February 2013 Archives

SAP mobility apps dial electronic coke & Formula1

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For a 'non-telecoms' company, SAP made what Ovum analysts called a "confident show with its telecoms portfolio" at this year's GSMA Mobile World Congress which, (as you will know unless you have been living inside a cave) is held in the Spanish city of Barcelona this week.

Before the Computer Weekly Developer Network examines the corporate news feeds from SAP and others (and there were a handful), we naturally took a walk around this particular stand to eat the complimentary gummy bears and look at the exhibits.

NOTE: Actually, it was a formal press tour of stand exhibits, but two of the displays stood out (arguably) to pretty much any passer by.

SAP has integrated its take on Near Field Communications (NFC) technology into a vending machine so that users can purchase soft drinks with NFC-compliant devices. This is a nice enough app implementation in its own right, but there is more here than meets the eye...

... in the future, if you go to a vending machine to buy a drink and you have the corresponding app on your smartphone, you'll be able to receive personalised offerings via NFC (Near Field Communication).


For example, there might be an offer for 20% off your particular brand of soft drink. Or more interestingly, more sophisticated machines may even be able to "mix your own brand of soft drink" for you based upon your own recipe -- it's not that far off happening.

With this kind of system in place for other types of automatically vended products, we can perhaps argue that the manufacturer has a chance of getting perishable vending products to consumers before they pass their sell-by date.

The "intelligent vending machine" can do a whole lot more: including sounding an alarm if the temperature rises and the products are no longer refrigerated, calling a service technician, and giving an early warning when the machine needs restocking.

"The SAP HANA database provides the manufacturer with vital additional insight relating to the vending machine, such as the choice of location. While it's fairly obvious that sugary, high-calorie sodas will not sell well at a gym, HANA can provide insight into much more complex patterns," said the company, in a press statement.

This application scenario potentially goes even further i.e. into "gamification".

Although not ALL users will want to tell Starbucks, Coke and other consumer product vendors who they are - many are happy to do so; just look at Starbucks' Twitter followers and the level of interaction.
The suggestion here is that consumers will be happy to "competitively consume" products (drinks or otherwise), or perhaps even design their own flavour of drinks and gamify their recipes among other users in order to be voted a winner among a given peer group, or even publicly.

It's either consumer choice gone wild, or a consumer dream.

So for an external view, Clare McCarthy is telco operations analyst at Ovum. McCarthy pointed out that SAP's nine announcements before and at MWC 2013 have included optimising inventory and service levels in the supply chain, money transfer solutions for mobile operators and cloud-based M2M solutions.

Another vertical to mine

"It is interesting that a non-telecoms company such as SAP has chosen to make so much noise at MWC. SAP, along with other independent software vendors (ISVs), sees the telecoms industry as another vertical to mine. The ISVs' horizontal portfolios and business process management can provide the solutions that telcos need to become more agile," she said.

McCarthy points out that SAP has already published a book - Beyond Connectivity: A Guidebook for Monetizing M2M in a Changing World - that is designed to help monetise M2M.

"We know that the telecoms industry still gets excited about new devices, the next superfast infrastructure, and the money involved in spectrum auctions. However, we can't stress enough that innovation happens in the telco's software. The industry shouldn't overlook the importance of announcements from ISVs as this is where sustainable value is being created and where the real changes are happening," she added.


The "other" major demo on the stand was (as you can see pictured) a real chrome formula 1 car. The chassis of the car itself was fitted with over 250 sensors to determine wear and tear on every component from wheel bearings to brake disks, all of which are (of course) compiled into a "big data" analysis process into (of course) SAP HANA.

Nice exhibit -- but to be fair, more people seemed interested in getting a free coke out of the electronic vending machine and hearing about gamified fizzy drinks and sodas.

Is Ovum right? Does the "real innovation" happens in the telco's software? Is it down to the ISVs to create the corresponding "sustainable value" here? Do consumers, developers, database administrators and IT departmental managers know the difference anyway?

We shall continue to scrutinise...

