Cloud 2011 – the year everything began to lock into place

30 Dec 2011

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The year 2011 was a pivotal year in the history of cloud computing in Ireland. The Government formed a high-level leaders group aimed at deploying cloud throughout the State, developers got their hands on Microsoft’s next OS Windows 8, and a Kinsale-based entrepreneur was credited by MIT with co-coining the term ‘cloud computing’.

Govt departments and agencies form high-level cloud group

The Government of Ireland established a high-level, cross-Government implementation group focused on ensuring the State is seen as a leader in deploying cloud technology and an integral step towards securing the 8,600 local jobs that could be created in the cloud computing space.

The group will include representatives of all departments and agencies responsible for all aspects of cloud computing policy: expenditure, IT procurement, security, infrastructure and industrial strategy.

Bruton said that Government, as a major user of IT in the economy, needs to take a lead in the cloud computing area to provide opportunities and economies of scale for growing businesses in the sector.

He pointed to a recent report by Microsoft that estimates that by 2014 the cloud computing industry in Ireland could be worth €9.5bn and could employ 8,600 extra people.

Born of the cloud: for developers Windows 8 is the ‘write stuff’

In September Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer revealed there have already been 500,000 downloads of the new Windows 8 OS, which will make devices instant-on and capable of running on a single charge. New features include a "Metro style" user interface that is equally at home on a tablet computer or a mouse and keyboard.

“(Some) 350m Windows devices will be sold this year. No phone, tablet – nothing – on the planet, no OS on the planet will ship 350m units of anything other than Windows and that creates opportunities for developers. When we ship Windows 8, there will be an installed base of 500m PCs that can be updated to Windows 8. Hundreds of millions of people will be the target for your innovation from day one."

What struck me most about Ballmer’s words this time around was the fact he and many others at Microsoft are realising the developer community we know of today is about to expand beyond anything we can imagine.

Microsoft wants to see the most loyal and longstanding members of this community benefit materially from the explosion in apps, big data, open data and cloud-based services. It then wants to broaden its church to include new categories of developers – people who develop apps for fun or as a hobby, entrepreneurs who create to build businesses and ordinary people who create something that may be of intrinsic value to others or be for the good of society.

“Big data, data as a business, business intelligence and massive analytics and new services in the cloud – all of this needs to be invented, put in the market and made available and put in as developers as we move forward.

“We are taking a look at every one of our cloud apps and asking what aspects of this app might be interesting to developers. In Office 365, we’re making SharePoint general purpose. We’re looking at making an extensible version of Bing and general purpose CRM apps from Microsoft CRM.

“The push on our cloud services through apps, Windows Live and Azure, is a fundamental part of the rethinking and re-imagining going on at Microsoft," he said. "We’re in several businesses – phones, PCs, tablets, TV devices, cloud platforms, productivity, search, ERP and CRM. Each and every one of these groups, not just the one you heard we are redesigning … we’re retooling all of what we do.

“This is a time of unprecedented opportunity for developers," he said.

The cloud in education

Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) became the latest education body in Ireland to move all of its email and calendaring for its 22,000 students to Google Apps for Education.

It is understood the move to Google Apps has enhanced collaboration and mobility for students, allowing them to engage with each other anytime, anywhere, from any computer or mobile device. The service was implemented for new and returning students at the start of the 2011 academic year.

The migration began in September and Baker Security & Networks, a Google Enterprise partner, provided assistance in reviewing DIT’s approach and advising on various aspects of the project.

Cork becomes a major cloud hub

As well as being home to the operations of major computing and cloud giants like EMC, VMware, IBM and Apple, Cork intends to cement its reputation as a major cloud computing hub. It emerged that Cork Internet eXchange (CIX), which serves 20,000 homes and business, plans to take on the might of Amazon and Microsoft’s Azure.

