The year in cloud – how Ireland lay the building blocks for the cloud economy

29 Dec 2012

The year 2012 was a year of advancement for cloud computing on so many levels. As well as companies like Google and Microsoft revealing new cloud-based services, it was a year that saw many key building blocks being laid by the Irish State to ensure the country flourished in the growing cloud economy.

January – major cloud security experts gather in Cork

Trend Micro’s major operation in Cork played host to some 350 cyber security experts from around the world. The Cork operation is in the fighting front line against hackers and uses the internet cloud to defend organisations against cyber attacks.

The operation’s general manager Anthony O’Mara, senior vice-president EMEA of Trend Micro, is on the steering committee of the International Cyber Security Protection Alliance (ICSPA), which was formed to fight cybercrime in the aftermath of breaches at Sony, RSA and Citibank.

He said that due to the proliferation of malware, the amount of unique pieces of malware is exponential. There’s no way you can defend against everything unless you wanted to block the entire internet, he said.

“We decided the best way is not to stop everyone doing business and the better way to defend is to keep malware off the server.

“We do this via the cloud by looking for correlations between file reputation, email and indeed web reputation.”

Research by Trend Micro demonstrated how cheaply cyber-criminals sell the proceeds of their activities, and just how much cash they can make out of it, too:

  • $800 buys a passport from an EU country
  • $500 buys a UK driver’s licence
  • $80-$150 buys a credit card ‘dump’ – data that can be written to the chip or magnetic strip
  • 2c-15c buys a credit card blank
  • $180m in 12 months is what one gang made from peddling fake security software, designed to fool the victim into believing his or her PC is already infected

February – Government cloud alliance with EMC

The Government of Ireland and data storage giant EMC, along with Cisco, VCE, VMware and the IDA revealed plans to create a major cloud innovation centre.

The new centre, which will consist of two world-class private cloud infrastructures that will sit inside both EMC and on the Irish Government’s data infrastructure, will perform a number of important roles.

Firstly, the innovation centre will allow indigenous SMEs and multinationals to test, develop and demonstrate apps that could be used by the public sector.

Secondly, it will provide public-sector departments and agencies with a platform to trial new cloud solutions and avoid costly IT blunders.

The centre will also promote Ireland as a leader in the cloud computing and big data industries and provide entrepreneurs and start-ups with an opportunity to vie for Government contracts that would have been out of reach.

March – BT makes major cloud investment, schoolbooks go to the cloud

Global telecoms giant BT revealed plans to expand its Dublin data centre as part of a multi-million euro investment that will see the addition of 5,500 sq feet of data centre, including 300 new racks and 1 megawatt of power.

The investment aims to meet growing demand by organisations in Ireland for traditional data-centre services, such as co-location, as well as fully managed physical, virtualised and cloud-based services.

BT’s centre in Citywest is the only carrier-neutral data centre in Ireland that has its own global network, connected to 45 BT data centres around the world. BT first established its data centre in Dublin in 2000, and subsequently bought out Telecity Redbus from its data centre in Citywest in 2004.

The 190,000 sq-foot data centre campus facility, which includes 62,000 sq feet of customer technical space, holds ISO 20000 accreditation for IT service management, ensuring best practice service provision and on-going service improvement as cornerstones of all data centre solutions.

Also that month, educational publisher CJ Fallon revealed it will offer its schoolbooks through the cloud on the Windows Azure Programme, claiming it will save parents up to 25pc of the cost of textbooks per student.

As part of the new deal between CJ Fallon and Microsoft Ireland, the e-books can be read through CJ Fallon’s e-reader, available for free through its website, which can be used to unlock specific titles for use based on a licensing model.

Schools are given access to the licence manager to allow them to target specific resources at individual users or class groups.

“Through this service, CJ Fallon is cuttings costs for parents, making lesson planning for teachers easier and supporting the move of the Irish education system to an online forum,” said Microsoft Ireland’s Orla Sheridan.

April – Government reveals plan to make Ireland a world leader in cloud

As part of its Action Plan for Jobs, the Irish Government revealed a €1.2m programme to make Ireland a world leader in cloud computing. The new Cloud Computing Technology Research Centre will exist as a consortium of third-level institutions.

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, TD, announced details of the €1.2m initial research programme in the Cloud Computing Technology Research Centre, aimed at helping to make Ireland a world leader in this fast-growing area, and at making a significant contribution to jobs and economic growth.

