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The Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA) is an international trade organization focused on commercial advancement of cloud computing and related technologies, particularly as they are deployed for the delivery of high-value content. Member companies include industry-leading software developers and distributors, broadband network operators, content rights-holders, and service-and-support firms. Please click here for membership information and here for conference highlights. Follow us on Tumblr and Twitter, and visit us on Facebook.

DCINFO
Weekly Newsletter

July 28, 2014
Volume XLIX, Issue 1

DCIA on Digital Production BuZZ

Distributing Computing Industry Association (DCIA) CEO Marty Lafferty was interviewed this week by Larry Jordan on the Digital Production BuZZ. Please click here to stream the interview or click here for the archival copy.

Also on this program were Editor/Director Zack Arnold and Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney & Labor Reporter at The Hollywood Reporter.

Zack Arnold has been a professional editor for fifteen years, most recently on the TV program series "Burn Notice." He made his directorial debut on the documentary: "Go Far: The Christopher Rush Story."

Zack's latest venture is founding "Fitness in Post," an online resource and community built specifically for people in the post-production industry who want to live a healthier lifestyle but don't know where to start. This week, he tells us more about it.

SAG/AFTRA is claiming "significant gains" in the new contract just ratified. Jonathan Handel, Entertainment/Technology Attorney and labor reporter for The Hollywood Reporter, gives us the details.

The DCIA is an international trade organization focused on commercial advancement of cloud computing and related technologies, particularly as they are deployed for the delivery of high-value content. Marty Lafferty, CEO of DCIA, joins us this week to explain how big data, globalization, and cloud computing are dramatically changing telecommunications.

The BuZZ is all the information you need now to know what's coming next!

Subscribe to the BuZZ on iTunes.

DataDirect Networks Joins Global Alliance for Genomics and Health

DataDirect Networks (DDN) has joined the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health, an organization working to accelerate world-wide efforts to responsibly share and analyze large amounts of genomic and clinical information with the research and healthcare communities.

DCIA Member company DDN joins more than 200 of the world's leading research institutions, healthcare providers, information technology and life science companies, and disease and patient advocacy organizations across more than 40 countries as a key member of the Genomic Data and Security working groups.

Improvements in sequencing technology and methods continue to produce more and larger datasets. Now with multiple reference genomes for each population and age group, storing, interpreting and analyzing this data is becoming increasingly challenging. New standards, policies and technology are required to gain better insight to data and accelerate time to discovery in order to derive the full potential of this data for research and human health.

Today, DDN's high-throughput, scalable data storage solutions power more than one-third of the world's top genomics centers — with clients that include Life Technologies, The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Weill Cornell Medical College.

To contribute to the genomics community and help meet the data-intensive needs of the life sciences industry, DDN has committed to working together with member organizations to bring the vision of the Global Alliance for Genomics and Health to fruition.

Accordingly, DDN will contribute its expertise in data ingest, distribution and analysis of big data, to the groups' work to help create industry-accepted, open specifications to enhance the secure data collaboration and exchange process.

DDN offers a comprehensive product portfolio for Big Data Genomics applications, such as the Broad Institute's BWA and GATK, SAMtools, OpenEye ROCS and more, which accelerate and consolidate data-intensive genomics environments for alignment, search and collaboration.

With DDN Storage Fusion Architecture-based (SFATM) GRIDScalerTM and EXAScalerTM, and WOS block, file and cloud solutions, DDN offers customers purpose built genomics and life sciences storage platforms that help eliminate storage bottlenecks and accelerate discovery and workflows.

Uniquely optimized for Genomics and Life Science workloads, DDN solutions scale up and scale out effortlessly across all tiers of storage, delivering industry-leading performance, density, capacity and TCO. As a result, customers have documented massive increases to their big data genomics pipelines, as well as results that are up to 7X faster and much simpler and cost-effective to scale as data sets move from TB to PB in size.

Report from CEO Marty Lafferty

Photo of CEO Marty LaffertyThe Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA) and Cloud Computing Association (CCA) are very pleased to welcome Microsoft to our all new co-hosted CLOUD DEVELOPERS SUMMIT & EXPO 2014 (CDSE:2014).

According to research firm IDC, by 2017, the cloud computing industry is expected to more than double from its 2013 level of $47.4 billion.

The cloud's 23.5% compound annual growth rate is five times faster than that of the broader technology market.

The needs have never been greater for developers, programmers and architects to advance their knowledge, capabilities and skill-sets in order to profit from this revolutionary transformation in the business processes of the future.

Microsoft's cloud platform Azure is helping to drive this growth with services that provide enhanced performance, scalability, and additional security, which conventional web hosts just can't provide.

For web developers, this means access to hosted applications and data, along with cloud-based development services, enabling them to create web applications that have access to data and services like never before.

To help industry participants learn how to capture their share of this huge opportunity, the DCIA & CCA have partnered to present CDSE:2014 in Austin, TX on October 1st and 2nd.

Keynoting for Microsoft on the topic "Enabling DevOps for the Cloud" will be Haishi Bai, Microsoft's Technology Evangelist for Azure.

