Saturday, December 31, 2011

Episode 18: Did 2011 have a silver lining for the cloud in ireland?

2011 for the cloud in Ireland was a turning point. At the start of the year, there were but maybe two handfuls of cloud computing service providers in Ireland, & twelve months on, the choice has ballooned, with numerous IAAS & SAAS providers in the market place, pushing forward the commoditisation of the cloud away from preserve specialty services they have been in recent years.

One of the biggest complaints & criticisms levelled at Irish cloud service providers by their customers, even by those in the market space as potential adopters is the inability by those same providers to actually make the services easy to access, in the same way Apple makes its technology intuitive & accessible. They want it easy to use, with a user-friendly interface. They don’t care how it works, or why it works and rightfully so. They don’t need to. It should ‘just work’ right out of the well packaged & marketed box as promised. It’s not a uniquely Irish problem, but one that is in the forefront of the Irish cloud space.

To an extent, 12 months on this is still the case, but as the Cloud pervades further in the consumer space, the innovations from this will drive into the enterprise solutions to address this. This is atypical of how the technology life cycle works. First, things become the preserve of a few innovators at the vanguard with early adopters. Then, the tech is adopted, moulded & shaped to find it's way into the biggest market where real cost-return scales can be achieved, to then eventually become more refined, powerful & resilient at the enterprise level.

Earlier this year, Microsoft & the IDA announced Ireland could become a global centre of excellence for the cloud. And this showed, with Irish Cloud companies taking in investment from VC funds, foreign cloud companies setting up shop here, like EngineYard, Marketo, & Tethras, to name but a few (although this had more to do with a low unchanged  Corporate Tax rate than Ireland's output from the cloud to date), the big players like EMC, IBM, HP & Dell furthered their investment in their cloud services from Ireland.

Cork Institute of Technology announced in May that it had under consultation with cloud system heavyweights EMC, VMWare, Cisco, GreenPlum, RSA, & SpringSource, developed a two year programme to allow people to attain an actual qualification specialising in the field of cloud computing, as opposed to say a grouping of certificates from various companies; i.e. Cisco accreditation, VMWare VSP etc. This was heralded as proof of Ireland's ability to reshape & own its identity as a knowledge economy.

2011 was also the year where people realised the true impact of what happens when cloud can & does go wrong. None more so than the outages at Amazon, & the countless security breaches throughout the year. These incidents made news headlines, & had people jittery, reacting over the top, & discussions about how fragile the cloud was were made like they were children's fairytales. This could not have been farther from the truth, but the fallout in the media was plain to see, & not limited to specialist media.

Security, reliability, resiliency & data protection were all constant reoccurring themes. While Ireland was being positioned by its new Government  as a Cloud Computing/Digital Gaming/Life Sciences & Clean Tech place to do business.

Ireland itself was not engaging in areas such as helping to tighten up on areas of digital security, following up on EC court rulings about ISP content blocking, or its own Government moving towards cloud adoption the same way some of its European & global counterparts were.

All of this happened against a backdrop of increasing economic depression at home & globally. Ireland asked & got its change of leadership earlier this year, and that leadership by year end despite sound bites, media ramblings, event appearances has still failed to reach out to  those in the Irish Cloud market, even despite the announced €5m centre of cloud excellence announced by that same Government.

2012 will require the indigenous cloud computing sector in Ireland to shout to have its voice heard above the noise of foreign multinationals whose first interest is in tax savings they can make here rather than fostering Irish industry to serve itself at home & abroad.