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Is the private PaaS a contradiction in terms?

Posted in The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on May 7, 2013

Cloud is a enabling platform from the service and consumer stand point, but the key question that Cloud and PaaS (Platform as a Service) has to answer is the cost, control and security implication for businesses.

Research firm Gartner predicts that worldwide platform as a service (PaaS) is set to reach a high of $1.2 billion in 2012, as compared to $900 million in 2011.Market revenue is expected to increase as the years come with a total of $1.5 billion in 2013, and growing to $2.9 billion in 2016, according to the Gartner report.On average, Gartner predicts that the potential spending from 2011 through 2016 is at $360 million per year.According to Gartner, despite ongoing economic uncertainties, mature IT markets and economies, such as the United States, Western Europe and Japan, are on the forefront of PaaS adoption. While PaaS spending globally is still relatively small, almost all of it is generated by the United States with 42 percent of the market. In total, the top three economies represent nearly 90 percent of worldwide PaaS spending.

paas

The big billions aside, making money and profits on a PaaS platform is a challenge- Customers (In this case Businesses and Enterprises) who are looking at cloud solutions are looking at it from a “Zero Capex”, “off Balance Sheet”, “Investment Light” -pay per use perspective only. However, the solutions that they need can get really complex and PAAS providers need to have the Platform under full and total control (Security threats and Data Privacy being the other key concern areas)

However, from the PAAS providers ( PAAS provider here is the business contemplating the PAAS) point of view – dedicated environments (hardware, hosting, programming, integration) needs to be a very inhouse activity with firm and total control on the processes systems and down times.

There in lies a dichotomy – Pay Per Use Return on Investments is mostly at odds with the project costs on data centre, people resources, provisions, security etc. Thus the PAAS providers need to look at a quick scalability of business to justify spends and investments on Cloud PAAS. Needless to say there are too many challenges doing this – you have to integrate Sales, Strategy, Clients, Investments and pay off horizons and many more aspects of the business to get the right direction. And yet, results couldnot be flowing in the first few months of the endeavour.

It is a bit of a Catch 22 in this business situation – but then any new technology and its implementation has its own set of challenges which can only be answered through scalability of the business model.

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In Midst of Transition- Adobe Systems (Part II)

Continued from Part I

If the early results are any indication, Adobe, has become a model for companies coping with tech’s changing landscape. But the Business transition is easier said – Adobe will have to navigate the rise of cloud, Mobility, social media and highly targeted online advertising. It also pits Adobe against some very well entrenched competition – Microsoft and Apple in productivity programs, IBM and Google in digital marketing.

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Image Courtesy Fortune

Adobe’s move into digital marketing- which has its roots in the acquisition of Omniture, a web analytics company in 2009 is an equally adroit move. The second leg of Adobe’s strategy re-orientation includes data driven marketing – real-time bidding on Google search ads, targeting display ads using Facebook profiles, analyzing which Tweets or blog posts drive traffic, testing different site designs to see which generate sales. To make those features possible, Adobe has spent $800 million in the last 3 years on acquisitions since Omniture: Day Software for website-content management, Demdex for ad targeting, Efficient Frontier for search and social media ad exchanges, and Auditude for inserting ads inside streaming videos. According to Gartner, marketing budgets will grow 9% this year, compared with 4.7% for IT. Adobe wants to benefit from that growth by selling marketing services and software simultaneously. Thus, Adobe tools once relied on just for creating a website, have become much more useful as a digital marketing suite.

Death of Adobe Flash

Still, Adobe’s marketing push means going up against deep-pocketed companies like IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Google — all of which are more experienced in the enterprise software market. The next year or so will be critical for Adobe as it changes tracks and dons a new gear. It is a risk but then its vastly better than waiting for the emminent death of Adobe Flash.Adobe’s post-Flash strategy was announced in November 2011, alongside the restructuring that made digital marketing and Creative Cloud the company’s top priorities Adobe saw the writing on the wall and conciously anchored itself on the Creative Cloud and Digital Marketing as the next streams of business. Now we await the new Adobe!

