Author Archives: Robert

When The Cloud Meets Mobility: Heaven Or Headache?

When the Cloud Meets Mobility: Heaven or Headache?

The cloud and mobile computing have made an awful lot of promises to enterprise IT: reduced costs, higher productivity, jaw-dropping data analytics, rapid rollout, granular control over the IT solution stack. But have they delivered?  Unfortunately, that’s not easy to answer. In a recent Gartner survey of over 2,000 top CIOs, analytics and business intelligence, mobile technologies, and cloud computing ranked as their first three priorities (in the order).

These CIOs have high hopes for the next wave of cloud technologies.

Their ultimate goals include:

  • Allowing anywhere, anytime access to cloud-hosted data and applications on any device regardless of operating system.
  • Providing remote but secure access on any device to both private and public networks that automatically scale to meet demand.
  • Virtualizing as much IT infrastructure as possible to increase efficiency, elasticity, redundancy, and flexibility. (In other words, less stuff, more value.)

But, is this really happening? The same group of CIOs claimed that enterprises realize only 43 percent of the full business potential of the latest cloud and mobility technologies. And every CIO worth his or her salt is saying their enterprises can only leverage the full power of cloud and big data and mobility by taking an integrated, comprehensive approach. We’ve already learned what doesn’t work: a hodgepodge patchwork of SaaS solutions, API integrations, make-shift bridges, and another half-dozen workarounds.

So where do we go from here?

The technology already exists to address most of the interoperability and integration issues enterprises (as well as SMBs) have struggled with. So perhaps the better question is: Are we ready to accept them? You see, one of the biggest barriers to making the next leap in computing technology isn’t technological.

It’s not even operational. It’s cultural.

Almost every end user still associates their devices with their applications and their data. Ask 10 random people where a file is, and nine of them are likely to say, “My computer,” or “My iPad.”—not Google Drive. Not iCloud. And definitely not a data center in rural North Carolina.

For enterprises to truly embrace the full potential of mobility, business intelligence, and the cloud, they need to start moving users away from a device-centric mentality and towards a focus on hosted apps and data.

One real solution is virtualized desktop infrastructure.

With the advent of VDI, companies like Citrix have taken the complete end user solution stack and put it into the cloud. An entire virtual desktop—with all of a user’s data and apps—can be reduced to a data stream that data centers send to whatever device a user wants—desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone. The device falls into the background and the experience takes front-and-center.

With VDI, enterprises really can have the best of all worlds:

  • Complete control over apps and data, regardless of platform or device
  • Minimal integration concerns
  • Full-featured desktop apps delivered as a service over a private, public, or hybrid cloud

If CIOs really want to realize the full business potential of cloud technologies, then they need to get their end users ready for a major shift in thinking. Only once end users start thinking about their desktop as something that moves with them, from one device to another, will enterprises be in a position to capitalize on the promises the cloud IT world has made to them.

But what do you think? Is there another answer we’re missing? Let us know in the comments below.

By Robert Shaw

This post is brought to you by the Mobile Enterprise 360 Community and Citrix

Virtualization Spells “Money” For SMB IT Consultants In 2013

Virtualization Spells “Money” for SMB IT Consultants in 2013

Listen up, SMB IT guys.

Consider this: The typical small and medium business server uses about 10% of its computing power. But small businesses continue to segment their servers—one server per core function—as companies like Microsoft, Dell, and HP have recommended for years. And while that’s definitely a best practice from a technical perspective, it’s a horrible waste of resources from a financial one.

Enter Virtualization

Ask any 10 small business owners about whether they have dedicated or virtualized IT infrastructure, and at least nine of them are likely to blink stupidly at you. That’s why virtualization holds such money making potential for SMB IT consultants.

In a typical, fully virtualized environment, server computing power utilization jumps from 10% to as much as 60%-70%. That means you could potentially scale every three physical servers down to a single host, which translates to lower licensing fees, lower infrastructure cost, less hardware maintenance, and cheaper energy bills.

For small businesses that rely heavily on technology to function, going virtual can pay for itself in as little as six months. That’s a pretty amazing return on investment.

