Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Floating New Ideas With The Cloud Crowd

The Cloud Computing Consortium (C3) and Equinix hosted the breakfast seminar Maximizing Opportunity for Cloud Computing Success this morning at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City. Well over 50 people attended and were actively engaged with the keynote speaker Jessica Carroll, Managing Director, IT and Digital Media for the US Golf Association and the full panel discussion that followed.

Ken Saloway, Program Director C3, opened the session, welcoming the attendees and introducing Jessica who spoke about her interest and experience in leveraging the cloud for her business. With over 30 offices in locations all over the country and the need to coordinate information, events and staff, the cloud offered the kind of speed and flexibility needed at an attractive price point. Starting small with Microsoft's Live Meeting application, Jessica took advantage of cloud hosting services. Based on success she slowly began to migrate several key applications at the USGA into the cloud. Surprisingly, email remains in-house as recent investments make it more cost effective to leave it in place.

Key to the success at USGA was the scalability of the cloud, allowing the organization to handle the inevitable spikes during the season and at major events. Moreover, there were substantial savings realized by only paying for the resources consumed instead of having to build and maintain an infrastructure sized to handle peak loads.  But Jessica also cautioned the group to have contingency plans and a workable exit strategy in place.

For the second half of the seminar, Jessica and Ken joined the other four panelists:

  • Danny Allan, Chief Technology Executive Officer, Desktone
  • Neil Brandmaier, former Chief Technology Officer, XL Group
  • Jonathan Crane, Chief Commercial Officer, IPsoft
  • Lou Najdsin, Director of Global Cloud Computing, Equinix

Despite its size, the panel covered a lot of ground in the 45 minutes allowed. As moderator, my goal was to get some key questions on the table, stimulate audience participation, foster a lively discussion and assure enough knowledge transfer to have made it worth while for our attendees.

In my view, the panel was successful on all counts. Beginning with the basics, what is the cloud and why should executives be interested, the discussion moved quickly though the benefits and opportunities with the cloud and into the impact on existing IT organizations.

It was roughly at this point when hands starting going up and audience engagement was in full swing. What do I do with existing staff, what tools are there for migration, how do I mitigate risks and others were fired at the panel who handled each one in turn quite well.

Redeployment and better utilization of limited capital, both human and financial, were cited. The opportunity to fail faster, saving time and resources, and various risk factors including SLAs, vendor lock-in, privacy and security were all addressed.

The panelists each contributed one closing thought to wrap up the morning. Get engaged with the cloud, make sure you take a business perspective, focus on the data, and make sure you fully understand and manage your use of the cloud, and, of course, participate in organizations like C3 dedicated to helping you.

My advice, attend seminars like this one. It has long been my belief when you hang around with smart people, you get smarter.

Captain Joe

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