Haishi is an active technical writer with two published books on cloud computing and a blog with 0.5 million views yearly.

He's been working in the industry for 17 years, and has been accumulating software development skills since he was 12, when he wrote his first programs in BASIC.

After he joined Microsoft, Haishi's focus has been promoting Azure adoption by speaking at events, creating samples, guidance, frameworks, and tools as well as engaging with customers at different project phases to guide their cloud computing projects.

Haishi's keynote will highlight such areas as "focus on your application," "learn and innovate," and "continuous improvements."

Microsoft will also offer two workshops at CDSE:2014, which will cover "Getting Started with Microsoft Azure" and "Big Data with Microsoft Azure."

Joining Haishi in conducting these workshops will be Microsoft Research Connections' Senior Research Program Manager, Wenming Ye.

After completing his graduate work at University of Colorado Boulder, Wenming joined SRI International, where he focused on design and development of innovative wireless, handheld, and web-based simulation tools and services.

He returned to Boulder as a developer on the commercialization team at Tech-X Corp, where he developed and productized large-scale HPC software.

Wenming is currently responsible for cloud-based big data and big compute projects at Microsoft Research Connections.

Microsoft's participation and that of the other major cloud brands exemplify how this inaugural summit and expo is co-locating two related but distinct events with broader audience appeal than prior CCA & DCIA offerings.

First, it's providing the kind of senior-level strategic business conference we've pioneered with the CLOUD COMPUTING EAST and CLOUD COMPUTING WEST conference series — and for which audiences will be of the same caliber as the decision-maker attendees for those.

And second, it adds an all new opportunity for cloud-solution providers and vendors to present hands-on instructional workshops and special seminars — and for which audiences will be more directly involved in developing, programming, and implementing cloud-computing solutions.

The schedule has been carefully organized so that workshop attendees do not have to miss out on the thematically related conference sessions that are most directly related to their areas of interest.

During the conference part of CDSE:2014, highly focused business strategy and technical keynotes, breakout panels, and seminars will thoroughly explore cloud computing solutions, and ample opportunities will be provided for one-on-one networking with the major players in this space.

At the co-located instructional workshops and special seminars facilitated by more than one-hundred industry leading speakers and world-class technical trainers, attendees will, see, hear, learn and master critical skills in sessions devoted to the unique challenges and opportunities for developers, programmers, and solutions architects.

All aspects of cloud computing will be represented: storage, networking, applications, integration, and aggregation.

Three tracks will cover mobile, logistics, and big data considerations that cut across nearly every enterprise vertical migrating business functions to the cloud.

Three tracks will zero-in on three economic sectors that are now experiencing the most explosive growth: media and entertainment, government and military, and healthcare and life sciences.

Register now for CDSE:2014 to take advantage of early-bird rates.

To learn more about conducting an instructional workshop, exhibiting, or sponsoring CDSE:2014, contact Don Buford, Executive Director, or Hank Woji, VP Business Development, at the CCA.

If you'd like to speak at this major industry event, please contact me at the DCIA. .

Share wisely, and take care.

Microsoft Brings Two Open Source Tools to Azure

Excerpted from ITWorld Report by Joab Jackson

Following through on promises from new CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft continues to add support for non-Microsoft technologies, allowing them to run well on the company's Azure cloud hosting platform.

"There are a wide variety of platforms and technologies that developers and IT managers like to use. We're just trying to assure that regardless of your choice, it will work well on Azure, "said Doug Mahugh, a Technology Evangelist for Microsoft Open Technologies, a subsidiary that develops software and tools for non-Microsoft platforms.

"Our decisions about where to invest are very much driven by what is popular with developers," he said.

The company has partnered with two organizations that offer popular open source programs for managing cloud resources -- Packer and OpenNebula. Microsoft is releasing drivers that will make it easy to use the programs on Azure, as well as with Microsoft server software for in-house deployments.

Nadella said Microsoft was shifting its emphasis from Windows and devoting more resources to cloud services that can be used on any platform.

Packer is increasingly being used by system administrators to create and then manage the operations of virtual machine images. Running from any OS, Packer assembles and configures the necessary components for a virtual machine and can create identical copies to run on different platforms, such as Linux and Windows.

Packer can also work with popular open source configuration tools such as Chef and Puppet to automate the procedures of rolling out many virtual machines at once.

"Packer has been so popular lately that we heard from people that they want it see it on Azure," Mahugh said.

Microsoft is also adding support for the OpenNebula cloud management software. OpenNebula could be a key technology for companies interested in running hybrid clouds, a model in which some operations run on a public cloud like Azure and others run in-house, perhaps on a private cloud.

"Some telecommunications companies and service providers are already pretty invested in OpenNebula to run virtual data centers. We want those people to see Azure as a good fit for setting up more virtual data centers," Mahugh said.

This is not Microsoft's first move to ensure open source technologies work well with Azure. Recently, the company started work on drivers to make the much discussed open source Docker virtualization technology work efficiently on Azure as well.

