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The Cloud is upon us

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The annual VMworld Europe convention in Barcelona last week underscored the extent to which a highly technical topic is becoming mainstream, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Not too long ago, in normal business conversations, concepts like ‚”Cloud computing‚”, ‚”virtualization‚” and ‚”data centre‚” were a great way to put someone to sleep. They were only useful to large companies’ IT administrators, and could only be discussed in highly technical terms.

But last week, at the annual VMWorld Europe convention in Barcelona, where global Cloud market leader VMware struts its stuff, the Cloud came down to earth with a mighty noise. The noise of racing engines, that is.

Among hundreds of VMware partner companies exhibiting at the event, the most visible and audible were those using Formula 1 racing cars not only as a metaphor for the business agility and mobility offered by the Cloud, but also as actual case studies of how innovative data services have enhanced the competitiveness of F1 teams.

There rode storage giant EMC, a key VMware partner, demonstrating how it ‚”accelerates Lotus F1 team’s IT‚”. If it had Psy launching a Spanish sequel to Gangnam Style, it could not have attracted a more enthusiastic crowd. Along with chip-maker Intel, it hosted an after-party with the same theme: ‚”Speed to lead‚”.

Not hands-on enough? Then you could have tried the Dell stand, and have a ride in the Caterham F1 Simulator. Also a partnership with Intel, the simulator indirectly demonstrated how driving skills were enhanced by desktop virtualization the concept of replacing hardware infrastructure with software services through the Cloud.

Of course, there is nothing the Cloud can do for the musical chairs in F1 team names that saw Team Lotus become Caterham and Renault become Lotus. To get past those awkward moments, you still need humans.

The prizes on offer at various booths further symbolised the extent to which Cloud and virtualization had become a consumer matter. Cisco, demonstrating its Unified Data Centre, was touting Kindle Fire tables and Beats Executive Headphones by Dr Dre. VCE, a ‚”converged infrastructure‚” provider, offered an iPad mini. Storage and backup specialist SimpliVity was giving away nothing less than an Audi R8 sports car.

The high-end appeal of many of these prizes underlined the business nature of the event, designed to attract both Information Technology (IT) managers and executive decision makers. As analysts pointed out at the recent Gartner Symposium in Cape Town, IT is increasingly becoming an executive decision.

As the Cloud becomes more flexible and significantly more mobile, it will be the basic tool for managing the explosion of new devices that staff members are bringing into the workplace. While the CEO, CIO and CTO arm-wrestle over whom has the final say over the IT budget, many decisions will be taken out of their hands by the ordinary employee.

‚”The end-user is a key driver of the mobile Cloud era,‚” says Ben Goodman, who sports the licence-to-thrill title of Lead Evangelist at VMware Horizon, the division looking after delivery of services to devices in the hands of individuals.

‚”Users are increasingly mobile, and their desire to use the devices of their choice to access their data and applications anywhere is a huge motivation behind this evolution,‚” he told Business Times. ‚”When the mobile Cloud era is realised, end-users will gain the quality of experience they desire and the mobile workstyle which is becoming a necessity to doing business.‚”

Goodman is also the official Cloud optimist: ‚”The end result is a happier end-user who is also more secure and productive,‚” he says.

Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso may not see themselves as typical end-users, but they will benefit as much from this new Cloud era as the humble end-user in the office cubicle.

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