May 23, 2012

A smarter cloud made in Seattle

Image that shows a diagram with 5 foundational layers for the smart cloud, from the operating system layer (bottom) up to the user interface or apps layer (top)
Gartner predicts that by 2014 the personal cloud will replace the PC as the center of users’ digital lives.[1] To properly enable developers to realize the potential of cloud computing powering consumer solutions, a new layer of core horizontal services is needed and Seattle could play a key role.

Cloud computing started as a metaphor used by technology companies for the delivery of software as a service to end-users. It was a term relegated to the IT departments of corporations, but now, with services such as Dropbox, Apple iCloud, Google Apps, and Microsoft Office 365 among many others, consumers are able to experience firsthand the benefits of the cloud and are starting to incorporate the term in their vocabulary.

The smart phone is moving towards replacing the PC as the preferred way to access the Internet—most predict by 2013-2014. This, coupled with the tablet revolution that started in 2010, opened the door for a new set of consumer cloud technologies that blur the line between servers and clients, making almost any device apt for any type of task thanks to rich native or web apps.

At the cloud's foundation is the broader concept of infrastructure-shared services, such as storage, databases, Web servers, etc., which allow corporations to get their applications up and running faster, with more manageability and less maintenance. This foundation also allows entrepreneurs to build a new set of consumer services in many areas, from social networking, entertainment, communications, and collaboration to a new set of enterprise 3.0 solutions that bring a fresh user experience to outdated solutions such as ERP, health care management, and government or military applications.

Entrepreneurs wanted - a new layer is needed: There is a whole set of new services needed to enable a better, leaner and more capital efficient “Smart Cloud”. Facebook login, DropBox storage or Google login are good examples of this middleware layer. If an entrepreneur is building the next best solution for handling task X, they do not need to invest on coding authentication services or secure storage services and rather rely on Facebook ID or Dropbox storage. Beyond these two examples, there is an emerging need for new services that provide, among other things, the personalization, authentication and trust-management layers required by government, financial, education, and enterprise segments. There is also a need to create the personalization, relevance, micro-transactions clearing and targeting services as a middleware layer to enable the 150,000+ consumer apps developers[2] to continue delivering apps and Web services that will bring to fruition the cloud's place as Gartner sees it, without the extra tax for developers writing those functionalities every time, on each app. It is a platform play, the opportunity to build new horizontal services on top of commoditized platforms; platform plays are beautiful from a scalability and profitability point of view.

Seattle's place in the cloud equation: The core of services that power the cloud and that enable these rich cloud-based apps are provided, in good part, by Seattle-area companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Parallels, and Symform. Today there is less friction in software distribution because rich apps enabled by a smart cloud can reach out more people, in more efficient ways thanks to ubiquitous mobile devices and lower costs; we are just experiencing the beginning of yet another revolution of people's empowerment through technology. The enterprise software space is a $250 billion+ opportunity [3], wich is enough for building five companies the size of Microsoft, and Seattle seems to be a great place to start if we combine the local cloud-computing providers, the more than 120,000 tech workers, 40,000 of which are software engineers,[4] and the many entrepreneurs focusing on platform building blocks such as social marketplaces, micro-transactions and payments, personalization and targeting, monitoring services, secure transactions and identity management.

Tackling on these horizontal services is an important step to unleash the potential of the smart cloud, but innovation is also needed at the most basic layers of operating systems to take further advantage of the multi-core server technology, distributed databases, and relational storage that powers the fundamental core of cloud computing and big data. I am extremely happy to see Concurix been founded here in Seattle to deliver on the promise of enabling big data in a cost effective way, using tomorrow's hardware, or as they describe it: Building the world's fastest and most scalable data center operating system.

The personal cloud described by Gartner is here to stay at the center of user's digital lives. There are many components needed to enable it and Seattle has many of the elements required to contribute with the next revolution, just like it contributed with the desktop revolution, the ecommerce revolution, the coffeeshop-as-the-third-place revolution, the smells-like-teen-spirit revolution and the web-services revolution. The smart and personal cloud could have a "made in Seattle" stamp.

[1] "Gartner Says the Personal Cloud Will Replace the Personal Computer as the Center of Users' Digital Lives by 2014", 12 Mar. 2012, .
[2] Apple Appstore stats as of April 23, 2012
[3] Gartner, May 2011
[4] " Why Washington." : Why Washington. Washington State Department of Commerce, Web. 10 May 2012, .


Anonymous said...

I agree with Gartner – and think Microsoft could be in a lot of trouble. As network speeds and reliability increases – the need for high powered personal computers (or home servers) goes away. For me, I haven’t upgraded my computer in years and now even do my Visual Studio Development on machine in the cloud. It’s really cool – anywhere in the world I can bring up a terminal and pickup on my code edits.

Note sure it will happen by 2014 – but you’ll definitely see major moves that direction.

Mike said...

we built our startup using .Net leveraging on BizSpark program. While we are grateful to Microsoft, now that we are raising series A we are moving away from .Net as soon as we can. The open source libraries and the scalability of the open platform plus the economics of Amazon Web Services are way better than Microsoft. I agree the cloud needs to get smarter and Seattle will play a role, but I cannot see Microsoft's relevancy