The $64,000 BYOD security question

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Should we tackle Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) challenges at the front end with users themselves, or at the application and service level closer to the network layer infrastructure that our end points connect to?

This is, arguably, the $64,000 BYOD question.

The answer (as it always is with things of this nature) is both i.e. moderation and balance in all things from your salt intake to your firm's BYOD policy.

Security firms spend countless pennies on blogging and social media driven initiatives explaining that this is a front end user education driven imperative and that (with security layers in place of course) we can "guide" users towards safer behaviour patters.

Meanwhile firms like F5 Networks are aiming to provide the foundational element to this equation with products that provide mobile application management capabilities to support enterprise BYOD initiatives.

The firm's release of F5 Mobile App Manager this week is positioned as hybrid cloud solution that allows IT managers to "extend" corporate applications and data to employees' personal mobile devices -- while leaving all the personal content under the control of the device owner.

This product combines policy management and secure application delivery technology and F5 is being bold and brash about its potential effectiveness

It is "fundamentally different" from BYOD 1.0 Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions, says the firm.

But how can this be so?

F5 asserts that this new release securely connects "only corporate applications" to the enterprise network - plus it manages "only the enterprise content" and applications on a device rather than the entire device itself.

Employees are argued to prefer this approach because it isolates their personal data from corporate oversight yet gives them the convenience of using their own mobile devices for both work and personal use.

"For IT organisations, F5 Mobile App Manager relieves the burden and responsibility of managing employee-owned devices while still enabling them to control device access to their network, track inventory, monitor threats and vulnerabilities, and protect corporate information," said Mark Vondemkamp, VP of security product management at F5.

"As a hybrid cloud offering, F5 Mobile App Manager opens up new opportunities for enterprises that have not yet embraced BYOD, enabling them to do so without incurring the expense of deploying and managing yet another solution in their own datacentres," he added.

A combined and balanced approach with a segmentation of corporate versus personal content control then - too good to be true and tough to implement or a godsend?

... we shall see.

F5 security.png

Let's face it, the mouse is dead

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So you thought that touch-based input was at the cutting edge of Human-Computer Interface (HCI) technology?

Face recognition and hand gestures go deeper into this still-nascent sphere of HCI and software application development says Intel, as the firm now develops its so-called 'perceptual computing' concept to encapsulate this space.

Intel is now refining the SDKs intended for software application developers to be able to bring these technologies into being.

The company says that it believes 'perceptual computing' will now play a huge role in the future of human-to-computer interaction -- and isn't just a gimmick shown in movies like Minority Report.

According to the Intel developer blog, most of the examples being shown with its perceptual computing SDK focus on hand gestures, but there is already work to push this technology out into different areas.

"After much deliberation we arrived at the idea of using the phone as a tilt-based game controller input -- and using head and eye tracking to create a truly immersive experience. We strongly believe that this combination will make for some very fun game play," blogs Intel's Steff K.

For Intel, perceptual computing includes close-range hand and finger tracking, speech recognition, face analysis and 2D/3D object tracking.

Add the above to accelerometers, gyroscopes and touch screens on contemporary devices as other forms of input -- and you can see that we've come along way from the mouse.

Of course Intel is not alone in this field of research and Microsoft Kinect and Leap Motion have also been pushing forward the use of Human Computer Interaction based computing.

But Intel says that it envisions a wider platform of usage here (i.e. as broad and open as cloud computing as an example) where device interfaces become fluently connected and interchangeable as we move between keyboards, gesture recognition, touch, trackpads, voice commands or a combination of all of the above.

OK so the mouse isn't dead after all, but there are several other animals now scurrying about in the cage.

Intel appears to be developing these technologies with considerable momentum judging by the work going on inside its developer community -- the Computer Weekly Developer Network will dig deeper shortly.

France 'beating' UK on 4G mobility apps

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While information technology market surveys (arguably) reside on the global "usefulness to industry" scale somewhere between soggy sandwiches and frogspawn, somehow we seem to keep reading them.

But why?

Perhaps we do so out of some 'eternal optimism' based upon our constant search for the 'next big thing' or 'killer app' in waiting.