In Midst of Transition- Adobe Systems (Part I)

In the age of Cloud,Mobility,Social Media and altering business models,Companies that simply try to preserve the status quo will fail – Inspired

Adobe is the midst of transition would inspire many a case studies. A company that epitomized Shrink Wrapped High Quality Software is working on complete re-doing of its business and revenue models with an eye on the future. Historically, Adobe has been a productivity suite company with its software being centred around enterprises, film-makers, webmasters and content creators and it has done well till recent times. Not wishing to be caught on the wrong foot holding on to status quo, Adobe has readied and implemented a radical change in its business model- It has embraced the cloud based distribution and digital marketing and is phasing out the CD based version of “pay beforehand $1400-$2400” software distribution to Software in the cloud, monthly subscription service. This sachet service works three ways – It steadies revenue per month, it reduces piracy (Adobe was losing a reported $1bn to piracy of its software) and it also increases penetration (The move to subscriptions is a clever and thoughtful way to lower the price point). This model works on a $20-$50 subscription model – and this would bring 325K subs by end of 2012 as per Adobe. Lready Adobe has a million free memberships on its Cloud.The current onboarding rate is 11K per week. Overall average revenue per user is 20% higher compared with the old product. That number will rise even further, the company says, because it is much more likely to sell support services, website hosting, or server management to cloud customers. Already Adobe is augmenting its cloud product by addition of features and functionalities such as Creative Cloud for teams, making it easy (collaborate effort); Adobe Muse (For creation of Mobile websites); Creative Cloud Connection for desktop synching and collaborative sharing;Creative Cloud Training; and demonstrating the unlimited access to the Digital Publishing technology used by major publishers to create interactive content for the smartphones and tablets.

Adobe

Sure this audacious moved spooked the stock which lost steam in 2011 but it is back in action and has traced a healthy recovery. The stock is way behind its historic highs of $47.9- however at $35.5 it is trading 47% above its 2011 trough of $24.17. Even while the stock is underperforming as per analyst’s expectations- the 3Q, 2012 profits have reversed a trend of 3 quarters of dipping profits. In the most recent quarter, profit increased by 3.2% year-over-year. Looking back further, profit dropped 2.4% in the second quarter, 21.1% in the first quarter and 35.4% in the fourth quarter of the last fiscal year. The turnaround seems to be working for Adobe and we would get to know more about this in time. As for the shift from boxed software to subscriptions: It is far from over. In fact, it is the company’s greatest source of uncertainty.

This Post is continued in Part II

Apple, Google and microsoft in the battle for Cloud

Posted in The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on April 26, 2012

Cloud storage and applications are quickly becoming critical to consumers’ mobile lives in a converged world. The age of carrying personal memory devices or mailing documents to oneself is yesterday. Cloud-based productivity tools are now principal and key to manage documents access content and control one’s data from multiple devices. The cloud truly represents the future of storage beyond physical media.
The launch of Google Drive drives the competition in clouds to the next level. Apple, Google and Microsoft (the trio yet again) are at it… each trying to reinvent and redisgn cloud to augment their world of converged services and seamless connectivity. Google starts off from Gmail by providing all account holders 5GB space in the cloud. One can opt for higher capacities in storage albeit for a price.

Interestingly enough Microsoft which was magnanimous with 25GB of Skydrive space has offered a miserly 7GB. The cost factor can be a real dampener both for Google and Microsoft. Even while Microsoft seems to have a better product compared to Apple and Google and Google needs to perfect its cloud storage solution….Again the pricing and storage is a masterstroke from Apple given that most of the storage is used in media files. By tightly integrating and controlling media (video, audio and games) in its eco-system and making the storage of such items free, Apple is offering a value to the consumer in terms of judicious and prudent use of storage space.