Is Microsoft Adopting a More Agile Approach?

Excerpted from Tech Guru Daily Report by Guy Wright

In the shadow of Microsoft's announcement that it will be laying off nearly 18,000 people in the coming months CEO Satya Nadella all but said Microsoft would be using agile techniques to boost productivity.

According to an article in the CIO Journal written by Clint Boulton, "Nadella is preaching a more nimble approach to building software as part of the company's transformation to 'reinvent productivity' in a 'mobile-first and cloud-first world.' The effort, known as agile software development, is designed to lower costs and hone operations as the company focuses on building cloud and mobile software. Microsoft's new approach may also make redundant certain app development positions, a result that could prove beneficial [in light of the upcoming job cuts]."

Mr. Nadella said that it makes more sense to have developers test and fix bugs instead of a separate team of testers to build cloud software — definitely an agile practice. Such an approach, a departure from the company's traditional practice of dividing engineering teams comprised of program managers, developers and testers, would make Microsoft more efficient, enabling it to cut costs while building software faster.

Boulton also pointed out that "Analysts say that Mr. Nadella's comments hint at the increasingly popular agile software development method. In agile development, programmers rapidly write and deliver functional code in two to four weeks, a departure from the "waterfall" method of building software over several months or years."

According to Merv Adrian, a Gartner analyst, Microsoft's move to agile "is the inevitable consequence of moving to the cloud," where vendors are expected to provide constant software updates.

Al Hilwa, an IDC analyst, said that Microsoft will likely integrate teams of quality assurance testers with software developers to accelerate its programming processes. "They're re-engineering the engineering by going to a more agile development," he said.

While some people have questioned the agile approach in the past it has become not only an accepted approach to software development it has almost become a requirement in these days of fast deployment and cloud computing.

According to Massoud Marzban, VP of Business Development at Burnside Digital (a strong proponent of agile development), "Microsoft would do well to adopt an agile approach in how they go forward. It not only accelerates the process of software development it requires fewer people, produces more solid applications and for us it has meant much faster times to market."

Cloud Message Resonates with Microsoft Partners

Excerpted from ComputerWorld Report by Juan Carlos Perez

Microsoft has been screaming "cloud" in many partners' deaf ears for several years, but the company found a more receptive audience at this week's Worldwide Partner Conference.

From CEO Satya Nadella on down, all Microsoft officials at the event told attendees that they need to switch their businesses to the cloud urgently, or else risk obsolescence and market defeat.

"You need to get on this train. This market is being made now," a vehement and adrenaline-drenched Kevin Turner -- Microsoft's COO -- said during a WPC keynote, adding that Microsoft doesn't have enough partners selling its cloud services anywhere in the world.

Partners know the Microsoft marketing pitch can be loud and alarmist, so they take it with a grain of salt, but this time around many arrived at the Washington, D.C., conference having noticed a growing interest in their markets for cloud computing options.

"Last year, I was skeptical, but now I'm seeing more adoption and acceptance of the cloud among our clients," said Saleyman Mert, Deputy General Manager at Bilgi Birikim Sistemleri (BBS), a systems integrator in Istanbul. In the Turkish market, he forecasts that a substantial shift to cloud services will take about five years.

BBS resells few cloud services currently, but is interested in Office 365 because one of its most popular Microsoft products is SharePoint, whose SharePoint Online version is part of the suite. Mert liked that Microsoft placed more emphasis at this year's conference on cloud and mobile security and IT management products like the Enterprise Mobility Suite, because in his view those need to go hand-in-hand with cloud deployments.

Cloud computing adoption is also proceeding slowly in Argentina, but Diego Harth, an account executive at CEDI Consulting & Training in the South American country likes Microsoft's own transformation from on-premises software to software-, infrastructure- and platform-as-a-service. "I approve of Microsoft's push in this direction," said Harth, whose employer has been a partner for about 20 years.

Dragan Todorovic, a SharePoint consultant with Extreme, a 20-year partner in Belgrade, Serbia, said Office 365 is starting to gain traction among their customers in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, but that Azure is too expensive compared with other IaaS and PaaS options there.

Microsoft's investments in recent years in expanding its SaaS, IaaS and PaaS portfolios have piqued the interest of existing and new partners. That's the case of Revera, a cloud services provider in Wellington, New Zealand. Revera has been a Microsoft partner for about 10 years, but Microsoft-related business has been growing recently, and so has Revera's interest in products like Azure services and Hyper-V.

"Microsoft is a smaller part of our business, but it's having a bigger impact," said Keith Archibald, innovation program manager at Revera.

Versium, a predictive data analytics company, is an example of a new partner attracted by Microsoft's cloud products. Versium partnered with Microsoft about six months ago, after learning about the new Office 365 Power BI and Azure ML (Machine Learning) services.

"What we do as a business is very much in line with the Azure ML and Power BI stuff they're doing, so it's a shared vision," said Chris Matty, CEO of Versium, which is based in Redmond, Washington, also Microsoft's home city.

