Saturday, June 2, 2012

Hot Cloud Apps Miss a Valuable Opportunity with the Enterprise

There are a lot of hot startups creating exciting new cloud applications every day. These apps have made our lives easier, some appear necessary. Dropbox lets us seamlessly move data between devices and networks. Yammer lets us collaborate twitter-style within a company. Evernote and OneNote make note taking during meetings revolutionary. Even photos, video and document networks are becoming harder to ignore and block within the enterprise.

While all of these applications have proven their worth, they often violate IT security policies and companies try to police them. Security is a tricky dance, you try and block things that must not be used, especially the harmful, but tighten the screws too much and people will find a way around them. When some of the apps are blocked in a company, workers will break out cellular cards or worse, jump in their car and head to the closest coffee shop.

These applications are increasingly useful – even critical to keep pace with today’s business. Often they are blocked to keep company secrets and intellectual property where it belongs, secure within the company’s control. Companies are investing in data loss prevention to keep the information within their borders. But borders today are becoming increasingly permeable in today’s BYOD (bring your own device) world.

While companies try and circumvent this by investing in virtual desktops, virtual apps, sandboxes and containers, the utility and usefulness is somewhat lacking. Collaboration is amazing when a company can share co-development of a presentation, a product or other type of development via a Dropbox-type app. Effective collaboration is key to my own success in developing leading cutting-edge solutions like Workload Mobility between network, server, storage and virtualization teams.

While competitors are trying to step up to the plate and deliver enterprise-strength tools that mirror and mimic those found commercially, they often don’t deliver as well as their consumer counterparts.

I would like to see is the hot new startups deliver enterprise-grade solutions. Why can’t we have an app that sits inside the datacenter, keeping the secrets where they belong, but giving all the ease of use of their consumer brethren. With the commercially availability of SOAP and REST solutions that could inside companies borders, these startups, struggling for revenue and commercial viability could easily expand and extend their market presence to a whole new audience.

It shouldn’t be hard to retrofit the server beyond a cloud service provider’s borders and into the enterprise itself. Companies could control the access, keeping the secrets easily shared, but easily cutoff if needed as well when an employee leaves. The clients on you phone, laptop or tablet could add additional networks to their visibility: the commercial cloud-centric network, the enterprise private-cloud network and those of collaborative partners. Companies would own their servers and their data. The Dropboxes of the world would sell the server software – at enterprise prices and reap a valuable new revenue stream.

Venture capitalist (VC) firms should drive this adoption and the road to quick productization and capitalization. Their investments could go from red to black much quicker than they do today. The markets would respond with more generous IPOs than the grey question marks they place on valuations today. This would meet an increasing demand for companies looking for these tools that see the value in them. Perhaps the only thing holding them back is the desire to not have their potential market revenue known, as the New York Times recently reported in Disruptions: With No Revenue, an Illusion of Value.

The BYOD market is driving tremendous productivity gains. It’s what keeps IT governance walking this tightrope allowing loose rein on adoption. When everyone sees the value in these hot new startups, it’s hard to hold back when your competition is running full steam ahead. If we could still control the intellectual property, the business’ assets, then I think adoption would drive even further and the revenue streams for these companies would drive up even farther.

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