Take for example Progress Software's analysis of 60 UK-based "senior IT decision makers" in the finance, manufacturing, retail and supply chain industries -- who were questioned on the subject of mobility readiness.

Progress says it "found" that only 18 per cent of UK firms have already begun work on a mobility project -- and this compares to 45 per cent in France and 38 per cent in the Nordics.

Sacre bleu!

The survey, conducted by research firm Vanson Bourne (god love them), demonstrated that as a direct result (or "suggested" if you want to be more objective), that the predicted average level of investment from UK organisations in mobility was also the lowest in Europe.

Here's the interesting bit...

Over the next two to three years, British businesses in this poll said that they planned to spend an average of just £113,444 on mobile applications, compared to average investment rates from France (£342,027), Germany (£194,551) and the Nordics (£184,078).

Despite the UK's reluctance to invest in the age of mobility, the study showed that businesses could see tangible benefits from implementing a mobile strategy. Seven in every eight respondents in the UK (88%) said that failure to offer applications to staff or customers would mean they would be left behind. More than half (56 per cent) of all UK respondents also said that mobility would improve their organisation by enabling faster decision-making.

Progress technical marketing manager Gary Calcott has reasoned that with the 4G spectrum auction on the horizon in the UK, there has never been a more important time for British businesses to invest in mobility solutions.

"It's important to remember that 4G networks will offer UK businesses much more than fast access to information. The ability to benefit from applications that can enable a rapid exchange of potentially large datasets seems destined to usher in a new age of mobility in this country," he said.

Calcott's words of advice centre on the need for mobility apps to facilitate "collaboration and business flexibility" as he puts it. His intelligence also logically leads him to suggest that his firm's OpenEdge product is a suitable "complete application development platform" (as they say) to build dynamic business-enabled applications for secure deployment across any platform.

Any platform?

Yes indeed, any mobile device and any cloud.

Cheap jibes and marketing spin aside, Progress has been busy reinventing its total technology proposition in recent times and this (if anything) may speak of fresh opinions that the firm is clamouring to hear voiced.

If there is any substance in this survey's validity (and one suspects that Progress doesn't simply waste money on research) then our continental cousins' forwardness in the mobility app marketplace could be some cause for concern.

See, it was a boring old technology survey, but there is food for thought to be had.

HTML5 web tools sharpen in Adobe stable

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Adobe is reaching out to web developer/designer types with a new tool called Edge Reflow designed to ease the pain of producing web applications and content suitable for fitting a variety of screen sizes.

Jump to 1:11 in the above video to see the Edge Reflow tool working

Shipping in the firm's Creative Cloud service, Edge Reflow features a "resizable design surface" intended to show how layouts and visuals will adapt to different screen sizes on different devices.

Applications can be previewed in the browser and subjected to design inspection through the real-time Edge Inspect extension. The developer can then extract the CSS for use in Edge Code (a tool which has also been updated), Dreamweaver or any code editor.

During the current preview period, Adobe is actively seeking user feedback for Edge Reflow in order to help evolve the product. Users are encouraged to submit their feedback to Adobe through Github at https://github.com/edge-reflow/issues

In addition, Adobe delivered an update to Adobe Dreamweaver that the firm hopes will improve interoperability with the Adobe Edge tools & services family and includes several new features to enhance code authoring ability and workflow.

The firm says that fluid grid layout (a feature first introduced with Adobe Dreamweaver CS6) now allows developers to leverage class tags in addition to ID tags and features a new editing interface.

Paul Gubbay, vice president of product development, digital media business at Adobe has suggested that the job of a web designer and developer has become more challenging, with web standards progressing rapidly (and HTML5 changing the game every day) and the number of screen sizes and form factors increasing exponentially.

"Adobe Creative Cloud enables our teams to deliver product innovation to our customers the moment that new features are ready, helping designers and developers tackle the new challenges of the modern web and more seamlessly create websites and interactive content for the latest browsers and different screen sizes," said Gubay.