Here’s how the three giants stack up on the cloud storage solutions –

Let the battle of cloud spaces begin….

Integrating the elements of convergence: The case for APIs

Posted in Internet and Search, Mobile Data & Traffic, The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on February 28, 2012

Convergence has been the buzz word for a good part of the last decade and will continue to do so in this decade as well. However, for the discerning the definition or at least the meaning of convergence has now shifted from device convergence to technology convergence. The later being the superset of which devices are just another maifestation. So earlier its was the camera, the mobile phone, the GPS, the MP3 player and other such device charecterestics that really converged. However, in the present context it is the convergence of enabling technologies and the three big technologies that seem to be convergent at this time are: Mobility, Cloud Services and Big Data.

However, it is a relatively small lynchpin that drives the convergence of these three mega trends. Small in terms of what it is, but large in terms of the innovation spurts that it provides. The key here is APIs or Application programming Interfaces. APIs tie together the mega-trends in a fundamental and unalterable way. APIs are the lingua franca of the new wave in internet of all things combined with super mobility and seamless connectivity. In my mind, each of these three technology trends (on their own) will be on the fast track to commoditization and will risk facing the same fate as did most social business software plays. The magic and the premiums will come from contextual application of this innovation and smart integration.

To stake a few examples, Box.net as storage without document and device sync and collaboration is commodity. Apple’s iCloud as storage without ubiquitous local and iTunes media sync across devices is commodity. And Google Drive (as discussed here in Ben Kepes’ CloudU community) is also a commodity business not worth getting into had it not been for Google’s services such as Google Apps, Piccasa, and its media and unified communication capabilities under the Google Plus brand.

The premiums from big data, mobile access and cloud comes from
a) dynamically assembled media and content, and interpreted data in the cloud,
b) available wherever you need to consume and / or collaborate and
c) insanely focused and simple interfaces to complex backends.

Thats where money would be made in these commoditized services. APIs provide the integration through the value creation network. The only other differentiator in this case being experience!

Will iCloud do to Cloud Computing what iPhone to Smartphones and iPod did to Media Consumption? (Turn it on its head)

Is it the new MobileMe? Is it the new iTunes? Or is it a whole new definition for the cloud? Or a whole new trend in media consumption habits. It could also be the biggest champion for bits as against disks. It may be the final in terms of software beating hardware…

Apple today enveils the iCloud®, Apple’s upcoming cloud services offering. Many believe that iCloud, will do the same for “the Cloud” as the iPod did for MP3s. It is expected to massify the cloud.
AT the surface, iCloud is the iTunes streaming service. Apple is already supposed to have secured DRM agreements with Universal, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner. However, the music streaming subscription services could just be the tip of a larger iceberg of services which could fundamentally alter the course of desktop computing and migrate the services to the cloud.

There are dozens of cloud options available with Microsoft’s platform for syncing files across multiple devices and servers. Dropbox makes it possible to sync files to the internet. Google just launched Google Music. Amazon has their Cloud Player. Then there is Spotify. Coming from Apple, the iCloud is supposed to provide consumer value, differentiation from what’s come before and a way of taking the market forward. Apple was not the first company to offer downloads of music. But they did it the best and therefore conquered the market. They weren’t first with MP3 players or smartphones. Yet again iCloud launches after Google and Amazon have served up their streaming music services and yet iCloud can overturn the tables by being the most radical and the best.

iCloud may not be restricted to music. It could be synchronization for all files — it could involve video, office files. Apple has agreements with Disney, Paramount Pictures, and Sony Pictures to feature their movies on the iCloud. It will be interesting to see if new business models are introduced. An Apple cloud service could potentially benefit from the huge existing base of iTunes accounts