Then there are those partners who have jumped with both feet into cloud computing, and came to WPC to make sure Microsoft is all in as well and moving in the right direction.

"They're investing heavily [in the cloud] and want everybody to move there, so I just want to see how committed they are to making that [transition] smooth," said Peter Senescu, president of MetaVis Technologies in Exton, Pennsylvania.

MetaVis, an ISV (independent software vendor), currently generates about 60 percent of its revenue from sales of a toolset it developed to help companies migrate to and manage Office 365. His main interest at the conference was Office 365's SharePoint Online and its OneDrive for Business cloud storage component.

"We're optimistic Microsoft will get their customers to move to the cloud and we have tools that help facilitate the [cloud] movement and management, so that'll be a good business for us," he said. "We just have to be clear what their direction is, and that this is going to happen."

That wasn't entirely clear until recently for Dot Net Solutions, a cloud services reseller and integrator in London, which shifted from an on-premises software business model about five years ago.

"It was a big risk when we first did it," said Dan Scarfe, founder of the 10-year-old company. "We spent about four years bashing our head against a brick wall, and in the past year the doors have opened and we're getting a lot of traction. A sea change happened in the past 12 to 18 months."

The partners interviewed all said they feel positive about Microsoft's direction and about their opportunities as partners.

"I'm very optimistic," said Lim Soon Jinn, CEO of Heulab, an ISV and systems integrator in Singapore. He came to WPC seeking more information about CityNext, a partner program focused on local government customers, like cities and counties, and about Azure and Windows, platforms for Heulab mobile apps.

Microsoft is in a much better place today than two years ago, after the rocky launch of Windows 8 and its lukewarm reception in the market, said Dot Net Solutions' Scarfe. "It feels like Microsoft has got its mojo back," he said.

"We're delighted to be a Microsoft partner right now. We feel competent going in and selling Microsoft solutions. We're winning time and again against the competition," Scarfe added.

Asked about the then-rumored layoffs -- now a reality -- partners took the news in stride, saying that the move would be expected considering the significant staff increase from the acquisition of Nokia's smartphone business and that it might yield other benefits.

"It is unfortunate for the people who get caught up in the restructuring, but it will lead to renewal over time," MetaVis' Senescu said. "Microsoft needs to be more nimble and easier to work with, and perhaps a restructuring will help speed the process."

Versium's Matty, who has been involved with various startups over the years in the Seattle area and has thus been exposed to Microsoft's evolution, said he has noticed a change for the better in the company.

"I've noticed in the past five or six months definitely a shift in Microsoft's culture as it relates to working with early-stage companies," said Matty, whose company is only 3 years old. "The group we've been working with has been very supportive and collaborative."

Scarfe concurred. "Microsoft is a more friendly and humble organization," he said. "The arrogance is gone."

Cloud Computing for Tomorrow's IT Professional

Excerpted from Midsize Insider Report by Marissa Tejada

Cloud computing is proving to be a must-know technology for today's employees. New research suggests cloud ranks high as a technology that simplifies information so firms can remain at their most competitive. With that trend continuing to catch on, this responsibility is set to increase for the future IT professional.

A recent survey by Solar Winds, featured in the Cloud Computing Journal, concluded that the rise of cloud services will continue to affect how IT professionals work. Some traditional responsibilities may become unnecessary as a result, but it is ultimately the role of the IT professional to evolve with cloud technology. IT will be expected to understand their cloud services, including how to manage and integrate them into existing infrastructures. The IT landscape will increasingly depend on these services.

The research also highlights some tips for IT professionals to take into consideration. For one, they should understand cloud computing for the types of platforms available, as well as what works best for their operations. Another tip is to develop their own staff's understanding of cloud integration, applications and systems.

Finally, security will remain a critical part of the job. More cloud models means more tools will be available.

Cloud computing is considered by many to be the most pervasive technology gaining ground in the market. At growing firms, there is always the challenge of balancing IT's needs and limited resources. As a result, there will be a continued need for experienced vendors that can help IT professionals implement the best solutions. Smaller firms that have IT professionals on staff must remain highly selective when they recruit them. With little wiggle room, midsize firms should seek the most educated personnel, including those who can focus on the firm's goals and understand exactly how a cloud fits into those goals.

IT professionals that understand the cloud's challenges, both from a business standpoint and from a security standpoint, will have advantages, whether they are on their own or managing a team that engages a private cloud. This also applies to cases where an IT professional teams up with a pubic cloud vendor to optimize their computing needs.

Cloud computing is proving to help growing firms innovate, and IT professionals play a vital role in making it happen. As time goes on, their jobs will evolve with a need to learn more about cloud computing, whether the company currently uses it or has yet to invest. Partnering with skilled cloud vendors or implementing IT projects on their own, support staff will only find more use out of this knowledge.

Cloud Computing and its Potential for Software Development Companies

Excerpted from B izCommunity Report by Rudolph von Abo

What is the cloud? How do I connect to the cloud? What can the cloud do for me?

