Martin Cullen, director, SM&P, Microsoft Ireland

5 Oct 2010

The word cloud is becoming a generic term, which is making it difficult for business people and IT people to understand what it means. However, if you break it down there are many people already using a cloud service – such as Hotmail or Xbox Live – but don’t perceive it as such.

The take-up of cloud computing is more apparent than they might think. It is imperative that we put it into a language that is easy to understand and easy to relate to. It is about enabling a customer to make decisions around their IT environment, but more importantly the business environment.

Take the Windows Azure platform for apps development – if I can work and develop an app today and scale up into a production environment and launch to market without investing in equipment, it means faster speed to market, cost of market entry is lower and that’s just a flavour of the positive things to come out of cloud computing.

We have to explain to people what is more understandable and more personally-related to their business

Increase and accelerate your go market time

In terms of the advantages cloud computing can bring to a business, there are a number of areas. The obvious one is cost – you can save more money. Another advantage is you can increase and accelerate your go to market time. Thirdly you can manage your cash flow better by not exposing yourself to capital outlays – leading to cash flow improvement. A fourth advantage is it allows you to create additional service offerings to market which you couldn’t have done in the past.

We will be launching the next version of our CRM online solution in January. This is a cloud offering to allow SMBs to integrate their Outlook email environment with effective CRM.

The biggest blocker to cloud uptake is understanding. Once you communicate with a customer and talk it through and get understanding, the next phase is emotionally connecting to what can be done.

Then obvious questions emerge around security, reliability of service. But once they understand the up-time available on the cloud service, those issues tend to go away. We ended up being pretty successful last year driving cloud engagement with customers.

Cloud computing allows Irish companies to globalise themselves. It also allows Ireland to increase export culture from a software applications perspective. We see a very bright future for the ISV community in this country who are a key part of the Microsoft ecosystem. The ISV community is grasping the cloud opportunity and developing products to beat the band.