Beyond Dollars—More Sense

The benefits of virtualization don’t end with cost savings. Virtual servers are almost universally easier to back up and restore, with services like vSphere Data Protection. Plus, when a virtual server’s host crashes, it doesn’t necessarily take down the VM along with it. In a virtualized environment, another server (or even a business continuity appliance) can pick up the load almost instantly and start running the VM as if almost nothing had happened.

Virtualization offers a variety of additional benefits as well, including:

  • Easily configurable software-defined networks.
  • Scalable IT infrastructure that typically doesn’t require downtime to add capacity.
  • Pre- or partially configured virtual software appliances that are ready to go in minutes—sometimes even seconds.
  • Rapid deployment of new VMs—often 5-10 times faster than adding new physical servers.•

Leading the Way in SMB Virtualization

VMware, in particular, has recognized and promoted the value of virtualization all the way down to the single office small business. The company has a specialized Small & Midsize Business Solutions support center and offers a variety of virtualization solutions with attractive incentives for SMB consultants.

Even better, the price tags are low enough that they still appeal to budget-conscious small businesses.

The company also offers a variety of educational resources, including an industry leading certification process and their upcoming VMware Forum 2013. And here’s the best part. The forum’s free—and online.

That’s right. No hotels, no airfares, and no admission fees.  Check it out here!

By Robert Shaw

Sponsored by VMware and Online VMware Forum 2013

A Quick Guide For Cloud Computing Companies

A Quick Guide For Cloud Computing Companies

Cloud Computing Companies That Don’t Understand Marketing

A recent small business cloud survey from Microsoft found that about two-thirds of small businesses relied on a single “IT guy” or small IT consulting company to provide them with most or all of their IT advice. As for the owners and decision makers who didn’t? Most of them did their own Internet research.

This is a big problem for small and medium cloud startups. My anecdotal experience has shown that an awful large number of cloud computing companies aren’t taking the SMB IT channel seriously. As far as I can tell, they think they can make more money going direct. That may be true on a per-sale basis, but it’s definitely not—at least for most companies—in the aggregate.

Additionally, many cloud companies don’t seem to appreciate that most small business decision makers don’t know what “the cloud” really means. When they go online looking for an answer to their software woes, they just want something that works. By focusing on “cloud,” cloud computing companies risk going unnoticed by all but the most savvy of decision makers.

Here are few more marketing tips cloud computing companies might want to consider:

  • Develop a serious channel program. Pronto. Don’t be stingy with your margins, and be sure to include promotional and informational materials support, as well as any additional marketing support you can spare. Finding the consulting companies that serve the types of businesses you want to target and call them. Explain exactly how partnering with you is going to grow their businesses. And remember: These are seasoned IT guys, so keep it real.
  • Participate in online cloud and IT communities. CloudTweaks, of course! But also places like Spiceworks, VarGuy, SMB Nation, and Redmond Channel Pro. Get involved with conversations and comment on relevant stories and blogs. Besides catching the attention of real people, it can help dramatically with pingbacks, backlinks, and your SEO efforts.  
  • Keep an active blog. Search engines love new content. Plus, having a constant flow of relevant and interesting content greatly enhances the chances of backlinks and climbing up the Google PageRank ladder.
  • Look for guest blogging opportunities. The same sites mentioned in #2 (plus many more) often accept guest posts from IT companies. Publishing companies always need content, so research their audiences, put something together, and pitch! The worst they can say is no—and you can still post it on your own company blog.
  • Go to shows and events. Even if your can’t afford a booth, going as an attendee is a great way to meet people and make connections. There are a ton of low cost (or even free) IT and cloud events, so take advantage of them. This may be the Web 2.0 era, but you still can’t afford to be antisocial if you want to succeed in the marketplace, electronic or otherwise.

By Robert Shaw

Will The Cloud Ever Stop Being The Cloud?

Will The Cloud Ever Stop Being The Cloud?

Cloud computing wasn’t always cloud computing. Depending on who you ask, first it was either time sharing or grid computing. Strangely, nobody actually claims to know how cloud computing got its name. To this day, no one claims credit for coining the phrase. (Maybe I shouldn’t have said that…)

The phrase “cloud computing” is rather poetic for a field that’s not known for its literary devices. It’s certainly not typical of utilitarian terms like social networking, Internet, voice over IP, and distributed computing.Perhaps that’s why marketing pros love it so much — and why it grates on so many old-school IT pros.