These are some of the questions asked by millions of people worldwide in an effort to understand the phenomenon that is cloud-based computing and how it impacts their lives. This article will introduce you to the world of cloud computing and the aspects of its features. The various advantages and disadvantages of the technology will also come under the spotlight. In simple terms, cloud computing involves storing and accessing data and programs over the Internet instead of from a computer's internal hard drive. The "cloud" is just a metaphor for the Internet.

In a cloud computing system there is a significant workload shift where local computers no longer have to do all the heavy lifting when it comes to running applications. The network of computers that make up the cloud handles them instead, resulting in hardware and software demands on the user's side decreasing. 

The user's computer simply needs to be able to run the cloud computing system's interface software, which can be as simple as a Web browser, and the cloud's network takes care of the rest. The origin of the term cloud computing is unclear although the expression "cloud" is commonly used in science to describe a large collection of objects that visually appear from a distance as a cloud and describes a collection of objects whose details are not examined further in a given context.

The term is also known to be used as a metaphor for the Internet where a cloud-like shape illustrates the Internet in computer network diagrams. Outside of the information technology and software industry, the term "cloud" references a wide range of services, some of which fall under the category of cloud computing, while others do not. The cloud is often used to refer to a product or service that is discovered, accessed and paid for over the Internet, but is not necessarily a computing resource. 

The cloud aims to cut costs and help users focus on their core business instead of being hindered by technical obstacles. To this end cloud, computing provides all of its resources as services where users can access these facilities using networked client devices such as desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Even though cloud computing has expanded greatly in areas of personal capacity its chief implementation is still firmly grounded in business applications and services. 

The main challenge that many software development companies face today is how to approach the implementation of cloud computing not only for internal usage, but also for deployment at clients, and as a means of expanding their product catalog. A "private cloud" is a cloud system operated with the focus on a single organization, whether managed and hosted internally or by a third party. As one might imagine, incorporating a private cloud setup into an existing company infrastructure requires a substantial level of understanding and commitment to transform the enterprise into a virtualized business environment. This requires the organization to re-evaluate decisions about existing resources, security, and overall infrastructure. 

When done right, it can provide significant advantages to the business, but every step in the project requires careful analysis of the impact this upgrade might have on the company and the various security issues that must be addressed to prevent serious vulnerabilities from being exposed. 

An example setup for a company such as Digiata, where staff usually operate off-site, would involve providing a self-service portal that hosts all the relevant products of the company that staff need access to, in order to fulfill their job requirements at clients. A personalized workspace could be set up for each employee where software products are installed and various projects set up for individuals to customize their own virtualized workspace. This in turn, could be shared with other staff to create a network of mutual knowledge. 

Cloud computing implemented in a large corporate environment mostly operates to sell hosted services that run client server software at a remote location. Such services are given popular acronyms like 'SaaS' (Software as a Service), 'PaaS' (Platform as a Service), and 'IaaS' (Infrastructure as a Service). End users of such services usually access cloud-based applications through a web browser or a client or mobile app. The business software and user's data are stored on servers at a remote location. The deliverables of each model in a typical cloud-service implementation may consist of one or more of these services:

IaaS - physical or virtualized computers and other resources

PaaS - a computing platform, typically including operating system, programming language execution environment, database, and web server

SaaS - cloud providers install and operate application software in the cloud and cloud users access the software from cloud clients 

With PaaS, cloud users do not have to allocate computer and storage resources manually, as this is handled automatically to match application demand. Users in SaaS do also not manage the cloud infrastructure and platforms where applications operate - this eliminates the need to install and run the application on the cloud user's own computers, which simplifies maintenance and support. The pricing model for SaaS applications is typically a monthly or yearly flat fee per user, so pricing is scalable and adjustable if users are added or removed at any point. SaaS allows a business the potential to reduce IT operational costs by outsourcing hardware and software maintenance and support to the cloud provider. 

This enables the business to re-allocate IT operations costs away from hardware/software spending and personnel expenses, towards meeting other goals. In addition, with applications hosted centrally, updates can be released without the need for users to install new software. A typical cloud-based solution could include any or all of the discussed services, depending on the clients' needs and budget. A proposed solution for a customer could be the provision of a virtualized server with all the required software already set up, including the applications required to perform the work for the client. 

This provides an advantage to both the client and the provider as the environment can be configured well before access is given to the client's site, and it relieves the client from having to spend time and resources creating a suitable platform for IT analysts to operate on. A fully functioning "suite" of applications could also be offered in this regard where clients log onto a site hosted by the provider where various products and client implementation data are stored. The client has choice over items in the relevant product group set up for it, with the expansion of disk space, memory allocations, and other infrastructure decisions handled dynamically by the host instead of the client. 

As with any emerging technology, there are upsides and drawbacks to weigh up against each other when considering the implementation of cloud computing in either a private capacity or public setup. Some of the advantages of the technology are: Clients would be able to access their applications and data from anywhere and at any time.

Cloud computing systems could bring hardware costs down. Clients would not need to worry about purchasing advanced hardware for a project or staff, as the cloud system would take care of those needs.

