Sramana Mitra: When you look at cloud computing in general, where do you see startup opportunities? For example, in 2005, you identified file sharing as one of the opportunities. What do you see today from your vantage point?
Jesse Lipson: I think a lot of customers, especially on the enterprise side, still have not adopted a solution with which they can access and share their data from anywhere. The existing products line that we have around sharing files with people and across all devices still has quite a bit of growth in it for the next few years. I think that’s reflected in some of the valuations of companies like Dropbox and their latest VC rounds. If you look at the projections for the growth of this market, it’s projected to grow almost in the triple digits over the next three to five years. There’s a lot of potential there, and we’re still working to keep building out features and maximize the potential in data sharing.
I think some of the long-term challenges people are going to run into when it comes to cloud computing are that companies are adopting so many cloud services now that it’s getting harder and harder. Data are becoming siloed in many different services. It used to be that the data would be on your personal computer and maybe on a network share in your company. Now, with many cloud services, getting to all of your data and being able to find what you’re looking for is becoming more challenging.
So, I think over the next several years, there’s going to be more of an emphasis on how to corral everything that happening in the cloud and make sense of it and have it one place where someone can process everything. It used to be, from a communication and collaboration standpoint, that as long as you could get to your email, you could get to your collaboration. Now, with tools like Twitter, Facebook and others like Podio, there are multiple places where you’re collaborating and where your data exist. Somehow that has to be brought under control. I think it’s an interesting problem for Citrix over the long term. Our vision as a company is to allow people to work and play from anywhere. So, at Citrix, we’re tackling it from a bunch of different perspectives, from ShareFile, Podio, GoToMeeting, and some of our virtualization technologies. I think the end goal is to make it so that wherever you are from whatever device you’re on, you can tap into all of your data, all of your applications you use and all of the people whom you collaborate with.
SM: If an entrepreneur is starting a company and is looking for open problems to focus on inside computing, would you advise them to look at this problem, or do you see it being tackled by the larger companies that already have a footprint or a portfolio in this space?
JL: I think it’s a very interesting problem. I don’t see a lot of large companies fully tackling it today. Just like the data sharing problem, there are a few different ways that you can slice and dice it. There’s the personal cloud, which is for the consumer or prosumer being able to get to all those different data sources, Gmail, work email, Twitter, Facebook, all the different services that are coming out and have one centralized way to search everything.
The same issue occurs with small businesses. Then on the enterprise side, your data sources are different, like SharePoint, Salesforce, Network Shares, ShareFile and things like that. I think there’s definitely an opportunity for entrepreneurs to tackle that problem, especially the searching of data across different sources. It’s very early stage right now. In the very long term, and I think this might take four or five years, but something for budding entrepreneurs to start thinking about is big data. I think it’s a market that has a lot of growth ahead. Most companies are still struggling to figure out how to apply big data to their businesses. There is the same problem with the proliferation of information today, both publicly available and in the personal cloud. Being able to access it and search it is important. That’s the first step. But then, how do you process and make sense of all of this information when there’s a fire hose of data coming at you in a feed that is constantly moving with all of this information? Some of it may be important and some of it may not. We’re getting to the point where people can’t look through all of the information manually anymore. They need some big data concepts to help them filter, prioritize, and flag information that might be relevant to them. That’s a long-term problem that’s going to be very important, in my mind, maybe five years from now.