Cloud computing may be here to stay, but I do still hold out hope that “as-a-service” will go the way of the dodo. How I hate that term. Recently, I’ve seen such monstrosities as TEaaS (test environment as a service) and SECaas (security as a service). (You really have to be careful about saying that last one fast).

It’s possible my yearning for aaS’s demise may not be wishful thinking: Lately, I’ve seen more and more companies shying away from terms like DaaS and storage-as-a-service and using ones instead like hosted desktop and online storage. I can only pray the trend continues.

But what do you think? Let us know here. It’s a super-short four question survey on cloud computing jargon. As an incentive, we’ll randomly select one respondent for a bit of free publicity in an upcoming CloudTweaks Newsletter.

By Robert Shaw

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Cloud Predictions For The New Year

Cloud Predictions for the New Year

Making predictions for the coming year has become a time-honored tradition in the tech field, so I thought we’d have a little fun with it here at CloudTweaks by predicting what’s not going to happen.

1. Amazon won’t continue to be synonymous with the cloud.

EC2 and S3 are popular and established, but they’re seeing mounting competition from Microsoft, Google, HP, IBM, telcoms, and a number of smaller providers. Plus, Amazon seems far more interested in devices and apps lately — as it should be.

2. Apple won’t be successful in the cloud.

The new iTunes is a mess when it comes to iCloud, and Apple hasn’t offered up any other cloud products. Microsoft and Google definitely have Apple beat when it comes to anything “-aaS.” (It’s nice to see Apple getting beat in something.)

3. Marketing Windows 8 as a “cloud OS” won’t work.

Windows 8 may very well succeed (I actually like it myself), but it won’t be on the merits of its cloud-iness. Having settings sync across devices is great, but that’s invisible to most users. And SkyDrive integration is also nice, but SkyDrive desktop integration requires a separate download most people don’t know about. Yawn.

4. Big Telecom won’t be able to recapture market share lost to the cloud.

Industry stalwarts like Skype and Google Voice, as well as a wide variety of inexpensive cloud-based VoIP providers, are giving big telecommunications company a run for their money. There’s no way Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner, or anyone else can make up for lost ground. At least not in 2013 — and probably not ever.

5. None of the biggest cloud providers will get hacked.

Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, HP, Dell, Facebook, and Yahoo! will all continue to maintain highly secure data centers and SaaS platforms. While customers may bungle their own security — Password1 anyone? — these companies will keep hackers away from their systems.

By Robert Shaw

Will Cloud Computing Be To Labor What The Internet Was To Capital?

Will Cloud Computing Be To Labor What The Internet Was To Capital?

In 1992, the CME Group launched the first electronic trading platform, which heralded a completely new age for anyone with capital to spare. Electronic trading and money transfers meant a whole new world of opportunity for potential investors.

In essence, the Internet freed wealthy (and even not-so-wealthy) investors to move their money wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted, at a negligible cost. The result has been hedge funds, day traders, a huge uptick in emerging market investments, and a veritable explosion of highly complex “financial instruments.” (Plus, grandpa gets to trade stocks at home.)

And the ultimate effect? The past two decades have been a boon for capital (i.e. people with money to spare) but less than stellar for labor (people who work for a living). As evidence, take the United States:
Median hourly wages (adjusted for inflation) have remained virtually flat since 1992, while the networth of the top 10% of households has grown from an inflation-adjusted average of $1.8 million to $4.2
million (a 133% increase).

But is it possible that cloud computing could reverse the trend? Answering that requires a clear understanding of capital’s current advantage over labor: Investors can fling their investment dollars around the world to find the best opportunities at virtually zero cost. Labor, on the other hand, has much less freedom to move to wherever demand is highest, especially when that demand is in another country.

Thankfully—for labor—that’s an area in which cloud computing is already transforming the marketplace.

Cloud-based communication and collaboration software, online workplaces like eLance/Guru/GetACoder, and even educational platforms are all working together to give many potential employees (mostly knowledge workers) the opportunity to send their labor to wherever demand is highest.

For example, a quick survey of elance job contractors shows the following:

  • Bangladeshi mobile app developers earning $12/hour.
  • Belize-based database administrators earning $35/hour.