The funding will be allocated over 12 months to a consortium of Higher Education Institutions to carry out the initial research programme of the centre. Led by Dublin City University, the research consortium, which includes University College Cork, and Athlone Institute of Technology with input from the Innovation Value Institute at NUI Maynooth, will use the funding provided by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through Enterprise Ireland to work with a group of software companies to establish ways to generate business and profit from cloud computing.

Google Drive

Google revealed its hand when it comes to competing with Microsoft, Apple, Dropbox and others in the cloud storage market. The search giant went live with its new Google Drive online cloud storage service – a central hub for storing documents, photos, videos, and more.

Users can get started with 5GB of storage for free. Users, if they wish, can upgrade to 25GB of storage for less than US$2.50 a month.

May – new standards set for business use of the cloud

New standards for helping large and small firms move to the cloud were published by the Irish Government in May.

The National Standards Authority of Ireland, in partnership with the Irish Internet Association (IIA), launched the new standards, entitled, ‘SWiFT 10: Adopting the Cloud – decision support for cloud computing’.

The standard is designed to provide guidance to organisations both large and small on the various issues that need to be considered when moving to the cloud.

Bye bye, Windows Live

Microsoft revealed it was dropping the ‘Windows Live’ services brand and instead – to coincide with Windows Phone and the arrival of Windows 8 and the hope of a thriving apps market – will let strong brands like Hotmail, SkyDrive and Messenger fight on their own terms.

Windows Live services are used by more than 500m people worldwide every month.

Citrix survey

According to a new Citrix survey, 28pc of Irish businesses were in the process deploying desktop virtualisation projects.

Of those interested in desktop virtualisation, 16pc said they were looking at an immediate project, with a further 46pc saying they had a project planned for 2012.

One of the big drivers of desktop virtualisation for these Irish businesses continues to be cost, including the associated reduced total cost of ownership and the reduction in Windows 7 migration costs.

June – UCC unveils virtual cloud incubator

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) found an easier route to cloud computing via a new cloud incubator designed to avoid large upfront costs and complexities that can come with migrating to hosted platforms. The UCC Cloud Incubator, the result of a partnership between University College Cork (UCC), Dell and VMware, will be powered by Dell and VMware, and managed by Dell Services.

“Difficulties faced by the SMB sector in Ireland around cloud computing include access to appropriate software and resources, as well as tangible advice around the subject matter,” said John Morrison, of UCC’s Centre for Unified Computing.

“Our investment in cloud infrastructure tackles these issues and arms SMBs within Ireland with the information and infrastructure needed to explore the real potential of cloud computing and realise benefits quickly.”

July – Data Protection Commissioner outlines privacy guidelines for the cloud

Ireland’s Data Protection Commissioner Billy Hawkes outlined new cloud computing guidelines for data controllers in firms. The fundamental lesson is that the key issue is security of data and the data protection issues are the same as other technologies, even if management of the cloud is outsourced.

The guidelines can be read in full online.

The guidelines include instructions on the level of care data controllers must take to ensure all precautions have been taken to ensure the security of the data.

“The Data Protection Acts (Section 2C (3)) place responsibility for data security squarely on the data controller who is accountable to the individual data subject for the safeguarding of their personal information. A data controller must therefore be satisfied that personal data will be secure if it is outsourced to a cloud provider,” the guidelines read.

August – Microsoft reveals new SkyDrive

Microsoft repurposed its SkyDrive cloud storage service for the smartphone, ultrabook and tablet computing age just ahead of the official rollout of Windows 8. The new SkyDrive came with some snazzy new HTML 5 features that work across Windows and Mac environments, as well as a new app specifically for Android devices.

The move ideally positions Microsoft to compete aggressively against competition in the form of Google Drive, Apple’s iCloud, Amazon’s cloud services and fast-moving ventures like Dropbox.

The company also revealed that its new email service, designed to take on Gmail and stave off competition in the form of Apple’s iCloud, hit 10m users just one week after its big reveal.

September – HP spells out why Ireland is the home of the cloud

Ireland’s claim to be home of cloud computing has already been realised for one of the world’s biggest technology manufacturers, HP, with its Irish divisions making some notable firsts in terms of innovation and product development, the company’s general manager for the country Martin Murphy explained.

