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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Nati Shalom, CTO Of GigaSpaces (Part 5)

Posted on Sunday, Aug 15th 2010

By guest author Shaloo Shalini

SM: Microsoft is playing to its strengths – technology is its strength. The company wants to keep you locked into its technology stack as opposed to Amazon, which does not care, right?

NS: Exactly. I must say that Microsoft is doing a very good job in making it a lot simpler, so even if Microsoft customers are locked in its services, the company is making huge strides. As for the user experience, the entire community behind Microsoft will choose Azure and whatever Microsoft has to offer. Microsoft services are much simpler to use than the core Amazon services. So, Microsoft has an edge in terms of user experience.

SM: In general ,when you think about thought leaders and vendors in cloud computing, Amazon is right up on top, but you don’t really think about Microsoft as a thought leader in cloud computing today. It this just the perception?

NS: In terms of perception, you are right, Microsoft is not considered a leading cloud provider. But in reality, Microsoft provides better services than anyone else, even Amazon. If I were a Microsoft user, I would not consider anyone else. Also, we are working with Microsoft hosted Exchange, and the company is doing a very good job there from the price and user experience perspectives.

Microsoft works hard to make technology extremely simple to use. You really don’t need to go through multiple APIs of cloud providers. The company is indeed in a very strong position.

SM: Interesting. This is worth investigating because we tend to dismiss Microsoft when it comes to cloud computing. It has an advantage within its technology stack where it can provide a high-quality user experience, for some of the reasons we talked about earlier. The integrated offering from Microsoft could be a lot more seamless and comprehensive within the stack for Microsoft users and enterprises.

NS: Exactly. Imagine its stronghold – Microsoft is very strong within the enterprise. People are using its stack right now. From that perspective, the company just needs to expand the stack in cloud. It is known to provide a very smooth user experience that no one else can provide.

SM: What are your insights about cost savings and cloud computing? How do you view the issue of costs involved with newer technologies? If you look at trends from the past twenty years, technology is still very expensive. Owing to costs involved, the use technology has remained limited to the very large companies, these being the heavy-duty users of technology. With cloud computing that has started to change – we talked about flattening the world, democratizing availability on both sides for small and medium-sized companies so that they could buy and access technology and vendors could sell to newer markets. Do you have a counter viewpoint in terms of cost savings with cloud computing?

NS: One thing that I see is that utility computing as a concept or the cloud as a term were initially used in the very high-end market segment, and they have now become much more common and popular than in the past. For example, imagine doing large-scale application with a sudden surge in demand and existing applications and architectures actually meeting that demand without the cloud concept.

Right now, you can see the effect of the cloud on infrastructure itself. The result is that the notion of the cloud is moving into, say, storage computing and into the non-cloud-computing environments to, say, distributed environments.  All are trying to move to the cloud. What the cloud gives them is the ability to meet demand sensitivity. That really is the edge that the cloud provides.

Most people who want to run applications in the cloud to address surges in demand don’t have the time, money, or skill set of, say, IT departments in large enterprises. They can probably do that stuff themselves, but even Google required very highly skilled engineers to build its cloud stuff. As a cloud vendor, I could do the same measure of service that, say, an Amazon or Google is doing without much skill or physical resources and on a lower budget. The main challenge is to bring those ideas that exist outside the cloud domain and see how simply you can make them happen in the cloud. How close can I get the solution that I build in the cloud to the solution that is required; how fast I can provision it and do so in a way drives innovation – but slightly different innovation from pure technology innovation.

I use the analogy of Ford and its handling of the assembly line as an example to illustrate the kind of innovation that the cloud provides. When Henry Ford created the assembly line model, he did not really invent cars. Cars, wheels, and engines existed before – all the parts that go into a car existed. But Ford made it possible to create thousands of cars, and he created the capability, the process to produce cars on such a large scale, and that drove all the innovation. It was innovation in terms of how he could produce cars in a much faster way at lower cost and with repeated quality. This is what I think is happening to infrastructure in cloud computing. It requires large-scale adoption and the ability to cater to the level of complexity that exists today – that is where you see a lot of innovation, automation, and integration work done in a simple way with cloud paradigm.

SM: Do you have any thoughts on how the IT organization will evolve in the era of cloud computing?

NS: Yes, the IT organization is evolving. In the beginning there was a lot of concern over job security and the diminishing role of IT as it existed before the cloud came into picture. Though the cloud is considered very useful, there is lot of resistance to cloud computing from the IT person’s perspective. Those who deployed clouds started using IT resources for other organization requirements. To take Amazon as an example, today its IT in the clouds has become much more critical to its business because it became a profit more profitable organization than in the past, for two reasons –its profit model and the fact that IT can now interact with businesspeople at a much higher level and deliver much higher level of service than in the past. Many times it was to follow up and tail-of things and keep things running. Earlier, IT spent most of its time doing low-level tasks such as mail services, availability, setup, and so forth. Today, they can deal with agility of the business, how fast they can deploy applications, and how fast they can deliver higher value to business. It has moved to a much higher level in the enterprise stack for those who understand the cloud-computing paradigm well. Those who don’t understand these benefits and preserve old ways are the ones who are threatened by change.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Nati Shalom, CTO Of GigaSpaces
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