In each of these cases, workers are earning far more money for their labor than they typically could locally in their home countries. Most of these workers are also being employed by small business owners who would never be able to launch their startups without access to such competitive labor rates.

But on the flipside, cloud computing makes the outsourcing of knowledge workers to cheaper markets easier than ever. A small business in the United States looking to employ the above contractors locally could easily pay $75/hour for a developer, $40/hour for a writer, and as much as $100/hour for a database consultant.

Nevertheless, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown that local demand for most knowledge worker positions continues to rise. BLS estimates project employment increases of 31% for database administrators, 30% for software developers, and 17% for technical writers over the next 10 years.

Such statistics offer little comfort to workers who’ve recently been laid off or who find themselves bidding on contracts in an online workplace that pay far less than they’re used to. But ultimately, cloud computing offers workers the opportunity to move their labor from one market to another just as efficiently as investors can move their capital. In the short-term, that could cause some pain in the developed world (along with a wave of easy money in developing nations), but a longer view suggests a net win for the world’s educated workers.

By Robert Shaw

Could Google Become The New Microsoft Of Cloud IT?

Could Google Become The New Microsoft Of Cloud IT?

Could Google Become The New Microsoft Of Cloud IT?

For the past 15 years, Microsoft has been the unquestionable king of business IT. As the market leader in both workstation and server operating systems, Microsoft set the standard and controlled the experience for a generation of both IT professionals and general computer users. Today, even with explosive growth of tech companies like Apple, Citrix, Red Hat, IBM, and VMware, Microsoft maintains a ridiculously large share of the worldwide PC OS market (92%), approximately four fifths of the enterprise office productivity market, and a healthy plurality of server OS sales (48%).

No other company has ever come close to achieving the level of overall IT dominance that Microsoft has, and it’s unlikely that any new company will in the foreseeable future.

But what about the cloud? Could any single company come to dominate cloud IT like Microsoft has business IT? The answer is a definitive yes. With the constant onslaught of hot new cloud startups, it’s easy to lose sight of the cloud IT juggernaut Google has been nurturing over the past several years.

But consider what the geeks in Mountain View have accomplished since 2008 in a market saturated with nimble startups, brilliant competitors, and billions of dollars of venture capital:

  • A Google Apps communication and collaboration service with tens of millions of users (reseller Cloud Sherpas alone manages over 4.2 million seats).
  • The largest mobile OS ecosystem in the world—one that’s increasingly embraced by the enterprise.
  • The most popular cloud-based document collaboration and storage service in the world (Google Docs/Drive).
  • A free unified communications platform with tremendously flexible features and international calling rates just as low—if not lower—than Skype.
  • A website (Sites) and blog (Blogger) hosting platform used by millions of websites.
  • An website analytics platform used by tens of millions of websites—SMBs and enterprises alike.
  • A Google Apps marketplace packed with nearly every sort of software a business could want—including CRM, ERP, accounting, marketing, collaboration, project management, point of sale, and scheduling and booking.

And that’s just a partial list. Google also either leads or holds significant sway in enterprise search, email security and archival, and cloud slim clients (Chromebooks).

Given that Google influences how at least a plurality of the world’s population finds information (search), collates news (News/Reader), and consumes video content (YouTube) it seems entirely possible that Google could eventually position itself to dominate nearly every important aspect of the business cloud IT world.

With a huge head start in cloud-based communication, collaboration, and productivity, it wouldn’t be such a huge leap for Google to eventually extend its reach into database, supercomputing, PaaS, payment processing, and point of sale as well. In fact, it already has. But then, perhaps you haven’t heard of Google Cloud SQL, Google Compute Engine, Google App Engine, or Google Wallet… yet.

By Robert Shaw

Can Natural Disasters Doom The Future Of Cloud Computing?

Can Natural Disasters Doom The Future Of Cloud Computing?

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, many people are asking whether cloud computing can withstand nature’s wrath. The storm took several major cloud computing companies offline, including Amazon Web Services (at least on the East Coast), and left thousands of websites and online services down for hours—and in some cases days.