Apple has the ability and the talent to build a system that, works across platforms. Imagine being able to buy a movie, but never having to worry about downloading it anywhere. Add to that just inserting a DVD into your superdrive, having it recognize such, and having it added to your library, which doesn’t matter if it’s on your computer’s hard disk or in the cloud. The back-end licenses with music and video labels will help Apple introduce scan-and-match technology that scans a user’s hard drive and provides access to music found there from the company’s own servers.Or photo storage, or Apps or more…

The concept of a “disk” will thus be gone. One won’t even think about where on a computer to store things – they will just save, and you’ll be able to access them with ease, from wherever the location, to whatever computer or device. It eliminates “My Computer”,C: drive, root directory, user directory, “My Documents”, “My Pictures”. It will just be “save” and “search”. Nothing else to ever think about again.
Competitors, including RIM, Google, Amazon and Microsoft already have a hard time competing with iTunes as it is, will likely find it even tougher with iCloud enhancements. iCloud has the potential to be a new model for media consumption, which could also spark more demand for Apple devices. iCloud by itself will not be a billion dollar revenue opportunity – It is an enabling technology … once you have things in the cloud, you can create new devices that (have not) been created right now.

Chromebook (Part V): The wish list for Chromebook improvements!

I have featured Chromebooks in four blogs earlier. Read them here: The cloud kisses the laptop, Subscriptions that might have changed the industry standards, Google’s own iPad Moment and 10 reasons why Chromebooks haven’t really won a lot of admirers out there! (Not Yet!). This one is a reproduction of an article bv Desire Athow.

Chromebooks are atleast 3 weeks off from stores and sales and inspite of the drubbing that Chromebook has received from Blogosphere, Amazon reports Chromebooks already in the top 20 “most wished for” items in the laptop category.

The original Chromebooks though are far from being perfect and there are at least four things that can be done to improve the current generation quite easily actually.

1. ARM instead of Intel: ARM’s biggest strengths centres around its battery consumption. Toshiba AC100-10U laptop (ARM powered) , which runs Android, is cheaper by a third and weighs 40 per cent less while having a similar battery life compared to the average Chromebook.
What’s even more incredible is that the AC100 uses a 2200mAh, 3-cell battery, compared to 6-cell 8280mAh monster on the Samsung Chromebook. Intel powered devices have more expensive and bulkier brick-type power adaptors, whereas ARM based ones are likely to have smaller, cheaper wall-type models.

2. Speaking of the battery in the Chromebook, making it removable would be a great idea as the laptop only supports up to 1000 cycles or around 18 months in the worse case scenario.

3. Bringing in an Ethernet port – a conspicuous omission – would also make a lot of sense especially if you have to set up the laptop in a notspot zone in the first place.

4. Connectivitywise, turning Chromebooks into hotspots would be a pretty cool addition indeed, something that Connectify does already for Windows and Google already achieved with Android since Froyo.

The art of perfecting a product is a multi-iterative process and Chromebooks will also follow the same trend in time.

Chromebooks (Part IV): 10 reasons why Chromebooks haven’t really won a lot of admirers out there! (Not Yet!)

Contd from earlier posts: The cloud kisses the laptop, Subscriptions that might have changed the industry standards and Google’s own iPad Moment.

With Chromebook, Google has redrawn the boundaries of desktop virtualization. However, there apprehensions, the biggest being, Netbook as a category is loosing out to the Tablets. While Chromebook has the Cloud edge, could Google have done better with ChromeTab. Listing out a few neagtive thoughts and reactions behind the Chromebook…

1. While, Chromebooks can connect with external devices such as cameras (via USB) and headsets,it is maimed by the exclusion of Apple users. The millions of existing iPhone, iPad and iPod owners cannot use the Chromebook with those devices. That is one task the Chromebook can’t perform, and it is unlikely it ever will. Google will be looking at convincing Apple product owners that they need to switch, or forget the Chromebook. That is a huge unreachable market for a brand new product. (ZDNet).