You can read a good in-house Adobe blog on this subject written by Jacob Surber here -- an extract is shown below...

Today, it's almost a forgone conclusion that your next web project will not be desktop only. The real question becomes: how have you adapted your workflow to handle the evolving needs of your customers? Many people have chosen 'Responsive Web Design' as a way to tackle this challenge. However, RWD is a philosophy based on a collection of approaches rather than a one-stop solution. There are two common ways to deal with this challenge. You can either design in the browser or use an existing design tool.

Firewall application nightmares for dummies

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Enterprise security rarely ranks in the top ten favourite programming related disciplines for many software application developers who simply want to build, construct, enhance and deploy as their main priority goals.

But where vulnerabilities are locked down, Security Policy Management (SPM) company Tufin argues that not every enterprise eco-system needs to be so complex that application deployment is rendered impossible.

The firm insists that tackling the challenge of data risk with an application-centric approach and, particularly, the being able to juggle the conundrum of firewall management is the way forward.

Tufin cites a recent survey (presumably its own), which showed that nearly half of all firewall changes are related to application connectivity.

The undeniable truth is that today's applications have distributed architectures involving multiple servers and communication protocols -- and this means that they (typically) support a variety of user roles with different permissions and restrictions.

Another hard truth to swallow is then that setting up the network is now one of the more time-consuming and error-prone aspects of application deployment.

The following text is contributed by Jon Miles, regional manager at Tufin and member of the Tufin blogger team as a guest post to the Computer Weekly Developer Network.

When a new application is being deployed the first problem to be encountered is connectivity, updating access to servers and other components and negotiating individual rules for every firewall on the network and obtaining access.

This can be a nightmare.

The problem for the application owner - which is then handed on to the developer - is that organisations may now have dozens of firewalls and routers with security policies distributed across the whole of the enterprise - and often across multiple sites. The network topology is exceptionally complex, firewall policies include hundreds of rules and the distributed nature of enterprise architectures means that every application can have a different network requirement.

Application owners don't have the answers that the Firewall admins need, so it often means that it is down to the developers to work with the firewall team to enable the applications to be deployed. This means that when things do go wrong the application owner is extremely reliant upon the enterprise security teams to find the correlation between the firewall policies and the application. This can mean major delays in the deployment of the application for the source of the problem is found. It was clear that in order to meet the changing demands of the chief information officer in this increasingly complex infrastructure a new approach was needed.

A new approach

This new approach to making application changes - such as migrating or decommissioning a server - is now easy. Developers simply change the IP address of the server, automatically generating a change ticket. The system then continues the automated process by identifying the relevant rules and designing the required changes. This approach improves visibility with clear, accurate documentation of the connectivity requirements for every application and business service.

Once an application is defined and the tickets are implemented, the developer sees a continuously displayed connectivity status. Developers deploying an application, or the IT team doing it for them, take advantage of advanced technologies including Network Topology Intelligence and in-depth Policy Analysis to monitor security policy revisions in real-time and are alerted to changes that could impact application availability.

When it is time to decommission an application the policy rules that need to be changed or removed can be identified automatically across all affected firewalls and routers, eliminating unneeded access that can lead to a breach or a compliance violation. No more mistake-laden spreadsheets!

It is now possible for application teams and network teams to communicate accurately, eliminating the misunderstandings that lead to errors and wasted time.


IBM serves up bacon double social burger

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IBM has announced that McDonald's South Africa is using IBM social business software in what the firm calls an embrace of the convergence of social, mobile and cloud.

Underneath the bun and between the BBQ sauce and pickles here is a story about employee collaboration through software application development. The firm has 200 "restaurants" and 8000 employees to connect in the region.
But with such a "standard format of service and food quality" why bother?

McDonald's reports that it wanted to use the IBM software to begin transforming into a social enterprise to help "geographically dispersed employee" to communicate and share ideas.

Managing director for McDonald's South Africa Greg Solomon specifies that his firm has been using IBM Connections and IBM Sametime instant messaging software to support internal communication and training requirements across its branch network.