Hurricane Sandy has definitely proved that the cloud is vulnerable to natural disasters and extreme weather patterns, but that hardly presages the death of cloud computing. All computers and electronic systems are equally susceptible to the same events. Millions of people lost telephone and electricity service in the wake of Hurricane Sandy (as is the case for essentially all major storms). But cloud skeptics seem to conveniently forget that even if cloud services didn’t go down, victims of natural disasters without power still wouldn’t be able to access them.

In reality, most cloud computing company’s data centers are far more resistant to extreme weather and other disasters than the on-premises servers and work stations belonging to most homes and businesses. At several data centers along the eastern seaboard, data centers lost grid-based power but then immediately switched over to emergency generators. For many cloud companies, it was only when their generators were running out of fuel that they began shutting down servers. Such an organized shutdown is far safer than sudden power disruptions at a typical home or office, which are often responsible for hardware damage and data corruption.

Critics also typically fail to mention that the underlying network infrastructure upon which U.S. data centers rely is one of the most secure public utility systems in the country. While much of the nation’s electricity system is aboveground and millions of miles of waterlines have been cited by civil engineers as being in decay, the fiber-optic data transmission network which data centers use is almost always securely buried belowground—and sometimes even underneath oceans.

If anything, Hurricane Sandy will likely inspire cloud computing companies and data centers to develop even more robust protocols for dealing with extreme weather, power outages, and other emergency events. Already, several companies are experimenting with running data centers with alternative energy sources, such as solar, geothermic, and tidal, that are completely independent of the national power grid. That kind of forward thinking and investment are what set cloud computing companies apart from the many businesses that rely on traditional on-premises IT infrastructure and public utilities.

By Robert Shaw

CloudTweaks Comics
Cloud Computing Then & Now

Cloud Computing Then & Now

The Evolving Cloud  From as early as the onset of modern computing, the possibility of resource distribution has been explored. Today’s cloud computing environment goes well beyond what most could even have imagined at the birth of modern computing and innovation in the field isn’t slowing. A Brief History Matillion’s interactive timeline of cloud begins…

Cloud Computing Price War Rages On

Cloud Computing Price War Rages On

Cloud Computing Price War There’s little question that the business world is a competitive place, but probably no area in business truly defines cutthroat quite like cloud computing. At the moment, we are witnessing a heated price war pitting some of the top cloud providers against each other, all in a big way to attract…

The CloudTweaks Archive - Posted by
Cloud Infographic – Interesting Big Data Facts

Cloud Infographic – Interesting Big Data Facts

Big Data Facts You Didn’t Know The term Big Data has been buzzing around tech circles for a few years now. Forrester has defined big data as “Technologies and techniques that make capturing value from data at an extreme scale economical.” The key word here is economical. If the costs of extracting, processing, and making use…

Consequences Of Combining Off Premise Cloud Storage and Corporate Data

Consequences Of Combining Off Premise Cloud Storage and Corporate Data

Off Premise Corporate Data Storage Cloud storage is a broad term. It can encompass anything from on premise solutions, to file storage, disaster recovery and off premise options. To narrow the scope, I’ve dedicated the focus of today’s discussion to the more popular cloud storage services—such as Dropbox, Box, OneDrive—which are also known as hosted,…

The Industries That The Cloud Will Change The Most

The Industries That The Cloud Will Change The Most

The Industries That The Cloud Will Change The Most Cloud computing is rapidly revolutionizing the way we do business. Instead of being a blurry buzzword, it has become a facet of everyday life. Most people may not quite understand how the cloud works, but electricity is quite difficult to fathom as well. Anyway, regardless of…

Digital Marketing Driven by Cloud, Big Data and IoT

Digital Marketing Driven by Cloud, Big Data and IoT

Digital Marketing Successful digital marketing campaigns are being driven largely by trending technologies, specifically the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and The Cloud. These may be used for a huge number of marketing applications, from optimizing the performance of sports teams to improving science and research, even helping to aid law enforcement. Amazon Web…

Teach Yourself The Cloud: Cloud Computing Knowledge In 5 Easy Steps

Teach Yourself The Cloud: Cloud Computing Knowledge In 5 Easy Steps

Teach Yourself The Cloud Learn how to get to grips with cloud computing in business  Struggling to get your head around the Cloud? Here are five easy ways you can improve your cloud knowledge and perhaps even introduce cloud systems into your business.  Any new technology can appear daunting, and cloud computing is no exception.…