CIX has begun a new cloud computing infrastructure strategy geared at supporting SMEs. The new service will initially lead to the creation of eight high-skilled post-graduate jobs in software, networking and technical support, with the potential for further growth in the future.

The people behind CloudCIX believe that over the next 12 months the service will mature into a world-class, cost-effective offering capable of competing with Amazon and Microsoft Azure.

On foot of cloud ventures like the EMC, VMware and Cisco launch of cloud enterprise VCE (which is now also partnering with SAP), it seems Cork is fast becoming a global hub for data storage and other centralised server services.

MIT credits Irish-based entrepreneur with co-coining term ‘cloud computing’

An Ireland-based entrepreneur living in Kinsale was been recognised in the latest edition of the MIT Technology Review as co-creator of the term ‘cloud computing’ and as being an early proponent of the development of cloud computing.

MIT Technology Review credited Sean O’Sullivan, co-founder of Avego Ltd, with co-coining the term with George Favaloro, from Boston, Massachusetts.

In 1996, O’Sullivan’s company, NetCentric, was a leader in providing "software for inside the internet", and Compaq Computer’s Favaloro invested US$5m in the idea to develop the industry of software providers for internet infrastructure.

“It has been a blast from the past to hear about this," says O’Sullivan. "NetCentric correctly predicted the evolution of LAN services and  in-computer services to the cloud, and although we didn’t manage to capture much of the business for ourselves, cloud computing has had an impact on close to half the people on the planet."

NetCentric trademarked the term "cloud computing" in 1997, and let the application expire by 1999. In 2001, another internet company purchased NetCentric.

“Cloud computing" is the delivery of computer services through the internet infrastructure, and has been credited with transforming the media, computing and telecommunications industries.

Services such as Skype, Apple’s iCloud for content and data, and well-known computing applications like MSN Hotmail and Salesforce.com are all applications of cloud computing. Amazon and Google also have large cloud platforms.

The cloud is a US$20bn Smarter Commerce opportunity, IBM says

In September IBM unveiled its cloud computing vision which focuses on enabling e-commerce transactions among businesses and consumers rather than just shuffling data. It has launched new Commerce-as-a-Service (CaaS) and social media marketing technologies.

The IBM Smarter Commerce initiative is focused on helping companies more effectively market, sell and secure greater customer loyalty in the era of social networking, mobile computing and online buying.

The new Commerce-as-a-Service (CaaS) and social media marketing technologies are a combination of technology derived from acquisitions such as Unica, Coremetrics and Sterling Commerce and combining them with IBM R&D results.

The technology giant says the new software solutions are designed to help companies intelligently automate supplier and trading partner interactions, automatically turn marketplace insights into marketing and sales actions and connect online, mobile and social channels to physical stores.

In fact, 64pc of consumers make a first purchase based on a digital experience. It’s critical that companies detect rapid shifts in online behaviour and refine their marketing, sales, customer service and supply chain efforts accordingly.

Google Gmail viable alternative in enterprise email market – Gartner

Google’s enterprise Gmail is building momentum with commercial organisations, and it now presents a viable alternative to Microsoft Exchange Online and other cloud email services, according to Gartner, Inc.

Gmail has only been in the market for five years.

"The road to its enterprise enlightenment has been long and bumpy, but Gmail should now be considered a mainstream cloud email supplier," said Matthew Cain, research vice-president at Gartner.

"While Gmail’s enterprise email market share currently hovers around 1pc, it has close to half of the market for enterprise cloud email. While cloud email is still in its infancy, at 3-4pc of the overall enterprise email market, we expect it to be a growth industry, reaching 20pc of the market by year-end 2016, and 55pc by year-end 2020."

Cain said other than Microsoft Exchange, Google Gmail is the only email system that has prospered in the enterprise space over the past several years. Other enterprise email providers – Novell GroupWise and IBM Lotus Notes/Domino – have lost market momentum, Cisco closed its cloud email effort and VMware’s Zimbra is only now refocusing on the enterprise space.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com