The cloud focuses on maximizing the effectiveness of the shared resources. With virtualization, it is possible to fool a physical server into thinking it is actually multiple servers, each running its own independent operating system - reducing the need for more physical machines.

Faster deployment of applications and project deliverables, which leads to improved overall productivity. Unfortunately, several deterrents to the widespread adoption of cloud computing remain. Among them are: Reliability and availability of services and data - what happens if the system "crashes" or is off-line for a prolonged period? Is there a chance that data and productivity could be lost?

Privacy concerns exist, as there is a risk of unauthorized access to the data stored on the cloud provider's server, either by employees of the service or threats from outside the system.

Possession of data becomes a muddled affair, as different rights and legal jurisdiction apply depending on the view taken of which party (client or cloud host) is the legal owner of the data.

The complexity and limited customization of a company's infrastructure and associated supporting costs could escalate beyond expectations - especially during the initial phases of implementation.

Cloud computing has become the new buzz word for the 21st century and, as its adoption by various industries and the role players in it increases, a bigger and clearer picture will be formed of its applicability to the industry, whether public or private. There are still numerous challenges and risks associated with the technology, yet many more benefits can also be gained from its implementation. For software development companies, specializing in the provision of customized IT solutions to their clients, it opens up new and exciting avenues for development and deployment at clients. Only time will tell whether the cloud will become the new holy grail of technological innovation or fade into obscurity.

Small Is the New Big: SMBs Get Enterprise Tools

Excerpted from Channel Partners Report by TC Doyle

When it comes to thought leadership and technology pedigree, it's hard to beat Jaron Lanier. Computer scientist, author, musician and more, Lanier is perhaps best known for coining the phrase "virtual reality." In his latest technology manifesto, "Who Owns the Future?" Lanier posits that the world of tomorrow will be dominated by those who leverage technology best.

"Those who own the future will be the ones who own the biggest, most effective computers who can gather everybody's data, analyze it better than anybody else because their computers are so big, and use it to calculate little, tiny advantages," he said during an appearance on "The Colbert Report" in March 2014. Over time, those advantages accumulate, leading to wealth inequality and power concentration, among other things. In a candid exchange with host Stephen Colbert, Lanier likened himself to a modern-day Dr. Frankenstein who had returned to warn people of the potential monster that he himself helped create while working for Microsoft and others.

Depressing? Maybe not. Lanier believes there still is a chance we can avoid this fate, although he's not sure how. Ironically, others believe the answer may be the very technologies about which he worries, at least for commercial enterprises. Thanks to advances in mobility, cloud computing, applications software and more, small and medium businesses (SMBs) can now leverage many of the same tools and advances that larger, institutional organizations do. The financial hurdles and organizational challenges that have traditionally prevented SMBs from embracing advanced or sophisticated technology essentially are neutralized in a world where outlays for cutting-edge innovations don't require massive, upfront capital investments or legions of staffers to implement.

Today, SMBs can leverage virtually any technology they need to compete on a level playing field with their larger counterparts. Think scalable computing on-demand, world-class backup and recovery, and even complex applications such as ERP or business analytics. All of these and more are now available to SMBs. Paired with a solutions provider that can show them how to apply these technologies to competitive advantage, SMBs can compete effectively and even leapfrog larger, enterprise competitors in many markets (see "SMB Equalizers: Solutions That Level the Playing Field").

"Emerging technologies have truly become the great leveler," said Anurag Agrawal, CEO of Techaisle, an information and communications technology (ICT) market researcher focused on SMB trends. Just five years ago, keeping up with enterprise organizations would have required "substantial dollar investments and ballooning marketing budgets," he said. But not today.

Today, SMBs can leverage emerging innovations to reduce time to market, increase customer interaction, magnify social awareness, scale more quickly and increase their market knowledge. "SMBs do not have a ton of legacy applications, unlike large enterprises, which forces them to move at glacial speed, nor do they have strong silos that become inhibitors in cross-organizational collaboration and integration," said Agrawal.

Lanier's concerns notwithstanding, several experts have been anticipating this "catching up" with large enterprises for some time. As far back as 2009, industry analysts including IDC noted a blurring "between SMB and large enterprise accounts with regard to technical requirements and features/functions." By 2011, market watchers including McKinsey & Co. theorized that cloud technology, in particular, would be a great equalizer for SMBs. "Cloud computing offers SMBs the opportunity to enhance or improve IT capabilities in a way they previously could not," the management consulting company summed in a report on SMB technology.

And last year, IDC and others concurred, realizing that a sea change was indeed taking place. Cloud solutions were allowing midsize companies to add or test new applications or processes without having to expand their IT infrastructure. "This, in turn, can help drive innovation and allow SMBs to be even more agile in response to changing conditions," the researcher said in January 2013.

As cloud and other technologies mature, the opportunity for solutions providers that cater to the SMB market balloons. This includes telecom agents and data VARs like you. Never before have technology solutions providers had a better opportunity to introduce new functionality and capabilities to SMB customers at such affordable prices. It's as though the entire ICT industry has been democratized.

