Conference Report: IIR Cloud Summit in London, 17-18 June

Posted: June 29th, 2010 | Author: Bob Machin | Filed under: Events | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Going by column inches alone, Cloud services are one of 2010’s hottest topics around telecoms. At this show, the quality of delegates was certainly high, and there was plenty of engagement between the stage and the conference floor.

Few delegates or speakers disputed that Cloud services will be a big part of the business IT landscape, with a significant swing to the Cloud model over the next five to ten years. Few expect the change to be to be big bang, but as physical and logical components of the IT infrastructure are replaced over time, we should expect the question of whether those functions can be performed equally well (and more cheaply) in the Cloud to become increasingly standard.

Flexibility and cost-efficiencies remain the key drivers—highly attractive to many businesses for reasons which don’t require too much analysis. McKinsey calculates the average utilization of back-office infrastructure to be as little as between 15-30%—figures which correspond to a lot of very expensive kit sitting idly around for much of the day. Key words which came up with some regularity included ‘dynamic’, ‘fast’, ‘efficient’, ‘elastic’, ‘green’, ‘optimized’, ‘minimal commitment and planning requirement’…in principle, it seems that if you can make them fit your business model, there’s not much to not like about Cloud services.

Discussion was much more open on whether, and how, telcos would fit into the Cloud services landscape. Though there was strong consensus that Cloud services were a viable offering for telcos, delegates felt that they would need to choose their roles in the model with care and that Cloud would almost invariably be a partnership play, even for tier-zero carriers.

Telcos have many strengths to bring to the Cloud market, including the well-rehearsed brand trust, broad, accessible market and communications know-how. The telcos’ capability to support utility services, consumer and SME markets, and high-volume, back office processes was also regularly cited—major IT vendors may understand virtualization and IT management very well, but managing large- and mass-market propositions is something with which they are far less familiar. These basic telco strengths could prove significant in capturing SME and SMB market share.

Though it wasn’t an OSS-focused show, natural curiosity couldn’t be suppressed for long, and I asked several carrier representatives whether Cloud services created a compelling need to buy new OSS/BSS. While some felt that modern OSS/BSS should be flexible enough to handle the requirements of Cloud services—a view that Comptel would wholly subscribe to—many others anticipated that telco-oriented systems would be tested by IT-oriented services and processes. Interestingly, more than one saw OSS confusion as an even bigger challenge, suggesting that Cloud could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back in terms of consolidating multiple silos into a more rational platform.

As the show proceeded (and a certain amount of ‘Cloud fatigue’ began to set in—does any telco subject justify a conference of more than one day?), it was noticeable that ‘Cloud’ is as susceptible to scope creep as any other telco concept, seemingly able to accommodate an almost limitless series of service offerings—application hosting, IP communications, mobile Internet…even legacy voice was at one point described as a ‘Cloud service’. As far as some analysts are concerned, if it doesn’t live in a box in your building, it would seem you’re at liberty to call it ‘cloud’. However you define it though, Cloud doesn’t seem likely to evaporate any time soon.

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