Did the global summer of cloud start in NYC?

Having just returned a scorching hot New York (host of CloudExpo East 2011) to a definitely cooler Europe, it makes sense to see whether these differences in temperature also apply to the cloud market.
This 8th Expo was the third cloud expo I was invited to speak at and it definitely was the biggest so far. If CloudExpo West in November signaled the entry of the large mainstream vendors like Oracle, Dell and Microsoft – not to mention several CA divisions – as major sponsors, then this edition was signified by the larger turn out of end user organizations and even some coverage on mainstream news channel such as CNN. A quick audience poll on the first day revealed that about 90% of the audience is in the orientation phase, getting ready to do some serious spending (you could almost hear the vendors sigh of relieve as it is starting to look their investments will indeed pay off).
Although many of the sessions were vendors explaining their approaches and offerings, there were some notable exceptions featuring real implementations, like the case study session where hamburgers (in fact plastic burger replica’s holding gift certificates) were passed out to the audience.  The “how to get from here to there session by Andi Mann, where he showed two alternative paths to the cloud (an evolutionary and a revolutionary one) was also well received. In fact his subsequent book signing session generated a queue even longer than the one at the lunch buffet.
Looking at the event from a European angle it was refreshing to see several European solutions featured in the expo. I saw a next generation NAS solution from Belgium – addressing MSP’s interested in offering an S3 equivalent without requiring the traditional high NAS upfront investments; a solution from France to automatically build the innard’s  of VM’s based on specific OS and middleware requirements.  And a PaaS solution – originally from Holland – built in the KISS (Keep it Stupidly Simple) tradition of the great 4GLs, but with the scalability and usability that the cloud can bring to application development.

A special mention goes to the Holland Pavilion–located directly opposite the CA stand –  featuring no less than 8 additional Dutch companies and start-up’s on their way to make it big. Now this is not the first time the Dutch picked New York as a good spot to start the move into America (remember New Amsterdam?), but it is refreshing to see a government investing to stimulate economic activities around cloud computing (They did not yet spend the US$ 20B the U.S. government is vowing to put into cloud computing this year, but it’s a start).  The other interesting angle of the mission was to position Amsterdam (in this case old Amsterdam) as digital gateway to Europe. With broadband in almost every home and international bandwidth that matches the proverbial throughput and transit capacity of the Rotterdam harbor this seems a logical proposition.

In my session on Day two I covered several aspects of vendor Lock-In and more importantly, possible approaches to prevent it. We discussed standards, of which most are still too early to tell or too close to call, although the open datacenter alliance – as if on cue – published their first use case proposals on the same day. I also explored the benefits of a software based fabric approach for portability across (hybrid) clouds and revisited the earlier discussed 3D cloud strategy model.

Overall the event showed that cloud is becoming red hot, almost as hot as the pavement outside the Javits convention center (a condition many an attendee sought refuge from at one of the rooftop reception’s thrown by the various sponsors). With all this momentum we are likely to see a next edition with even more cloud use cases and success stories, also from Europe. This could be done by every provider session including a real-live implementation story or a separate track dedicated to sharing the experiences of cloud (end-) users. Maybe a bit like our recent cloud leaders initiative, which features online stories from cloud luminaries such as PGI and  DonorsChoose  and cloud accelerators like LayeredTech, ScaleMatrix and DNS Europe (now also available as free Cloud Leaders iPad app). 

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