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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Paul Stamas, VP of IT, Mohawk Fine Papers (Part 8)

Posted on Tuesday, Oct 26th 2010

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini

SM: In this context, I want to go back to you said about the expertise of architecting a private cloud and virtualized environment – it just does not exist with a lot of SMEs.

PS: I agree with that. It comes down to a definition of what a private cloud is. Now, I will tell you that our internal environment is 100% virtualized. Everything is running on VMWare. That wasn’t difficult to do; it honestly wasn’t. In fact, it was easier to build a virtual environment as opposed to physical environment, and it is certainly easier to manage. Once we embraced VMWare, it was a game changer. Now what we are doing – are we are selling these services back to our user base? No. But setting up VMWare within an organization is pretty straightforward, easy to do, and clearly within the realm of SME businesses. In fact, the evolution to that is the virtual desktop interface. We would like to take virtualization to our desktops. That is very attractive and doable for SMEs, and there is a deep support system out there for us to do that.

SM: Yes, you have systems integrators who work with you on those projects.

PS: I would argue that it comes back to what we think is our definition of private cloud is. In my definition, VMWare – I would like to get them off-site for a DR play, but it is not there yet. It is a higher- order integration problem, migrating virtual machines (VMs) on-premise and off-premise for load balancing.

SM: Some of your peers have started to experiment with putting applications in private clouds. I spoke with someone recently, a mid-market CIO who is putting apps in private clouds in various functional areas, and one of the thing people find out is that it is actually cheaper than a SaaS deployment, so they take the functional area and test the prices of SaaS. Where there is on-premise software available, they implement it as a private cloud, and they are saving more money. It’s interesting, but these are capabilities that you can get from system integrators. Some of you have internal capabilities, but I would argue that for the vast majority of SMEs, this is probably not within their capability, right?

PS: I don’t know. The alternative is what – manage physical servers on premise?  That is hardest of all. That is what cloud computing is all about. It is doing away with the current stage, which is server sprawl, managing many servers, and not getting enough utilization.

SM: What I am saying is a different model.  Some vendors are trying to put together packaged environments to empowering people like those at SMEs who can take all these things off-the-shelf without putting in a whole lot of work. All virtualization architecture is built in instead of your having to reinvent the wheel. From where I sit, it looks promising.

PS: I don’t think so – it is all about VMWare, and it is not technically challenging to set up that environment.

SM: I am not talking about VMWare.

PS: You are talking about private cloud?

SM: Yes.

PS: What is your definition of a private cloud?

SM: A private cloud is where you are working with a cloud vendor, using their data center facility and putting your applications in that environment, your private cloud environment as opposed to working in a public cloud SaaS kind of mode.

PS: I see.

SM: I think the difference is you equate private cloud with VMWare, and I don’t think that is an accurate definition.

PS: Okay.

SM: In the remaining time, I would like to probe entrepreneurial opportunities in the cloud. What are some of these areas where you would like to point entrepreneurs? That is, if you decided to be an entrepreneur, what are some of the potentially fertile areas where you would look to solve some of the most pressing business problems?

PS: That is an interesting question because it is so broad. If I were an entrepreneur, I would not waste time, energy, or resources worrying about computing infrastructure. Whatever you are creating in terms of business value to someone, you should focus on those to the extent that your service or value proposition leverages what is out there. What is interesting about the word “entrepreneur” is that it implies iteration, trial, and error; it implies something new. What is attractive about the cloud is that it allows you to do that by way of experimentation, fail and try again and learn. As I said, it is all about the business model, and it is all about delivering value. It is not about technology. Technology enables it. It always has and it always will.

SM: You are suggesting that entrepreneurs should focus only on business functions where they have domain expertise?

PS: I agree, I do. To be successful, you need to have a value proposition, and the value proposition is not that I can compute better than you can.

SM: No, but there are lots of infrastructure layer problems that are also unsolved. In the other interviews of this series, we talked about numerous infrastructure-based problems that are still open problems.

PS: That is a different question; you are asking me about an entrepreneur in the IT domain, and when I think about the entrepreneur in the largest business domain, I think one of the problems with IT people . . .

SM: I am talking about entrepreneur in cloud computing. Cloud computing has multiple layers – it has infrastructure layers, application layers, and data layers, and in building each of those layers there are various entrepreneurial opportunities. That is what I was asking – where do you see opportunities from your vantage point?

PS: In terms of delivering more effective cloud services?

SM: No, in terms of where there are open problems. There may be tens of thousands of customers who have the same problem. If I deliver a product or solution for this particular area, I have a business. I have an interesting, scalable business. So what I was trying to learn from you is because you are a customer, what, from a customer’s point of view, are vendors missing? Are there problems you are trying to solve where you wished there was a vendor offering this kind of solution?

PS: I think there needs to be better integration among cloud applications, and this portability of virtual machines is definitely something we are looking for as an easy way to take internal VMs and move them into the cloud. Companies are merging in that space, but we don’t yet have what we are looking for.

SM: So, that’s your primary pointer.

PS: Yes.

This segment is part 8 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Paul Stamas, VP of IT, Mohawk Fine Papers
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Server virtualization is more about cost savings than anything else for private cloud environments. I think the public cloud is more exciting because of accessibility.

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Jim Chiang Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 8:35 AM PT