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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Ken Stephens, Senior Vice-President of Cloud Services, Xerox (Part 3)

Posted on Wednesday, Feb 22nd 2012

Sramana Mitra: Even within the IT portion, it sounds like I’m hearing infrastructure as a service as the organizing principle.

Ken Stephens: Yes. It’s a staple. You have to do that, and we do that.

SM: What gaps do you see in the market right now?

KS: That’s a great question. The big gap that I see is the one-stop shop. This will come to fruition as time moves forward, but today, no one has cracked the code of being able to be a full-service cloud provider. No one has figured that out. The biggest companies like IBM or HP, they’ve not figured that out. So, there’s a real opportunity via partnering or whatever for someone to be a one-stop shop in the cloud. That’s still a very open market. Second, there are a number of technologies that no one has really cracked the code on, like analytics. No one’s really cracked the code on analytics in the cloud, at least not yet. We have some IP of our own that we’re introducing into the cloud. But no one has taken over that market. IBM has done some good things, but nobody owns that market yet. So, that’s an attractive market.

The platform as a service market is a very attractive market, but only for select companies. Clearly, Microsoft, Google, EMC is playing in that space with Cloud Foundry.

SM: Salesforce.com is the biggest in that space.

KS: That’s exactly right. Azure is big as well. So, the platform as a service, in my opinion, is the place to watch. Who’s going to win the war is the way I phrase it. Whoever wins the platform as a service will also become the dominant provider in the cloud … in some way shape or form, whether it’s in partnering or an underlying support mechanism, in the end, platform as a service is a relevant conversation.

SM: Where do you see the open problems in platform as a service? Of course, there are the big movements developing in Salesforce.com and Microsoft and so forth, but I think Microsoft, Salesforce.com and Google will continue to be major players in platform as a service. Where do you see opportunities for startups to play?

KS: Google was a startup 10 years ago. I think the way companies can play in that space is to introduce a new model like Google did where they’re offering a service free, essentially, in order to get your advertising business. That’s how they created their space. Microsoft has a different problem in that they have a legacy revenue stream based on their Windows platform. It’s difficult for Microsoft to move away from their current platform in favor of their Azure platform just because the licensing model is totally different. It’s difficult for Microsoft to be particularly competitive in that space because of the legacy. That’s where Greenplum and Cloud Foundry are very attractive. They didn’t have that legacy licensing issue.

SM: Is Cloud Foundry one of the platforms you support?

KS: We have it in the lab. I would not say that we offer it in production. We could if anybody wanted to buy it, but we run it internally for the internal divisions.

SM: You sound bullish on Cloud Foundry to the extent that you’re bullish about Cloud Foundry against Microsoft almost. Did I read that correctly?

KS: Yes, I think so.

SM: Tell me more about that. In the platform as a service space, Cloud Foundry is a new player.

KS: It is. If you look at who’s been the dominant player in virtualization, that’s VMware. Who’s the one sponsoring the Cloud Foundry? VMware. If the VMware can be a dominant player in the virtualization space, who’s to say that it can’t upset the apple cart in the platform as a service space?

SM: I’ll tell you why I’m skeptical. VMware’s strength is in the infrastructure as a service space. Virtualization is an infrastructure play. The success of platform as a service is not an infrastructure-driven decision. That’s more of an application-driven decision.

KS: It is, completely.

SM: VMware has no history of succeeding on the application side necessarily.

KS: That’s true as well.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Ken Stephens, Senior Vice-President of Cloud Services, Xerox
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