While I was at Softworld I was advised about an upcoming European cloud computing trade association launch that will happen very soon. Beyond that I can say nothing as I was given details confidentially. Already we have BASDA attempting to form a Cloud SIG, then there is Intellect. And those two are just for the UK alone. I’m all for industry types coming together to put a message across in an area that for many is new. But do we really need THREE groupings? It’s worse.
BASDA Cloud SIG apparently recognizes the need to define standards but will it succeed? My answer is a flat No! BASDA has a long history of attempting to make standards work and failed. The last time I saw something of this kind was when CODA and Exchequer developed an XML machine-to-machine interface based on a BASDA definition. At the time I thought it was one of the best ideas BASDA had developed. What happened? It withered on the vine because individual players had no interest in providing what they saw as a competitive tool. Ridiculously stupid at the time and still so today. So what has changed? Nothing much. It’s about perceived competition. I know for instance that Salesforce.com gets uppity when NetSuite is mentioned as a competitor yet there is no reason why they should not play nicely together. The saas/on-demand/cloud market is large enough for many players to succeed. However, investor attitudes about market share ownership get in the way of sensible discussions.
It’s an indication of the immaturity of thinking that puts vendors first and customers second. In some senses I see this as a fall back default position with which the industry is comfortable and familiar. After all, a fair number of players come from the ‘old’ world of command and control software thinking. That is suicidal for the saas/on-demand/cloud market. Why? Intelligent analysts and commenters emphasize the As A SERVICE part of the Software AAS equation. Taken one small step further, that’s about collaboration. That’s the big ‘win’ for all SOC players when they get it right.
Some vendors are trying hard to work out what that means. The first principle appears to be openness – ergo the user of services like GetSatisfaction or customer led forums like XeroUsers.com. Those are nascent yet important USER driven initiatives.
The problem is that when vendors decide to pimp something, they usually mess it up. Concentrating on bits and bytes, tech and other altruistic stuff that no buyer cares about. They close ranks and become protectionist instead of standing alongside the customer. That was very obvious in my discussions with vendors at Softworld where the notion of developing standards is assumed t0 be something vendors manage and control. Wrong! There are a welter of issues the industry needs to address across dimensions with which everyone should be familiar. Security – swept aside but with detailed problems the industry has yet to address. Access control – a topic dear to my heart but one that often draws blank stares or accusations of ‘not getting it.’ Data ownership and management…who/what/where? And that’s just for starters.
I understand Intellect will be publishing a marketing white paper on the saas/on-demand/cloud (SOC) topic in the near future. I also understand it includes canned quotes from SOC customers and a checklist of things to ask about and look out for. All good you might think. But will it truly address customer needs? During Softworld, I met with one vendor where I said the notion of being able to delete entries via the API is bad news. Answer? ‘We have an audit trail. Customers want it.’ Really? Have those same customers been subject to HMRC audit? Marketing skims the surface but the devil as always is in the detail.
2010 will see SOC grow exponentially. Deals are in place and customers will come on board. All good stuff. Vendors are crazily busy trying to develop code and be prepared for the expected ramp up. Again, all good. But…SOC has set itself up to be held to a certain set of standards that today don’t exist. Vendor trade organizations cannot be trusted because…they’re vendor trade organizations. There has to be a different way that matches customer needs. That’s why I am recommending that industry players look to independent bodies like ICAEW IT Faculty to act as honest broker in the preparation and agreement of standards. ICAEW IT Faculty will need to position itself differently from today and develop ways of brokering agreement that currently don’t exist. That’s not hard once you understand the issues. Going this route instead of wasting marketing money on yet another vendor grouping is what will help buyers and vendors alike.
In the meantime, I will continue to ferret out customers who are working on this ‘stuff’ to gauge and assess their real world concerns.