The McDonald's crew (staff at restaurant level) will access the platform via a mobile solution, supplemented by in-restaurant touch screen docking stations.

"McDonald's decision to embrace social business is pioneering and is reflective of the need to find smarter ways of working," says Alistair Rennie, general manager, social business, IBM. "McDonald's is taking a purposeful approach, using social technologies to engage employees, empower customers and drive organizational performance to secure a competitive advantage."

The point here may indeed be to try and maintain that level of "tastes the same everywhere consistency" that McDonalds South Africa is trying to make sure it upholds. This "you know what you are going to get when you order" business model is, after all, the framework upon which the firm has built much of its success.

How do we build the £60 billion SMB cloud market by 2015?

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Hosting and cloud services company Parallels made a number of announcements last week in line with its Summit 2013 user, developer, partner and customer conference.

The firm is pointing to massive growth in the SMB cloud...

... and so the company is pushing out a stream of releases from the back end programmer zone to the CIO's dashboard at the front end in a concerted attempt to champion the growth of cloud services within the SMB market.

Parallels claims that there are as many as 50,000 web developers and designers - and as many as 9,000 cloud service providers - already using the company's software to serve "millions" of SMBs.

The £60 billion opportunity?

The firm says it now wants to continue enabling service providers to grow and increase their share of the SMB cloud market, which Parallels predicts will to mushroom to £60 billion by 2015 -- this is according to its own 'SMB Cloud Insights Global Report' (Feb 2013) released just last week.

New products and services released this month include what has been described as a "major update" to the Application Packaging Standard (APS) so that APS 2.0 now includes a customisable user interface so that cloud service providers can offer differentiated bundles of cloud services.

The firm will launch its Parallels Automation 5.5 later this year and this will join this month's release of Parallels Cloud Server and Parallels Cloud Storage.

Parallels Cloud Storage is intended to be able to turn "existing" unused disk space in servers into scalable, high-availability and high-performance distributed storage. It is now available as part of Parallels Cloud Server, which brings Parallels Virtuozzo Containers together with the company's hypervisor technology into a single product.

Parallels CEO Birger Steen insists that his firm's mission is to help service providers profit from the cloud with a range of technologies and tools for programmers, systems integrators, Independent Software Vendors and (to be quite honest) so-called "technology practitioners" at a variety of levels above and below and in between.

Parallels 1.jpg

Even (hosting partner) Microsoft employees need a beer when questioned under pressure

400 SMB cloud apps can't be wrong?

"We have assisted service providers on all continents in crafting and executing cloud strategies, and we have enabled hundreds of new, useful cloud services for SMBs. We have continued extending our cloud service delivery platform: Parallels Automation 5.5 with APS 2.0 lets service providers deliver a seamless experience for SMBs buying multiple cloud services, with a library of more than 400 apps to choose from."

Parallels chairman, chief architect and all round "guy with an opinion about cloud computing" Serguei Beloussov asserts that SMBs are adopting cloud services at an accelerating rate... and that they also have more choice than ever before in where to buy their cloud services.

"Parallels also announced new automation, virtualisation and cloud storage products in addition to comprehensive enhancements to Parallels control panel products at Parallels Summit," he said.

SMB cloud is all about "enabling" technologies

Analysts have also commented that now, today, in terms of developing the cloud application creation and delivery space for small to medium sized businesses, service providers will need to stay relevant by providing the right "enabling technologies" such as bundled service options.

Parallels 2.jpg

Tim Harmon is a principal analyst at Forrester Research - he's a good speaker and he's friendly and approachable too.

With this kind of software, it is suggested that service providers can manage infrastructure, automate provisioning and bill for a range of cloud services for SMBs, while offering control panels for self-service for the provider but also for their resellers, IT administrators and end users.

So in summary... how does Parallels put itself across?

The firm appears to be quietly confident about the growth in popularity of its services and the positioning of its SMB-centric tools and functions.

