The Real Pioneers of the Cloud

The Real Pioneers of the Cloud

Long ago, in the early 1990s, the business landscape was rife with what were then known as “dumb terminals.” These didn’t last forever: in just a few years, the consumer-driven market–assisted by a publicly available Internet and a commoditized PC ecosystem–managed to completely change the business IT landscape.

Now, it seems, were are about to witness such a consumer-driven change again. Only this time, it won’t be the machines themselves that will be changing, but rather the software that runs on them.

The change that is upon business IT is, of course, the cloud.

The parallels between the advent of the PC age and the cloud age are very similar. Both revolutions started with early adopters in the consumer market that created pressure on businesses to get that technology adopted as well. The only difference is in terms of scale–a few early PC adopters vs. millions of early smartphone adopters–and timing. It took a few years to switch over from thin-client to client/server. It’s taking a lot less time to convince businesses that the time for cloud is here.

There’s some resistance, of course. While public cloud is generally successful, last week’s Amazon problems notwithstanding, businesses have been less-than-sanguine about putting their data in the hands of some outside third-party. As the cloud matures, using technology from Open-Xchange, Google, and other Internet vendors, businesses have been much more willing to explore the private cloud or hybrid cloud scenarios (the latter using managed service providers).

With that much potential revenue about to shift, vendor-dependent architectures such as those sold by IBM, Microsoft, SAP, or Oracle, are now at risk, which is why those same companies are offering cloud services of their own.

But just entering the cloud isn’t enough. Some approaches are better than others. Microsoft Office 365, for instance, is definitely not one of the better ones. Its pricing is set up to be only slightly less than a standalone version of Office. Microsoft is clearly trying to protect its desktop Office brand, long a bigger profit source than Windows. That’s good for Microsoft, but not really good for the cloud and its denizens.

Vendors who have pioneered their services on the Internet before these big vendors are clearly at an advantage. They know the technology and they know the services and business models to succeed in the cloud, without bilking customers with gimmicks.

As time goes on, that could change, and the cloud will become stronger. But cloud consumers should not depend on just a big name to mean better cloud service. Managed service providers, for instance, are stepping up to provide the kind of service customers need, helping those customers get over the real and sometimes perceived problems they might have with the cloud.

Contribution By Rafael Laguna, CEO,  Open X Change

Born 1964, Rafael Laguna was co-founder of Open Xchange Inc. and chairman of the board until he took over responsibility as CEO in January 2008. In 2001, Laguna initiated the technology partnership between Open Xchange’s development team and SUSE Linux — today a Novell business. The result of this partnership, SUSE Linux Openexchange Server, became the best selling Linux-based groupware solution. Most recently, Laguna was crucial to the extension of Open Xchange’s product portfolio and formed the partnership with the world’s largest web host by known servers, 1&1 Internet AG.

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