By Sramana Mitra and guest authors Shaloo Shalini and Bhavana Sharma
SM: That brings us to the final portion of this discussion where we focus on entrepreneurial opportunities in the cloud. You are managing not a $50 billion company, but you are managing a relatively large IT challenge. What are the main needs of your organization regarding cloud computing that you don’t find current vendors addressing properly? What are some of the entrepreneurial opportunities that you see ?
DH: Well, it’s interesting to me that Cast Iron Systems was out there as an integration expert trying to do connectivity between SaaS providers or between on-premise data and SaaS data. This is an area I still think is ripe for this type of service. I think that as you provide access to ERP via mobile devices, for example, we want to be able to do a lot of that, mostly cloud-based printing. Say you have some sort of the ability to print almost anywhere in a fairly secure manner. You can be in the business center of a hotel with your mobile device or your laptop, and you don’t have the ability to add the printer to your machine, but if you can get to that machine and print to it – that is something the cloud enables because it makes it easier to get to the service. With the cloud you are not restricted by any location of service anymore. Earlier, I had to be in my network to get e-mail, for example. Now I can use my BlackBerry anywhere in the world and I can get to my e-mail.
DH: So how can I print from it? If I get an attachment that I can’t view, and I am in, say, Shanghai, that kind of capability is what people should be thinking about. HP had a couple of commercials about it, but I still think it’s a long way from fruition.
SM: In the context of this mobility scenario, we have seen the advent of such capabilities with, for example, the adoption of the iPad. How do you see that playing in a business context today? An iPad is primarily a consumer content consumption device or a media consumption device. What do you see as the future of the tablet? Both for the iPad specifically and for the tablet category in general in the enterprise?
DH: I think it has a chance to boom. The fact that it is lightweight and provides basic services to people, particularly when they are traveling.
SM: Right, what you just said about not being able to view attachments – it is difficult to view an attachment, say, a Word or Excel attachment, particularly on a BlackBerry, but with the tablet, that problem gets solved.
DH: Yes, and this is beyond people traveling as much as they do. From the plane they may want to do the business, and they may also want to read a book, and you have an e-book reader built into the iPad. So, I think that my main issue is that Apple has tied up with AT&T; that is my biggest drawback right now. If they work for other network providers I would have them in-house and be testing them.
SM: I think that is coming relatively in short order.
DH: Yes, I think it has to or someone will have an iPad alternative that will work with Verizon. I am not a big fan but my son is an Apple fanatic, he uses the iPhone and he bought the iPad the week it came out. I am not that and I don’t really care about what the label says on it as long as the functionality is there, but I really do see that size, the sheer low weight and nothing else. With this acquisition we have sites in fourteen separate countries and thirty-three sites; I am on the road all the time. I don’t want to be carrying five or seven pounds on my shoulder. If I have an iPad, I can do 95% of what I need to do with that device. I can read on the plane, read a book without carrying say three or four books as well. So I think that definitely opens up lot of opportunities, and then the ability to print something with that device is really important.
SM: To confirm what you said earlier about integration – you are saying that there are all these different cloud vendors, and the integration requirement is huge. So, with Cast Iron now inside IBM, it is going to primarily work on the IBM stack and integrating the IBM stack either with itself, or will other providers plug in to the IBM stack? But the rest of the world, and also the rest of the cloud world, require integration and that’s where you see opportunities, right?
DH: I see a huge opportunity there.
SM: Are there any other entrepreneurial opportunities you want to talk about?
DH: I would say those are the primary ones. You talked about managed security. If people really want to own their networks, which I am very against, but if you want to have your own circuits, then you really need me to think about managed security. I think if there is possibility for people there. If you are stuck with legacy infrastructure and do not want to lay off your entire network team, managed security can definitely be a strength.
SM: This is been a very interesting discussion. Dennis, thank you for your time and let’s keep in touch.
DH: Thank you.