David Akka, our Managing Director for Magic Software UK, Eire and Nordics recently returned from a hectic few days presenting at Cloud Computing Congress and DevWeek. I took the opportunity to speak with him and find out what sort of vibes were emanating from those events.
Here's the full transcript of our interview:
Sam Green (SG): So, what sort of people were attending at this year's Cloud Computing Congress?
Dave Akka (DA): It was a mixture of business owners, system integrators and private strategy and development consultants. There were also a lot of CTO's and CIO's. Some people were there really just to get a better understanding of what the Cloud is all about. Others were there mainly to see what sort of business opportunities they could gain from it.
Many of the strategy and development consultants were interested in finding out how to pitch Cloud and how they could create more money from that. Others were already thinking of rolling out a Cloud offering and were there to research and examine other options before they jumped in. And then there were a smaller number who were already in the process of implementing Cloud and were trying to make that process easier.
SG: Were there any surprises at this show?
DA: One thing that took me quite by surprise was the sheer amount of people looking to Cloud as a possible solution for mobile enterprise strategy. They were looking for Cloud technologies to help them avoid having to build the huge infrastructure for a mobile application roll-out and they also wanted to see if they could piggy-back the 3G network via Cloud technology or infrastructure. It was this group that was most interested in our offering.
So we got a lot of traction around our presentation that dealt withbuilding mobile enterprise applications combined with back-end SAP integration. This really emphasized our so-called ‘doughnut strategy' - how to take the ‘crown jewels' of the enterprise (i.e. SAP) and share it with the mobile workforce via a mobile platform technology. They especially loved the slickness of that concept, and in particular three advantages it conveys:
First, the fact that it reduces the cost of ownership for mobile infrastructure - by piggy-backing cloud technology utilizing 3G. Second, that they can significantly enrich their user experience. And third, that we can reduce the complexity of heavy back-end systems by customizing them.
And all of this of course is fully certified by SAP. But it wasn't just about SAP; we talked a lot to people with JD Edwards applications, homegrown applications and more.
So, overall we found a very strong drive for Cloud technologies to answer mobile needs - a very interesting merger.
SG: Were there any surprises from the other side?
DA: Yes. Another thing we realized - more applicable for the groups that govern information, was that all of them came with the intention of investigating infrastructure rather than developing an environment. They were more concerned with servers, utilization, virtualization, back-up strategies and hosting. So when we started to discuss the challenges of actually building cloud applications they were quite surprised at how different it actually was to a regular web application.
For example; with transaction and locking, scalability, multi-tenancy, support of multiple devices, physical spread, latency, when we started to discuss how we incorporate these issues with the actual architecture of the solution, many of them had to sit back and have a think about that.
Once they realized that Cloud is a significantly different architecture to a regular application; that it requires more time, more resources and more research, then they really began to appreciate the added value of an application platform as opposed to straight code.
SG: How do you see the future of this market panning out over the next 3-4 years?
DA: Those who'd already thought about utilizing an application platform immediately recognized the benefit of having one that doesn't bolt you in to a single brand infrastructure. That's because everyone at the event recognized that we're just at the start of the curve for this market and that it will continue to grow rapidly in future.
So it's not in anyone's future interest to bolt their intellectual property into someone else's infrastructure. In another three to four years time the hosting market space will be packed with competition, so it will be vital for vendors to keep their options open to fully take advantage of that competition.
SG: What sort of added value were you able to offer those looking to build cloud enterprise applications?
DA: Most people were completely unaware that they could even build a hybrid model; that the process of building and deploying a cloud application can begin on-premise, continue in the Cloud, then move to a mobile device and then move back again on-premise. Most people saw a lot of value in this model - that vendors can immediately benefit from the Cloud's economies-of-scale while giving them the choice to pick and choose what data and logic they expose to the cloud today and then change that tomorrow.
Another strong insight - people loved our Data Vault offering. They didn't think it was even possible and they loved the idea.
SG: What's the Data Vault offering?
The Data Vault means you keep your application completely in the Cloud, but the database itself sits within the organization and the access to it is managed by VPN. So you get the security of encrypted on-premise access with the really low cost-of-ownership of the Cloud.
SG: What's Magic Software's approach to developers who've spent their entire lives working exclusively with Microsoft tools?
DA: Under the .NET framework you have many paradigms, C#, F#, ASP and others. uniPaaS is simply another paradigm to that framework. But unlike the others, uniPaaS has the huge advantage of being an application platform.
So uniPaaS automates repetitive tasks that developers hate to write - in fact, most developers have a library that they simply copy and paste repetitive tasks from anyway - but uniPaaS lets developers focus exclusively on writing algorithms - the thing that fascinates every developer. You allow them to get to the core of the issue straight away - so you can concentrate on what really needs to be solved rather than what you need to prepare before you even begin to tackle the issue.
SG: How did developers respond to that pitch?
DA: All of the developers we spoke to wanted to see more - we managed to hit a nerve there - no doubt. In future we will concentrate on spreading that theme more. It's not so much about speed or productivity - it's about letting developers concentrate on what they do and enjoy best.
SG: Dave, thank you very much.
DA: A pleasure, as always.