2. Chromebooks retail at $349 at the least. Will people want to pay as much for such a light client device as they do for a fully loaded notebook running a traditional OS like Microsoft Windows? The Chromebook Series 5 is powered by a 1.66GHz dual-core Intel Atom N570 processor, and has a 16GB mSATA solid-state drive and 2GB of RAM. Those are netbook parts in a machine that’s priced at the level of low-end notebooks. (PC Mag)

3. As the recent Amazon Web Services outage demonstrated, cloud services can fail and customers can lose data (Information Week). Google itself has faced loads of Gmail incidents loosing valuable user data.

4. With Cloud centric OS’es, the race will be towards stealing access credentials, after which, it’s game over. Who needs to steal banking accounts, when you have Google Checkout? Or, who needs to monitor passwords, when they’re all nicely stored into the Google Dashboard?…Earlier today, I got asked by a friend- ‘How is Chrome OS from a security point of view, better or worse?’ I answered, ‘It’s better, but much worse. (Software Security at Kaspersky)

5. Google’s foray into hardware products have not really been successful. Need to look beyond the Nexus One and Nexus S? Has Google learned its lessons from its cell phone debacle? We’ll see.

6. We’d be forced to stick to a browser for hours. Is it not worth to wait 15 to 20 seconds for Windows 7 to boot on Netbooks and have the flexibility to work with any application? Microsoft came under heavy fire for taking advantage of its Windows operating system to promote Windows Media Player and Internet Explorer, even though you can download any browser using the IE. Now how about sticking to the Chrome browser for the entire life cycle of your Netbook! That’s really not a good Idea. People often criticize ‘Apple’ for crippling their devices off the features and for controlling the third party applications to generate more and more revenue. If that is bad, then have a look at Google’s business model. They have outdone Apple in terms of crippling the usability. Google wants you to buy a Netbook with nothing but a Chrome Browser onboard. All the applications you’d run would be within the browser; all your family photos and videos would be directly saved on Google’s server, multitasking is out of question (yes, there will be a new tab but that doesn’t count as multitasking), and it will update automatically without giving you the option to decide whether or not you wish to download and apply the update.

7. There’s much to recommend the platform, we can confidently say it’s still years away from the replacing most business machines. Google offers ways of working around the platform’s limitations – it just unveiled a new local file manager, and Citrix is providing a desktop virtualization tool for running legacy applications – but these tools can take you only so far. Usability for instance without internet connected is short, and though HTML5 and Open standards platform address this issue, it still is a drawback that needs to be addressed. Aregister

8. The Chromebooks aren’t suited to things like video editing, and they’re quite limited when it comes to most multimedia or design tasks. But the problem goes beyond an inability to run certain applications. In many cases the ease of usage and a friendly interface is lacking and will take some time to come up on its steam.

9. Your computer has no hard drive. You can’t download them and move them somewhere else. You can’t change services. You have nowhere to go. That’s a lot of power to give one company, isn’t it? (SearchEngineWatch)

10. The Chromebook for all its cloud related advantages is not as trendy and path breaking as the iPad or the Android tablets. Could Google have been wiser to have worked on a ChromeTab as against a Chromebook. We will see that.

A survey by British website, Inquirer, asked its readers: Would they prefer to store their documents and data locally instead of surrendering it to a Google Chromebook and its cloud storage? Only a small minority of readers are tempted by the devices, vindicating my thought that netbooks in terms of form factors are not anywhere close to the Tablets. The result of the survey was that
7% prefered a Google Chromebook because they thought it would be useful for their purposes, just browsing the net.
4% liked it because it is ‘an inexpensive laptop’
16% would rather buy a tablet
47% prefer to keep personal documents on PC/Laptop, suggesting that perhaps the cloud, or at least Google’s cloud, has little appeal.
26% respondents didnot know what a Chromebook was. The 26% is a good number, because it means that 74% respondents know the Chromebook.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people are skeptical. However, It’s worth remembering that the iPad similarly met with a barrage of criticism and did change how we think about computers.

