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The Business Agility of Cloud Computing

Exclusive Q&A with Victoria Kouyoumjian, Sr. Business and Technologies Strategist at Esri

"Big Data is not simply code for lots of information," observed Victoria Kouyoumjian, Sr. Business and Technologies Strategist at Esri, in this exclusive Q&A with Cloud Expo Conference Chair Jeremy Geelan. "Instead," Kouyoumjian noted, "Big Data refers to information in myriad different formats from varying sources - and many of these digital formats and streams haven't existed until recently."

Cloud Computing Journal: Agree or disagree? - "While the IT savings aspect is compelling, the strongest benefit of cloud computing is how it enhances business agility."

Victoria Kouyoumjian: Agree. Many organizations are initially attracted to Cloud Computing as the new bright shiny object that can potentially improve their IT portfolio. At the top of the list of benefits is cost savings, including reducing overall operational costs and exposing more cost avoidance opportunities. However, if the pay-as-you-go model does not fit with the business model of the organization, the savings aspect using the predominant cloud cost model cannot unanimously be adopted. For example, a Federal government agency accustomed to committing spend and decrementing after, or a public company with budgeting forecasting mandates might not have the same business needs as a commercial organization. Additionally, sitting down and doing the math on those cloud-hosted services that run 365 days a year may not equate to a compelling case for significant IT savings.

However, if one addresses the business agility aspect of cloud, the conversation gets interesting and the residual affect may be much more significant. For example, faster time to provision new compute resources for say, a pharmaceutical manufacturer, means that research, prototyping, and drug trials can be conducted exponentially faster than with the traditional fixed-cost model cycle. In this case, cloud serves to reduce the time to deliver new drugs to market, as well as affording a competitive advantage to the manufacturer. Business agility - both for internal development and test, and public dissemination and consumption - quickly becomes an extremely compelling and tangible argument for adopting the cloud.

Cloud Computing Journal: Which of the recent big acquisitions within the Cloud and/or Big Data space have most grabbed your attention as a sign of things to come?

Kouyoumjian: Salesforce's acquisition of Radian6; Google buying Motorola Mobility; and the Verizon-Terremark deal. This last acquisition is significant because many more cloud providers will emerge in the not-too-distant future and this type of merger is indicative of a future pattern for cloud providers. In order to continue sustainability, there is often strength in numbers - and Verizon's brand may also add street cred and confidence to the prospective cloud adopters who were previously not familiar with Terremark and only knew the Verizon name.

Cloud Computing Journal: In its recent "Sizing the Cloud" report Forrester Research said it expects the global cloud computing market to reach $241BN in 2020 compared to $40.7BN in 2010 - is that kind of rapid growth trajectory being reflected in your own company or in your view is the Forrester number a tad over-optimistic?

Kouyoumjian: The components that comprise cloud might range from bare metal infrastructure to software applications for desktop, mobile, and telephony (video, audio) - just to name a few - and everything in between. Certainly, cloud computing services and cloud-hosted applications are now a significant part of our business - quickly becoming core offerings to our traditional, on-premise solutions and software. As with most any technology company, we recognize that the market for cloud infrastructure, platforms and applications is large and growing much more quickly than any other type of IT spending. It has permeated nearly every industry and vertical, driven by market demand, customer needs, and technology innovations. So, perhaps the cloud market won't multiply 6 times in 10 years, but it will experience significant growth and we plan to grow with it, regardless of Forrester's or any other predictions.

Cloud Computing Journal: Which do you think is the most important cloud computing standard still to tackle?

Kouyoumjian: Privacy in the cloud and Service Level Agreements (SLAs). In other words, unless customers adopting cloud know what questions to ask and what concerns to have, it's possible that in the cloud ... "Here Be Dragons".

Cloud Computing Journal: Big Data has existed since the early days of computing; why, then, do you think there is such an industry buzz around it right now?

Kouyoumjian: Has Big Data really existed since the early days of computing? The term Big Data was coined fairly recently. In reality, Big Data is not simply code for lots of information. Instead, Big Data refers to information in myriad different formats from varying sources - and many of these digital formats and streams haven't existed until recently. Nowadays we are literally inundated with data from all these different sources and we really want to be able to analyze it - and leverage it in some way. With compute power and storage now an affordable commodity and with the evolution of technologies that can efficiently process massive amounts and types of data in a non-transactional system - the opportunity for solving Big Data analytics is tantalizingly within reach, and that's attractive for any business.

Cloud Computing Journal: Do you think Big Data will only ever be used for analytical purposes, or do you envisage that it will actually enable new products?

Kouyoumjian: Big Data has already enabled new products! There are now offerings and services for, say, mining your Tweets historically. Esri and its partners make tools for building intelligent maps with social media mining capabilities. Maps such as these help you visualize, explore and analyze the geographic distribution of social media and are used by businesses, governments, emergency responders, as well as everyday citizens. We believe that maps are a critical tool for business decisions and consumers, alike, and that they can be enabled by Big Data.