Listened to Akamai, EMC, Microsoft (Azure), Iron Mountain, and a few other New England area startups. The most interesting part, for me, was the freeform discussion between a panel and the audience.
To summarize, here were my key takeaways
- Virtualization of computing resources: applications, platforms, middleware, and hardware - will be a juggernaut IT theme for 2010.
- SaaS and IaaS has wide applicability for IT in general.
- Major concerns are, in order: Security of data, availability, performance, compliance. All of those concerns, however, exist no matter where resources are hosted.
- Why trust Amazon to secure your app? Because they are better at it than you
- Why trust SaaS and PaaS offerings to offer high availability, scalability, and security: because deep understanding of the domain and focus on operations makes those vendors the best in the world at hosting their solution.
- The concept of SaaS is well established and no longer a point of debate. I was surprised that there was not more discussion about the economics of SaaS, particularly CMRR and CAC.
- Some discussion around CAPEX for startups - entrepreneurs want low up-front expense and rapid time to market - PaaS brings both of those.
- Concern around vendor lock-in, how to get data out of a system - "Data has gravity".
- Consensus that PaaS is all about APIs and application execution environment, not virtualized hardware.
- Some discussion about whether a startup's choice of cloud vendor could affect their M&A. (would Google want you if you were on MS Azure?).
- Compliance: Microsoft says, "lets just make the agencies that legislate compliance lean about cloud and change their policy".
- The real savings when you move to cloud is on staff.
The ZeitGeist is that cloud computing is the beginning of a fundamental shift in approaching computing resources, and while it may be true that some aspects are not wholly new (SaaS is a lot like the ASPs of the late 90's), the collective mass of SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS changes the economics of applications, what applications are, and how collaborating business partners and consumers take advantage of each other's services.