By Sramana Mitra and guest author Saurabh Mallik
MW: And here’s what happens next. I am standing up in my office, because I am so excited: The first step in any potentially disruptive technology is that people think about the technology and how to do it better and faster. I think for the most part what we are seeing today is business model innovation, particularly in the technology industry, because that is the business.
SM: By that, are you are alluding to the fact that we are going from capex to opex in the shift to a monthly subscription model?
MW: That’s right. Let me not be a technology company right now. Let’s suppose I am a manufacturing company. With the cloud, what I am doing is what I was already doing. I am doing it better, cheaper, and faster. That is the first stage of adoption of any potentially disruptive technology. The second stage of cloud adoption is when the manufacturing company figures out how it can do something it was never able to do before. I think we are on the verge of that. We are seeing some examples, particularly in supply chain, which is really more of a networking ubiquity and standard messaging. It’s cloud, but it’s cloud 0.9. What will be more exciting is when we have someone come up with a new business model or fill a white space in their current marketplace because they are cloud capable.
SM: Yes, some of the things that we were not able to do before, and you and I have touched upon this in our previous conversation, are in the domain of collaboration.
MW: I think that’s true because of the scale and sophistication of digital media, but I look at what we did with LotusNotes, for example, many years ago as a partner with Arthur Andersen. Andersen was one of the largest Lotus Notes implementations in the world, and the amount of collaboration we did with LotusNotes that had an impact on the business was pretty high.
SM: Yes, but sometimes technologies such as telepresence and a variety of inexpensive desktop conferencing solutions are part of the cloud but can be attributed to the ubiquity of broadband wireless, right?
MW: I would say collaboration is more affected now with the ubiquity of the connection and by the sophistication of the terminal device rather than by the cloud. By the way, I happen to think that cloud plus mobility plus social media is potentially totally disruptive. However, it’s still potential energy. We still have to push the rock over the hill.
SM: Now, another line of questions based on what you have already said. One trend that is clear to me and is becoming more mature is vertical integration in the largest players in the industry. IBM has a pretty well integrated stack. The Oracle–Sun camp is building its own stack. HP has been acquiring and creating its own stack, and of course the classic integration story of failing in the first generation and succeeding in this generation is Apple. Pat Toole and Ric Telford at IBM told me that they are pushing a preconfigured and designed architecture based entirely on the IBM stack for the private cloud. I know that Cisco is also toying with that. How does that play out in the enterprise world? How are their customers receiving it, and what is their point of view?
MW: There are a couple of things to say. First, when I think of cloud services as infrastructure, platform, and software layer, it is like a black box. Many of those you were talking about concentrated first on the private cloud. What they are doing now is targeting the customers they have sold to before and packaging the cloud by adding value in the OSS/BSS layer, simplifying the preintegration, and saying, “Here is cloud in a box.” That’s good because it allows early adoption and early success, reducing uncertainty. Let’s use IBM as an example. Think back to when we were children. What I went and bought was automated financials. What I really got was software, hardware, operating systems, system software, and systems engineering from Big Blue. I had bought automated financials, and how it was delivered was this big vertically integrated thing. Why? Because the complexity was so great, and it was all new and they were trusted and did a good job. It worked. So, now why would I get one big massive ERP provider? Well, because it is preintegrated, is a known quantity, and the risk of implementation is lower than a best of breed. So, I think this cloud in a box is a very positive step.