"Whenever a new set of technologies arrives on the business landscape, it is often assumed that these will only be accessible for large corporations with big budgets. In the past, advanced technology was exclusive property of large corporations, because they were the only ones that could afford it," wrote Trevor Akervik in a blog in April 2014 for Marco, a St. Cloud, Minnesota-based solution provider that specializes in on-premises and cloud-based voice, data and document management technology. "However, when it comes to cloud computing, this old storyline no longer applies. Cloud computing is built upon the premise of greater access to business applications, data storage and information sharing for all parties. Thanks to cloud computing, small businesses are now in a prime position to not only access powerful technology, but they also have the opportunity to compete on the same level as larger competitors."

Want to take advantage of this revolution? Then think small, which is the new big when it comes to technology innovation.

So where do you begin? In the United States alone, you have plenty of options. Nationwide, there are 6.3 million business entities that comprise the SMB market. (Definitions vary, but experts generally agree that SMBs are organizations with between one and 1,000 employees.) These business spend a substantial amount on technology. SMB spending on data and voice technology, a broad category that includes PCs, peripherals, systems, storage devices, telecommunications equipment, packaged software and IT services, is expected to reach $152.3 billion in 2014, according to a February 2014 report produced by IDC. For perspective, the sum is nearly as much as the global 2013 revenue amassed by Procter & Gamble, Boeing and McDonalds — combined. What is more, SMB spending will grow faster than the overall business market in the next five years, according to research published in December 2013 by Gartner. The growth will be driven by software and IT services spending, which will represent nearly half of SMB spending by 2017.

Here are five categories where channel partners can take advantage most:

1. Cloud Computing. The domestic SMB cloud market in the U.S. reached $24 billion at the end of 2013, $5 billion more than 2012, according to the 2014 Parallels Cloud Insights study. Of this spending, the study said, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) represents the largest market segment, totaling $8.4 in revenue.

Today, the SMB cloud market is evolving, though it still has plenty of growing and maturing ahead of it. From its research, Parallels believes SMB customers fall into one of three camps when it comes to cloud adoption. They are:

Cloud leapers. These are SMBs that currently do not use an in-house IT solution such as on-premises servers or a PBX system. They are likely to move straight to the cloud, "leaping over" the intermediate in-house IT solutions.

Cloud converters. These SMBs currently have in-house solutions but are either moving or planning to move to hosted services. "Many SMBs that currently have in-house servers may switch to hosted servers when it comes time to upgrade their infrastructure," the report said, proving an enormous opportunity for cloud partners.

Cloud expanders. These SMBs already use some form of cloud services. They represent an opportunity for upselling to new and expanded cloud offerings. "For example, an SMB who is using Web hosting would be acting as a cloud expander when they purchase mobile optimization to complement their website," the report said.

2. Enterprise Applications. In 2013, SMBs bought more than $7 billion worth of enterprise applications, according to Parallels' study. That's right: They bought $7 billion worth of software last year that just five years ago would have been either too expensive or too complex. That's an amazing evolution in a mere few years.

So what are they buying? Parallels found that the three software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps SMBs buy most are file sharing, online accounting, and payroll and HR applications. Within the next three years, SMBs are expected to embrace online backup and storage to a similar extent.

In addition to services that will help them better run their business, more SMBs are turning to applications that can help grow their businesses. This has put them in touch with customer relationship management (CRM) and sales force automation (SFA) vendors both old and new. One such company is Infusionsoft. Its dream: to revolutionize the way small businesses grow through sales and marketing automation, said Clate Mask, CEO. "Our love for small business comes from failure and heartache and despair that is entrepreneurship that no one talks about," he said in a video posted on the startup's website.

While these developments spell opportunity for technology business consultants, there are some concerns. For example, 47 percent of SMB customers who responded to the Parallels Cloud Insights study said they "purchased" their enterprise application directly from the developer's website. Just 15 percent went through an online retailer, and only 6 percent sought the advice of a more traditional IT consultant.

This trend will no doubt change as customers look beyond one-off, opportunistic buying to more strategic ICT investing. But partners believing that customers have no choice but to turn to them are in for a rude awakening if they think SMB customers don't have options.

3. Data Protection. Though smaller than their enterprise counterparts, SMBs have the same needs as big customers when it comes to protecting their organizations from cybercrime and malicious attacks. But they tend to skimp on security compared to their larger counterparts, who spend a greater percent of their revenue protecting their digital and electronic assets.

That's a bad decision, according to experts. Consider Symantec's 2013 Internet Security Threat Report which found that nearly one-third of all cyberattacks in 2013 were aimed at companies with fewer than 250 employees. And because many of these organizations do not have full-time ICT staffs, many were not even aware that they were under attack until it was over.

Writing in Canada's SC Magazine in March 2014, author James Hale summed up what many have come to believe about SMB security: "Chances are, online security has not been a leading area of new investment, underpinned by the justification that digital criminals are only looking for the big score. That kind of thinking can have its own implications for the bottom line … to say nothing of seriously negative impacts on the reputation of small- and midsized businesses (SMBs) and their relationship with customers whose information has been compromised."