Chromebooks (Part III): The cloud kisses the laptop (Would have been glad if it would have been the Tablet)

Continued from an earlier post.

The idea of a computing device with most of the computing systems outsourced to the cloud is a novel one and has been around for a while now. Here are the reasons on why it is ground breaking?

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Chrome OS simplifies the operating system by putting most all applications and data inside the browser, and in doing so, it takes a multilayered approach to security, restricting each application to its own sandbox and introducing a verified boot sequence that seeks to identify malware at startup time.

All OS updates, including security fixes, are automatically pushed down to the device over the web, and since virtually no applications or data files sit on device itself, it’s easier to set up a machine – or move to a new one when it is lost or stolen or bricked. What’s more, Chromebooks – equipped with flash drives – offer unusually fast boottimes.

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With a Chromebook users won’t wait minutes for computers to boot and browsers to start. This provides access to email in seconds. The Chromebook provides automatic access to updates which will get faster over time.All individual apps, games, photos, music, movies and documents will be accessible from wherever the user is and the Chromebook will provide freedom from hassles like worrying on loss of computer and data backing up. Just because the back end systems are lightb and easy, Chromebooks will last a day of use on a single charge. With optional 3G, accessibility to web is direct. Chromebooks have many layers of security built in so there is no anti-virus software to buy and maintain.

The MAJORITY of Internet Users are people who only go onto the PC for four activities: Email, Shopping, Online Banking, Facebook. The fact remains that do not users get Dual or quadcore, 4 GB of memory, DDR2, DDR3, Photoshop, Video Editing, Access, Excel and Word is MEANINGLESS to most people who are not Professionals. Add to it the need to buy AntiVirus, Firewall Protection, OS maintenance and the hardware purchase turns onerous. Users just want to Log in, Look at their email, post to Facebook & Pay a bill. Beyond that, the the most strenuous task they’ll ever put on their laptop might be streaming a HD Movie.

Although it remains to be seen how well Chrome OS works when deprived of internet access, the potential for Chromebooks to slash both IT support hassles and the amount of money spent on hardware and software is very enticing. We will get to know the response to Chromebooks in a while. But for me i think the idea of a ChromeTab is much more attractive and enticing.

Chromebook (Part II): Subscriptions that might have changed industry standards

Google has smartly aimed it squarely at the enterprise and the education system. It will be sold to consumers, too, and that’s the market segment that may give Google the most fits with the Chromebook.

Google will charge businesses $1,008 to use netbooks for three years. The subscription requires a three-year contract, and it includes not only continuous software updates but also a web-based management console, Google support, and hardware replacements.This translates into a $28 per user subscription plan for businesses and it can be an affordable way for small businesses to provide laptops to its users, but to really satisfy enterprise users, Google needs to woo its IT decision makers. The value here is that enterprise and education customers can count on a dramatic decrease in costs from a maintenance standpoint.

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Secondly, Google will provide 100MB of free 3G data each month through its partner Verizon wireless. Interestingly, the deal ends after two years (rather than lasting for the life of the product).

Three years is an awfully long time, particularly when you’re dealing with a comparatively low-spec machine such as the ones announced from Acer and Samsung today (both of which will ship June 15th). But for businesses and educational institutions, is it good enough? It’s also worth noting that Google considered shorter contracts (with higher monthly fees), but it found during market research that most institutions never upgraded their machines before three years, anyway. Given that data, it just made sense to offer lower monthly rates and on a refresh cycle that fit nicely with what they found.

According to a recent Gartner Research survey, typical businesses spend between $3,300 and $5,800 on each of its desktops. The subscription model for Chromebook will ultimately save a hefty portion of these dollars because the machine is both easier to administer and more secure than traditional machines.

Google’s subscription plan, reduces the total cost of ownership to less than half what enterprises see right now. The Chromebooks would be launched 15th June and it would be interesting to note which way is it headed. Google on its part is firing all cylinders to ensure its success.

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