If we remember that SMBs can be really quite large with hundreds of employees in the real world, then one has to question quite why Parallels has so specifically called out this segment of the market. But then again, an SMB is arguably NOT a large scale enterprise or they would fall under the same classification of market segment - and the medium range marketplace is surely the next major growth segment for the cloud market. So SMB or SME (it's all the same)... maybe we should take note.

Will video games software development (art) imitate life?

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A Paris-based software development house is using Intel HD Graphics technology to blur the line between strategy combat video games and reality.

If international reaction to Prince Harry's comments relating to video games and real world combat scenarios are perhaps somewhat unfair, most of the software development universe is constantly vying for the video games software development industry to create increasingly realistic on-screen experiences.

Eugen Systems co-founders Cedric and Alexis Le Dressay are part of the team behind strategy combat games such as WarGame: European Escalation and R.U.S.E.

The brothers say that they have aimed to find technology that can help create a more realistic appearance and create "military forces that look like what we see in movies".

Bigger virtual worlds

The Le Dressay brothers are pursuing more realism and more detail (obviously) but also "bigger worlds" i.e. larger maps with more user capability and control. This means the ability to instantaneously zoom to street level and interact with troops, or pull back to an aerial view and survey an entire region -- and to have the movements occur smoothly with the details render perfectly.

In programming terms, the task of shrinking the gap between video games and reality (whether Prince Harry is justified in his comments or not) requires serious graphic rendering power.

Eugen Systems used Intel HD Graphics (this is the graphics engine integrated into the 3rd generation Intel Core i5 and Core i7 processor family) to help create their new video game advancements with the rendering speed and capabilities needed.

Intel itself says that next in line inside the strategy combat games genre will be touch-screen gaming.

"[This is all about] the closeness, the tactile sensation of hands-on interaction with the virtual world, of navigating with one's fingertips rather than the traditional keyboard and mouse," says Intel.

"On these [current] devices, you have a great processor inside. The graphical chipset has more power than the previous generations. Plus the multi-touch hardware has really improved from just a couple years ago," Le Dressay said.

Yesterday and tomorrow

Yesterday our touch-enabled gaming experiences were confined to the kind of app you would probably be used to downloading on your iPad, smartphone or other tablet and/or mini tablet device... tomorrow, word inside industry software application development forums (reflected by the kind of messaging chip manufacturers like Intel are keen to resonate) suggests that we're only a step away from high-end touch-enabled rich-graphical video game experiences.

... and the best news of all?

Video games can make a better world, so the more we touch them the better.

Intel games.PNG

You say SME, I say SMB, both need cloud service tomatoes now

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Parallels has used its Summit 2013 conference to release its latest SMB Cloud Insights report. This is part of a continued bid to own as much as of the small to medium sized business cloud hosting service space as the firm can physically bite off.

NOTE: While the US uses the SMB naming convention to label small businesses, it is interesting to note that Europe, the World Bank, the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation all use the E for Enterprise SME.

Regardless of worldwide naming conventions and international law, Parallels adopts the Americanized label most preferred among our colonial cousins.

Now in its third year of circulation, this free report (you do have to register) sets out to profile the buying behaviour of SMEs with regard to cloud services.

"You say SME, I say SMB, both need cloud service tomatoes now," is our headline here as Parallels says it can confirm that SMEs remain the fastest growing segment for cloud services and the optimal target market for service providers of all sizes.

NOTE: The global market for SMB cloud services is (according to Parallels) expanding at a 28 percent CAGR to £60 billion by 2015.

In addition to offering its report this year, a Kano analysis and conjoint analysis has been undertaken -- as a result of this, some of this year's research findings include:

• Storage is a strong upsell opportunity for Infrastructure-as-a-Service providers, and 50 percent of SMBs are willing to pay more for increased storage.
• Website building tools are a key way to differentiate service providers' offerings.

"Parallels SMB Cloud Insights research is core to our commitment to help service providers make both strategic and tactical decisions about the rapidly growing market for SMB cloud services," said Birger Steen, CEO of Parallels.