Cloud Infographic – The Future (IoT)

Cloud Infographic – The Future (IoT)

The Future (IoT) By the year 2020, it is being predicted that 40 to 80 billion connected devices will be in use. The Internet of Things or IoT will transform your business and home in many truly unbelievable ways. The types of products and services that we can expect to see in the next decade…

The Future Of Cloud Storage And Sharing…

The Future Of Cloud Storage And Sharing…

Box.net, Amazon Cloud Drive The online (or cloud) storage business has always been a really interesting industry. When we started Box in 2005, it was a somewhat untouchable category of technology, perceived to be a commodity service with low margins and little consumer willingness to pay. All three of these factors remain today, but with…

Cloud Infographic: The Future of File Storage

Cloud Infographic: The Future of File Storage

 The Future of File Storage A multi-billion dollar market Data storage has been readily increasing for decades. In 1989, an 8MB Macintosh Portable was top of the range; in 2006, the Dell Inspiron 6400 became available, boasting 160GB; and now, we have the ‘Next Generation’ MacBook Pro with 256GB of storage built in. But, of course,…

3 Keys To Keeping Your Online Data Accessible

3 Keys To Keeping Your Online Data Accessible

Online Data Data storage is often a real headache for businesses. Additionally, the shift to the cloud in response to storage challenges has caused security teams to struggle to reorient, leaving 49 percent of organizations doubting their experts’ ability to adapt. Even so, decision makers should not put off moving from old legacy systems to…

Choosing IaaS or a Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting Provider?

Choosing IaaS or a Cloud-Enabled Managed Hosting Provider?

There is a Difference – So Stop Comparing We are all familiar with the old saying “That’s like comparing apples to oranges” and though we learned this lesson during our early years we somehow seem to discount this idiom when discussing the Cloud. Specifically, IT buyers often feel justified when comparing the cost of a…

Cloud Services Providers – Learning To Keep The Lights On

Cloud Services Providers – Learning To Keep The Lights On

The True Meaning of Availability What is real availability? In our line of work, cloud service providers approach availability from the inside out. And in many cases, some never make it past their own front door given how challenging it is to keep the lights on at home let alone factors that are out of…

Lavabit, Edward Snowden and the Legal Battle For Privacy

Lavabit, Edward Snowden and the Legal Battle For Privacy

The Legal Battle For Privacy In early June 2013, Edward Snowden made headlines around the world when he leaked information about the National Security Agency (NSA) collecting the phone records of tens of millions of Americans. It was a dramatic story. Snowden flew to Hong Kong and then Russia to avoid deportation to the US,…

The Importance of Cloud Backups: Guarding Your Data Against Hackers

The Importance of Cloud Backups: Guarding Your Data Against Hackers

The Importance of Cloud Backups Cloud platforms have become a necessary part of modern business with the benefits far outweighing the risks. However, the risks are real and account for billions of dollars in losses across the globe per year. If you’ve been hacked, you’re not alone. Here are some other companies in the past…

Having Your Cybersecurity And Eating It Too

Having Your Cybersecurity And Eating It Too

The Catch 22 The very same year Marc Andreessen famously said that software was eating the world, the Chief Information Officer of the United States was announcing a major Cloud First goal. That was 2011. Five years later, as both the private and public sectors continue to adopt cloud-based software services, we’re interested in this…

Four Recurring Revenue Imperatives

Four Recurring Revenue Imperatives

Revenue Imperatives “Follow the money” is always a good piece of advice, but in today’s recurring revenue-driven market, “follow the customer” may be more powerful. Two recurring revenue imperatives highlight the importance of responding to, and cherishing customer interactions. Technology and competitive advantage influence the final two. If you’re part of the movement towards recurring…

Digital Twin And The End Of The Dreaded Product Recall

Digital Twin And The End Of The Dreaded Product Recall

The Digital Twin  How smart factories and connected assets in the emerging Industrial IoT era along with the automation of machine learning and advancement of artificial intelligence can dramatically change the manufacturing process and put an end to the dreaded product recalls in the future. In recent news, Samsung Electronics Co. has initiated a global…