I went along to a cloud computing seminar last week to see what the fuss was all about.
Cloud computing is a term bandied about a lot in recent times and I really didn't fully understand what it was. When NetSuite put on a free seminar, that is to say; "a free sales pitch", I took the opportunity to go along and learn more about it.
I'm not putting down a supplier who would put on such a seminar, in fact I applaud it. It is a good way to learn the different technologies. However as in all such cases, we must weigh what we learn knowing that a fair bit of sales pitch comes along with the facts. This case was no exception to that rule.
So what's all the fuss about cloud computing? Well, it turns out not much at all … and a whole lot, it depends on your perspective.
Cloud computing is the name given to the industry springing up around hosting applications and data on the Internet (the cloud). The idea is that it allows a company to get away with just having the laptop or desktop PCs with no need for servers or the infrastructure normally required to support them. All email, scheduling, accounting and all other company software will be a matter of simply accessing the Internet.
Gmail is a good example of Cloud Computing where the small business can leave all their email details up to Gmail. No in house mail servers; everyone is automatically using the latest software; no backup issues; and no need for an administrator to keep it all protected and current.
The seminar hosted a few guest speakers who had moved all their corporate accounting to the Cloud (by sheer coincidence, NetSuite products - who would have known). It was interesting hearing first hand how they were able to make the change. I was especially interested to hear one company who had international offices and international currency issues and yet still made a successful change to Cloud Computing.
The only part of the evening that really annoyed me was hearing Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite repeat often his favourite saying "why would anyone want to use applications designed before the Internet?". Zach repeated this several times and was obviously very proud of this saying but all it did for me was succeeded in getting my goat. Often applications are not built on the Cloud because of serious reasons. They may be very forward thinking applications that have some serious non-Internet uses. To me Zach Nelson's unfortunate comment displayed his ignorance of the wider business requirements and showed a very narrow view of the world. I will taper this a little though as his view as a Cloud Computing supplier with server based corporate software as his competition, he will naturally be narrow in his outlook.
There are no doubts in my mind that Cloud Computing will have a large future and it will be interesting to watch how fast the take-up will happen.