Last week the great and the good of the Cloud computing industry descended upon the National Hall, Olympia, London for this year’s inaugural cloud event – Cloud Expo Europe 2013 (CEE), the largest dedicated Cloud computing event in Europe.
The two-day event, now in its fourth year, attracted a variety of visitors from CIOs, IT Directors, CTOs and other senior executives from businesses and public sector organisations, all seeking to deliver effective cloud strategies. The conference was ideal for decision makers – business managers and enterprise chiefs. It was heavy on the big picture!
More than 150 different cloud-hosting providers took part at the conference and the eight dedicated theatres, were certainly not lacking bums on seats. There were a lot of people there to do business and the steady stream of visitors queuing up outside the event on the first day was more akin to the sort of queues you’d get for a music gig. Cloud certainly seems to be able to draw in the crowds! And it’s little wonder given that the business community has, over the past year, cottoned on to the benefits brought by cloud computing, which go far beyond the purse strings, bringing previously unseen levels of flexibility, helping to transform businesses and improve services.
Last year the show was geared towards cutting through the hype of cloud computing and this year, on the back of an amazing year for the sector, the focus of the discussions were significantly transformed. Instead of cloud service providers gathering information, they were instead making decisions; recognising the immediate need to select a cloud solution that could transform their business.
Conference sessions covered a host of topics from the real benefits that the cloud can bring to an organisation, through to elastic computing plus there was plenty of talk around hybrid solutions (combining dedicated with cloud hosting), as well as business uses for the cloud and the usual cost/security trade off debates.
As well as hosting talks from some of the cloud industry’s leading figures, CEE offered businesses looking to adopt or migrate to the cloud an opportunity to talk to experts and get advice on the various solutions that are available to them.
Plus there was some 50 different case studies debated and scrutinised in order to reveal more about the intricacies of the cloud industry and the varied approaches that it can offer, it’s little wonder then that CEE is touted as the biggest gathering of thought leaders and practitioners in Europe.
There were many half-hour talks taking place over the two days, delivered from nine themed stages with speakers whom came from a wide number of industries and sectors – the MET Office, Cancer Research UK and Dominos to name but a few.
Unfortunately this journalist was unable to physically attend all the talks as a lot were overlapping but from the few that I did attended, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Premier event sponsor Flexiant provided a detailed insight into how its Cloud Orchestrator can support every aspect of a service providers’ cloud business; offering provisioning coupled with sophisticated metering and billing capabilities.
The company had two well-attended sessions on the first day. The first being, ‘The Ultimate Public vs Private Cloud Debate’, with Alex Bligh, Joe Weinman, William Felllows and Richard Hall who offered a lively discussion on how companies will transition to public cloud and where the economic benefits lie. The second featured Tony Lucas discussing why companies need to think beyond federation and consider differentiated cloud services.
John Engates, CTO of Cloud giants Rackspace, spoke to a full house about ‘Your Next Steps with The Cloud’ – it was certainly one of the better sessions of the event. Claranet’s UK MD Michel Robert’s keynote presentation was also one to attend. He led the audience through the findings from Claranet’s recent research into cloud adoption and trends. The research delved into the rationale given by businesses for adopting cloud, and the ways in which ROI is calculated. It found that only half of businesses calculate the wider benefits of cloud, beyond cost savings to the IT department, such as better performance and improved employee productivity when examining ROI. In light of these findings, Michel suggested that a focus on cost savings alone limits the terms in which a cloud project can be deemed successful and that the industry would do well to demonstrate the wider benefits of cloud services to support the case for adoption. All very interesting stuff!
Another note worthy talk I attend was InTechnology’s Divisional Product Director – Cloud Services, Stefan Haase’s ‘Let the Cloud weather the storm’ – a discussion about how Cloud computing could cut costs and increase efficiency, while improving disaster recovery plan and IT security. Chatting with Haase prior to his presentation, he commented: “InTechnology haven’t actually attended the Cloud Expo before, but we are regulars at many other cloud events and thought leadership forums.” Adding: “This will be our first visit to the Cloud Expo, but we are hoping it will be the first of many. I have heard nothing but good things from the industry about this event, and the fact that Cloud Expo Europe won the Best Trade show award in 2012 really shows that it is the place to be if you really want to meet the right people in the Cloud computing industry.”
Interoute’s CTO Matthew Finnie, no stranger to the speaking circuit, was definitely one to attend. Well known for his sharp wit as well as his candid and strong speeches; it’s no wonder Finnie has become an in-demand speaker, delivering keynote addresses and in-depth commentary to those around the world on various cloud issues. And he certainly didn’t disappoint during his stint at CEE this year. Finnie discussed the rise of the enterprise application store and how it will change the way we purchase technology forever. He explored the practicalities of a future where the physical delivery of equipment and software will be replaced by online enterprise application stores where you can design, create and manage your entire ICT infrastructure and services. Delivered in that typical Finnie style!
I spoke with Finnie after his slot and he was still buzzing whilst we chatted about Interoute’s latest announcement – CloudStore a converged compute and network platform, appliance marketplace and knowledge centre for enterprises seeking scalable ICT infrastructure.
“Cloud Expo is a moment in time,” commented Finnie. “It gives us a forum to reach out to a whole bunch of people. I think the challenge with any of these shows is, to some extent, as they mature they tend to become forums for the industry to look at itself. Thankfully with Cloud Expo this isn’t the situation. At some of the shows we attend all we do is talk to our competitors as they’re the only people there. For us what is interesting about Cloud Expo is that we have access to a whole host of enterprise people who are keen to learn about this whole sector and so they look for an event that allows them to capture it. Cloud Expo gives us a moment in time in the form of an event where we can meet a lot of people, discuss the business issues impacted by the cloud and give our perspective on how we see things moving.”
