as-a-Service platform and/or Cloud-based IT systems to run the entire business.   Wow.

Microsoft’s GM of Information Worker Group, Fred Studer,  shared their new motto surrounding their Cloud initiative this year, “Microsoft is All-In“.  And to reinforce that, he announced that they are dedicating 70% of their entire R&D budget to Cloud related products.  A very bold statement… but I suspect it is kind of misleading.  Here’s why:  from the big picture perspective, nearly every component in your IT system is “cloud-related” if you want it to be.  Last year’s R&D focus on application virtualization is easily re-conceptualized to be “cloud-related” without any substantive change in the actual work being done in the lab… Simply because virtualized anything is part of the “cloud”.  So again, this is super interesting….but I’m not sure how profound their announcement really is.

Cynthia Bates, Microsoft’s VP of Partner Strategy stated that 96% of Microsoft business flows through their partners; she said “You are our virtual sales force.” And then he added, “Its you that have the customer relationships”.  Flattery.  Awww, someone needs to give Microsoft a virtual hug!  Anyway, I found it interesting that Microsoft embraced their partners and recommended their own infrastructure to run our client’s business.  I have an open mind and I am always looking for better ways to manage IT for our clients.  My worry is that Microsoft wants to host the cloud-based infrastructure and have us (the certified Channel Partners) be the support arm.   I believe this is selective accountability and it concerns me.

Coincidentally, Google wants the same thing; businesses running their infrastructure in the Google Cloud.  Jeff Ragusa, Google’s Channel Boss made the same plea. “We’ll host it and you support it – we don’t have the ability to provide that support”.  In my sandbox  I have been running 3 test companies on Google apps (with dummy numbers, activities etc…).   To be sure, it is interesting and exciting – but when I had system trouble, support was horrible and I had to ‘live with it‘ until my issue has enough people demanding resolution from the corporate giant.

For a business to remain agile and successful, infrastructure support requests need to be satisfied immediately.   As they say, “time is money.”

Maybe one day, Google Apps will eventually be the way to go for SMBs… but, I cannot in good faith recommend any real business be a guinea pig or test case for Google to learn on.  So, let’s park it for a year or two.  The ITW team is constantly investigating these 2 cloud options.  So check in with me with any questions you have.

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