It’s not all about Clouds!

Yesterday, I attended the European Venture Summit in Duesseldorf. Not that I’m such a big fan of posh seminars where people look for people that can help them make money, but I was invited by the organization to join a panel on Cloud Computing: an offer I couldn’t resist.

In spite of the many road works in the Germany, I arrived just on time to one of the IT review sessions, where I learned that everybody vows that they will hire more marketing (and sales) people and that social networking projects are still quite popular with the entrepreneurs. But, just like the traffic jam software for cellphones (I’m sorry, I’m not that specialized in this terminology), I had serious doubts on whether it would be smart to invest in such niche products. After all, isn’t there enough good stuff out already? Ok, here and there there is something left to be desired, but why not just send a feature request to TomTom?

The first interesting presentation came from Marina Tognetti, founder and CEO from Myngle, a global online language learning tool that connects freelance teachers to students. Their management team has some ex Ebay guys, which is handy when you want to create an online marketplace for teaching and they thought of some nice tricks to get their stuff working better: teachers can rate each other in a pyramid system, students pay upfront but teachers get paid after the courses, which is good for cash flow etc. I was mainly concerned about the quality of the course material (is that checked by Myngle too?) and the lack of an evaluation system for the students (nothing was said about exams). But as a foreign language enthusiast, I loved this presentation! Maybe I’ll finally start to learn some Chinese now.

Next interesting business was VaniOS. These guys created a kind of fingerprint authentication device that is mainly aimed at the personal banking segment. As this is way outside my specialty I’ll stick to saying that I found it a cool thingy. But what about burglars with cigar cutters?

Intera were the only Cloud players I saw presenting. If you’re used to talking Cloud every minute of every day, that’s weird. So there is more going on than Cloud Computing in IT startups! As I hadn’t heard of these guys AND because they claim to have built their own Cloud, I’ll write a separate post on these guys one day soon …

The final two presentations of the session, did have some interesting ideas (LIN.k wants to offer us some software for Online Authentication and Xentronik plans to offer Telco as a service – according to Stefan Tirtey, “The Next Biggest Thing for Telco’s), but both presenters should leave presenting to the marketing guys they so badly want to hire! They had lost me before they started.

The most interesting session of the day was of course “How might Cloud computing alter the digital world?”. Moderator Hans van der Hoek managed to select 4 panel speakers with different Cloud Specialties: Christian Claussen knows all about the funding part, Thomas Mendel took it from the analysts angle, and Jari Koister is specialized in the platform and applications layer. I did my best to complete the gang with my infrastructure experience.

The panel discussion took of with Thomas Mendel’s statement that Software Platform as a service is the most promising segment in Cloud computing. I thought this is remarkable as there is so little software available to date to build and manager the infrastructure layer. It’s not a commodity yet! Also remarkable is that none of the other speakers, nor the moderator seemed to agree on the value of Virtualization for Cloud Computing.

This links to the next topic discussed, where I raised the point that there are not enough Clouds infrastructures. With Amazon, Microsoft and Google, there is an Oligopoly, that kills the market for Service  Providers. The audience responded positively to the idea of having Service Providers team up through Cloud Brokers. Related to this I’ll have a closer look at Zimory, who are already active in that space. The main challenges for co-operative Clouds will be Standards (there are no standards today) and security. As the discussion moved to security, it became clear how immature the market is on Cloud computing. Rather than discussing the real problems, such as how to prevent competitive customers to access each other’s data if it is on the same Cloud, hackers attacks etc., we discussed the problem that Clouds are being built in the Midwest (US), where NSA and CIA have full access to all data.

Like most panel discussions on Cloud Computing, there was not enough time, but as a conclusion to a well-moderated Cloud panel, I think it is safe to say that Cloud Computing is more than just a hype and there is still a healthy amount of Entrepreneurs in Europe that  will leverage new Cloud technologies.

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~ by tomleyden on December 2, 2008.

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