Parallels SMB Cloud Insights reports outline the cloud services that have the most current and future appeal for SMBs across four key categories:

• Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS),
• Web Presence and Web Applications,
• Hosted Communication and Collaboration and,
• Business Applications (also known as Software-as-a-Service).

OK yes there are lies, damn lies and cloud SMB market statistics out there and Parallels has no doubt positioned its analysis in order to get the kind of results it wanted to get.

However, we can't state that black is white and the truth of the matter is that SMBs (whoops, sorry, SMEs) are a massive key growth area for cloud computing services.

Developers, developers, cloud SMB developers

A good barometer for this market and potential proof point for the above is whether the software application development community have been engaged i.e. that being because programmers, after all, do drive the user leading edge of what application services we will next be able to draw out of the cloud space.

This then is the first year that Parallels has hosted a software application development track at its conference and the day two afternoon session was hosted by Michael Toutonghi. This is the guy (he's an ex Microsoft employee) that wrote (OK not completely on his own but he has invention patents attributed to him) a good portion of .NET, the Command Line Runtime (CLR) and the Enterprise Service Bus.

Michael T.PNG

Toutonghi explained that in the developer track attendees could learn how to build packages to automate, provision, configure and bill cloud-based services according to the Application Packaging Standard (APS).

NOTE: APS is a Parallels developed standard which is indeed open, but it appears that it's not heavily peppered with random code commits from every independent developer you could name.

Anyway, the small to medium sized cloud has arrived and is continuing to arrive with increasing speed. Building the applications and ancillary services on top of these new virtualisation instances is where some of the smart money is today.

Parellels bids to "enable" the SMB cloud

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Parallels has staged its 'Summit 2013' user/partner/customer symposium in Las Vegas this week in what is the seventh year of this gathering.

But what does Parallels do?

About a third of Parallels' business is its Desktop for Mac product, with its cloud service provider 'enablement' business taking up the other larger portion of its total stack.

Systems Integrators play a key role in terms of implementing Parallels technology and software application developers will typically come into this process as this technology is brought to bear.

If it sounds like the sole preserve of complex big enterprise-level IT implementations -- in fact, the firm says that the SMB cloud is growing...

Salt and pepper statistics

Opening keynotes are generally flavoured with explanatory stats to whet the audience's appetite and get everybody thinking about big data and what the cloud computing model of service-based computing is demanding of us now.

Parallels says that a total of six million SMBs entered the cloud market (globally) in 2012.

** In 2009 we had 1.1 million SMBs using cloud.
** In 2012 we had 4 million SMBs using cloud.
** In 2015 we will have as many as 7 million SMBs using cloud, according to Parallels.

While Parallels could be accused of generalising over these possibly unsubstantiated figure estimations, the company does put more meat on the bones here.

When it comes to the S (small) and M (medium) of SMB, the firm says that it sees that this is 90% S and 10% of M when it comes to the real world.

Parallels' core technology proposition is that the firm "makes it easy" for service providers to grow and profit from the the SMB cloud market with service provider delivery software i.e. it's all about "creating profit from the SMB cloud" as they say.

So what do SMBs do with cloud services?
Parallels pic.PNG
Small to medium sized business will logically gravitate towards certain streams of application types argues Parallels CEO Birgir Steen.

"Collaboration services are hugely popular with the SMB market," he said. "Hosted voice PBX (Private Branch eXchange) is also a key deployment."

So the cloud market is growing and the SMB community is helping fuel that growth.

Estimates suggest that as many as 2.7 Zettabytes of data were produced on planet Earth in 2012, so cloud storage is growing as much as cloud processing is growing.

Birgir Steen went on to further argue the worth of his firm's "uniqueness" and said that as far as the Parallels view is concerned, the company that is closest to its stack is Citrix.

But even given this comment, Steen says that really no other company out there is producing "container-based" cloud offerings with additional billing and service layers.

One has to wonder whether the openness of CloudStack via Citrix with the entire community of the Apache Software Foundation could not compete with these core ancillary offerings among the Parallels total stack.

The company is making a number of news announcements and featuring a software application developer track at this event for the first time this year - you can read more about that news here shortly.

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