In the last three years, HP in Ireland has been successful in attracting more than 1,000 new jobs to the country in addition to the 4,000 or so already in place. The creation of the Global Services Desk in March 2009 generated 500 jobs, and the expansion of the company’s Galway operation in 2010 spawned 50 jobs. In addition, the company announced 120 jobs at its Dublin operations in September 2010 and 105 jobs at its Galway operations in December 2010, which were followed by a further 50 new jobs.

October – businessman backs new Centre of Cloud Computing

Businessman Denis O’Brien was revealed to have funded the new Centre of Cloud Computing, which will be based at the National College of Ireland in Dublin. The amount provided by O’Brien hasn’t been disclosed.

The new centre will support the development of the cloud computing industry in Ireland and abroad.

O’Brien owns one of the fastest-growing international telecoms companies, Digicel, and is CEO of Communicorp.

Prof Jeffrey Ullman, professor emeritus at Stanford University, opened the centre on Friday. He will serve as chair of the International Advisory Board of the School of Computing at National College of Ireland, with overall responsibility for the strategy of the new centre.

November – Ireland grasps early mover advantage in cloud

IDA Ireland’s senior vice-president in charge of ICT Pat Howlin said Ireland is building a considerable ecosystem around the cloud in order to be in an unassailable position to capture the opportunities of the world’s next industrial revolution, which will centre on big data and will transcend all industry types.

As Howlin describes it, the groundwork for the cloud revolution as it exploded on Ireland’s shores was laid in the 1970s and 1980s as some of the longest-serving software companies arrived in the country.

“We have the technology companies who came here initially to manufacture products and to serve the European market – companies like Apple, Intel, EMC, and HP, and they are now the leading international companies in the cloud space. They are also leading the world in the technology for cloud and big data, as well as the delivery systems and the business models in terms of how you deliver that.”

Cloud Capital Forum

Early mover advantage in the cloud computing revolution is critical and Ireland is making the right moves to exploit the opportunities, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton, TD, told the Cloud Capital Forum in Dublin.

“It is important that Ireland has ambition in this field. We are one of the countries most affected by the financial crisis, it is obligatory on us to pave the way to the new economy and I believe we are succeeding in paving that route.

“Ireland is well positioned to be a capital for the cloud-computing sector. We have established companies here who are the leading thinkers in cloud – HP, EMC, Microsoft, Dell and newer companies who are coming in and exploiting the opportunities.

“This is very exciting and we’ve built a strong infrastructure. For example, companies for many years have been locating data centres in Ireland that they have developed to capacity and to a very high spec.

“I was at the opening of the new Google data centre in Dublin which they say is the most ecofriendly data centre in its field. I thought it was exciting that 80pc of the design, construction and execution was done by Irish companies.

“So these companies are not only picking Ireland as a good environment to do business but they have built the support infrastructure here,” Bruton said.

Within days of making these comments, Bruton unveiled the new €5m Irish Centre for Cloud Computing and Commerce (IC4) at DCU.

The purpose of the new centre is to accelerate the development and adoption of cloud computing in Ireland.

The IC4 operation is jointly supported by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland and is the 11th Government-funded technology centre to be established in Ireland.

The centre is also guided by an industry panel, including Fujitsu, Intel, IBM and Microsoft.

It will be based at DCU but will be supported with additional research capabilities from UCC and Athlone Institute of Technology.

December – Dropbox drops in on Dublin

Early one December morning, Ireland awoke to the news that another jewel had been added to its digital crown as Dropbox revealed plans to locate its international headquarters in Dublin. That crown already boasts Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, Zynga, Amazon, Yahoo! and to name but a few.

Having conquered the consumer tech world with more than 100m users, cloud storage player Dropbox, it seems, plans to repeat the feat in the corporate IT world. You could say it has already succeeded since for most users of the service Dropbox is already an indispensable work tool that CIOs need to get their head around.

“Over one-third of our 100m users are in Europe and we decided it was high time to support them closer to home,” explained Mitra Lohrasbpour, head of business development at Dropbox.

“We thought long and hard about what places in Europe would allow you to do the best job from both a sales support perspective and technical sales perspective and we chose Dublin. Our US operations have doubled in the last seven months in terms of employee headcount and so we are rapidly growing and we expect the Dublin operation to follow the same path because our European user base is expanding, as well.

“We will start 2013 with plans to hire 30 to 40 people in the first year and it is very likely that in future years we will grow as quickly in Europe as we have in the US.”

Cloud computing image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years