On the shop floor
Aside from the speeches the atmosphere in the room was buzzing, and from what we could see was rammed to the rafters with visitors, most of whom were IT professionals fresh from the office who looked to have a business need to get to grips with cloud computing. There was definitely a need for many of them to understand who the suppliers are, or get tips on building a business case, or talk to experts about product features. In fact I spoke with a number of visitors who were encouraged by a plethora of Cloud experts on the stands to chat away with them.
“As an IT director of a small IT service company, I’m here for inspiration. All the big players are here representing a broad centre of knowledge. I’ve found some services at this show that we’re very interested in. Worth the trip from Glasgow,” said visitor Wayne Anderson who is IT Director for Archetype Services.
As for the exhibitors, they were mainly global players with established businesses and large turnovers – the kind that procurement departments can feel safe putting on their preferred supplier lists. Big names like FireHost, Rackspace and Flexiant had stands and were full to brim with marketing execs mingling with the big wigs of the firm and all willing and waiting to chat with you about their wears and send me off with a multitude of different merchandise. Jade at Proact I thank you!
I have to say though that I was quite disappointed by the lack of gadgets and hardware on show at the stands of this IT event. Other than first time CEE exhibitors Brocade, the company had a 19″ rack on their stand and were challenging visitors to see how just how easy it was to set up! Unfortunately during the time this journalist was chatting with the company’s Director Pre-Sales UK & Ireland, Simon Pamplin, the queue to pit yourself against the rack was far too long and it was time to move on. Shame!
Though despite most stands having barely a laptop – there were plenty of freebies, Nimsoft had a great caricaturist on their stand as well as an opportunity to see what other Cloud offerings were available in the market.
First time exhibitors Natterbox were giving away fantastic umbrellas and it definitely was the most helpful of all the freebies on offer especially with the weather. The pioneering true cloud voice services company, not only had a great freebie on offer they were also there to showcase its cloud voice services – a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering that delivers substantial benefits over ‘hosted’ or ‘co-located’ services or traditional telephony. The bespoke voice system is built in a highly available, highly resilient, scalable true cloud environment; it brings all the benefits of cloud services to voice. In addition to the usual benefits, putting voice in the cloud delivers a host of integration, convergence and compliance befits simply not available from any other solution.
Intrigued by this service I spoke with the company’s CEO Neil Hammerton, who said: “Only true cloud voice services such as those from Natterbox will offer businesses the reliability, accessibility and scalability of voice that they require from a business critical tool. Cloud allows a seamless integration of fixed and mobile communications for improved operational efficiency but also to achieve effective regulatory compliance. For Natterbox, true cloud enables the integration of voice with business platforms such as CRM which, amongst other things, personalises the caller experience based on customer information.”
NTT Communications certainly know how to put on a show – a Sake Grand Master was on hand to help ease the stresses and strains of the show. Neil Curtis, Marketing Director for the company’s European arm, chatted with me about the show and was only too happy to share the Sake. “Cloud Expo Europe 2013 delivered excellent results for NTT, exceeding expectations — with very strong interest in NTT Enterprise Cloud, announced during the show. The Sake tasting was also received very well! Our thanks go to Fujihara-san (our Sake Grand Master) who flew in from Japan for the show,” he said.
Also, hats off to SoftLayer for the intriguing puzzle ball up for grabs at its stand.
Onwards and upwards
CloserStill, the organisers behind the event, have pulled off a great show and you can easily see why in July 2012 it was honoured with the prestigious Best Trade Show, Association of Event Organisers (AEO) Excellence Award. The show sets itself aside from other shows in this vein, with the way it clearly represents the fast-paced, dynamic and ever changing cloud computing industry; its conference content and show features continually evolve to mirror the needs of the cloud industry and those businesses implementing the latest cloud technologies.
During the past four years since the show’s inception the audience and exhibitor numbers have grown exponentially and with bookings already being taken for next year’s event, for those companies that want to get in early and ensure that they are based in a conveniently located stand, 2014 already has the potential to be bigger and better.
“As first time exhibitors at Cloud Expo Europe, we’re really impressed with the quality of delegates. Our speaker slots drove a lot of traffic to the stand and we’ve already booked up for next year,” said Amy Harris, Head of Marketing at Natterbox.
Sophie Baker, Marketing Manager of Cloud Expo Europe was only too happy to chat with me about the success of the show. She said: “Cloud Expo Europe has been a phenomenal success, and with over 6,000 visitors through the door, clearly demonstrates the growth of cloud, and how more and more firms are waking up to the business benefits of its adoption. The most pleasing part about this year’s show is the variety on offer. Our speaker programme included experts from fields ranging from IT, technology and the cloud ecosystem, to retailers, banks, charities and public sector.”
Sophie continued: “Going forward, the research and feedback we’ve received from attendees suggests cloud adoption and growth, is continuing with a lot of conversations taking place around security, mobile devices and Big Data. From our perspective this is great to hear, as it reinforces the potential and growth of this sector, with events of this nature providing the ideal platform to discuss all the elements of cloud computing amongst like-minded individuals.”
We here at CCI have certainly booked our place for next year’s show and with analysts predicting 2013 will be an exciting year for cloud computing for all the standard reasons: exponential growth, new technologies, greater understanding, etc. It’ll be interesting to see what will be in store for next year’s delegates.