Two events in late June / early July allowed me to focus on the diversity of innovation that the Cloud is now enabling. The Cloud World Forum at Kensington Olympia. The Awards Ceremony for the 2015 Eurocloud UK Cloud Awards (I had chaired the judges). I will tell you a few stories of impressive young businesses. I have no business connection with, contract with, or investment in any of them.   

Two fundamental ‘threads’ run through the innovative technological and business models I sketch below. The first is the increasing divison between the underlying platform (in cloud shorthand – IaaS, PaaS) and the fast growing diversity of vertical-specific services and apps (SaaS, Apps). The second is the exploitation of the reality that ‘all is now software’ – data storage, data processing, data networking, all as softwares that can be virtualised, formed & integrated in novel fashions, automated.

What was notable about the Forum was that many biggies (such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon) were absent , but there was a flourish of younger ventures. For example, Skytap who have created the means for their clients to shape operational environments on demand to enable & optimise the software development lifecycle – on the one hand allowing dev & test teams to self-provision, on the other maintaining visibility and cost control.  Another example – the Luxembourg venture Yobidrive providing a high security virtual data room in the cloud with associated services that allow tightly controlled access for collaboration and tight encrypted record keeping so that held data is of audit grade (this is Luxembourg, remember!).

As an active LinkedIn user, I missed the opportunity to exploit AroundThen, a location-based App that would have alerted me to near-by fellow LinkedIn professionals at the Forum, and allowed me to message them where relevant. The other side of the coin is elasticode that allows apps to be dynamically & flexibly changed to suit the demographics of individual classes of users.  

A fundamentally more innovative venture is Estatom. Exploiting the ‘all is now software’ reality it has created an integrated set of NoSQL object-oriented technologies including its Fornax engine and Polymach Application Programme Interface (API) with a suite of supporting utilities – a strong emphasis on security (each object), and tight code designs than require remarkably small footprints (typically c.150 KB).  The result looks to be highly programmable, machine independent, with the ability to handle unstructured data, and drive extremely fast and secure processing – with, it is claimed, no point of failure. I judge that a real breadth and depth of experience has been distilled into innovating this new capability – 60-year-old experientially rich heavyweights at work, rather than 20-year-old sparks!   

And so to the Eurocloud UK Cloud Awards 2015. Let us start with Novum IP, an offshoot of Fusion Experience and winner of the Best Cloud Service for Vertical Markets. Built on the Salesforce1 platform, it provides the capability for the larger (global) enterprise to organise and proactively manage its IP across that IP’s life cycle – the launch client an apparently impressed Nokia. Here is an excellent example of the platform/specialist vertical expertise model in play. The Salesforce1 platform, a development of Saleforce’s CRM business, was itself in the final three in the Best Cloud Service for Horizontal Markets  but was pipped at the post by DataSift, whose tool set allows real time analysis of ‘Human Generated Data – HGD’ – (think social media!) while fully protecting the privacy of the individuals generating the data. Facebook has taken DataSift in house into its datacentre operations – you can see why.

Two Award categories were devoted to the G-Cloud. The winner of the Outstanding Newcomer Award was CtrlO. A real example of the power of the G-Cloud. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) had launched a classic two year procurement exercise (as they do) to source the capability to manage the complexity and diversity of data across its global operations – the paperwork included a 100 page user specification (as it does). Some MoD genius awoke to G-Cloud and discovered CtrlO and its GADS (Globally Accessible Data Store) offer. The subsequent procurement was completed in a matter of weeks. The 100 page user specification was torn up, as GADS has powerful user-driven capabiities.

Finally PurpleVision, a professional consultancy whose prime business is advising charities & not-for-profits exploit contemporary CRM capabilities. They exploited a new service offered on the FinancialForce platform, Professional  Services Automation (PSA), to overhaul their internal operations, sharply raising effectiveness and efficiency, and sharlply reducing costs. Winner of the Best Business Impact category, they now also have a new string to their consultancy bow!

A message to fellow CIOs – walk the floor at these cloud trade fairs, follow the cloud awards closely – there is radical innovation afoot!