With more SMB employees and companies choosing personal, mobile devices over company-issued smartphones and tablets, security concerns are only growing for SMB customers. This is especially true as they put more and more of their key business processes into the cloud.

For partners, securing their customers' assets has never been more important. This includes not just their data, but their applications, systems and processes, most of which have been automated, too.

4. Big Data. It seems paradoxical but small can be big, especially when it comes to putting massive amounts of knowledge to use.

Many know, of course, how to use Google analytics and LinkedIn to their advantage, but there are other big data and analytics tools. In fact, the number of tools and applications is much greater than most small businesses realize. Savvy SMBs, however, haven't let a little learning curve slow them. A year ago, no less than IBM posted a video on YouTube showcasing several business partners including Angela Nardone, chairman and chief innovation officer with N2N Global, describing the work they are doing to help SMBs leverage big data. Thanks to N2N Global, restaurants and retailers no longer have to make emotional decisions based on their gut. Instead, they can leverage big data presented in digestible nuggets with IBM tools to make better business decisions.

Today, there are a sizable number of partner-friendly developers with products aimed specifically at helping SMBs leverage big data. The list includes SizeUp, a San Francisco-based developer of business analytics tool.

"SMBs are already at a competitive disadvantage because they don't have access to the same quality of business intelligence and competitor analysis that big businesses have," SizeUp says in its Web pitch. "We are leading a movement to level the business information playing field, help entrepreneurs to grow their companies and reduce small business failure." Like others pursuing opportunities in this market niche, the company is counting on channel partners to give SMBs the same data-driven insights that big businesses have come to depend on.

5. Unified Communications. In 2013, SMB spending on unified communications (UC) reached nearly $5 billion in the U.S., according to Parallels' Cloud Insights Study. This includes business-class email services, mobility and hosted phone services, including hosted PBX. As of 2014, Parallels expanded its scope to include communication and collaboration applications, including Web and phone conferencing, instant collaboration and mobile device management (MDM).

While interest in Web conferencing solutions is growing, customers' top priorities remain price and security, according to the study. Interestingly, many SMB customers continue to rely on free or public-based email services. The No. 1 reason why most switch to a paid service eventually? Security.

Similarly, SMB customers looking to move from the traditional PBX-based systems to VoIP-based systems say reliability is their No. 1 concern.

For partners, these two realities provide plenty of reason to knock on SMB doors and pitch better and more capable UC solutions. Of course, this will require careful handling of legacy business applications and processes. It will also require that your organization offer something more than mere "key systems" whose primary virtue is affordable phone calls and voice mail.

Given that growth and customer service are the top objectives of most SMBs today, partners will need to offer UC solutions that help customers scale their expertise and improve their ability to serve customers. For them, UC offers idea functionality in at affordable prices.

Despite this reality, it is estimated that fewer than 5 percent of SMBs customers with fewer than 50 employees have adopted a UC solution for their organizations. That means 95 percent of the market remains for the taking.

Which brings us back to the original premise: Small is the new big when it comes to your next opportunity. Heed the advice of experts and you'll not only improve the fortunes of your organization, but the fates of SMBs who have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage world-class innovation and level the playing field against their larger enterprise counterparts.

A world dominated by greedy, winner-take-all monopolists? It doesn't have to be, as futurist Lanier fears. Not if you and your customers have anything to say about it.

Coming Events of Interest

Silicon Valley Innovation Summit — July 29th-30th in Mountain View, CA.AlwaysOn's 12th annual SVIS is a two-day executive gathering that highlights the significant economic, political, and commercial trends affecting the global technology industries. SVIS features the most innovative companies, eminent technologists, influential investors, and journalists in keynote presentations, panel debates, and private company CEO showcases.

International Conference on Internet and Distributed Computing Systems — September 22nd in Calabria, Italy. IDCS 2014 conference is the sixth in its series to promote research in diverse fields related to Internet and distributed computing systems. The emergence of web as a ubiquitous platform for innovations has laid the foundation for the rapid growth of the Internet.

CLOUD DEVELOPERS SUMMIT & EXPO 2014 — October 1st-2nd in Austin, TX. CDSE:2014 will feature co-located instructional workshops and conference sessions on six tracks facilitated by more than one-hundred industry leading speakers and world-class technical trainers.

International Conference on Cloud Computing Research & Innovation — October 29th-30th in Singapore. ICCRI:2014 covers a wide range of research interests and innovative applications in cloud computing and related topics. The unique mix of R&D, end-user, and industry audience members promises interesting discussion, networking, and business opportunities in translational research & development. 

PDCAT 2014 — December 9th-11th in Hong Kong. The 16th International Conference on Parallel and Distributed Computing, Applications and Technologies (PDCAT 2014) is a major forum for scientists, engineers, and practitioners throughout the world to present their latest research, results, ideas, developments and applications in all areas of parallel and distributed computing.

Copyright 2014 Distributed Computing Industry Association
This page last updated July 27, 2014
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