Cloud Platforms – What’s Going On?

I recently delivered a talk for a group of venture capitalists who wanted a primer on the cloud.  It was, so I thought, a pretty straightforward task to put together this discussion.  I have written about the motivations of those building cloud platforms, so I figured I could just transpose that content to slides.  Unfortunately, life often doesn’t work out the way we would like when you think there is an “easy” answer.

I wanted to ensure that there was some relevancy of my content not just to the VCs in the room, but also for their CEOs and CTOs, with whom they would undoubtedly share this content.  Further, I knew that I had to make it simple enough to fit into the allotted time, but meaty enough that everyone took something away from the call.  Given the time constraint, I focused on Amazon Web Services, Google App Engine and Microsoft Azure.  Lastly, given that VCs are investing and looking for ideas, I had to put on my old investor hat and present some high level whitespace analysis with some noted interesting companies.

I think the key takeaways would be that Amazon has built some very cool technology and they continue to innovate.  However, that must be tempered with some cost considerations (tied to growth) and the fact that the platform itself doesn’t solve any hard problems for you.  Google, on the other hand, has little in the way of cost concerns (they have a stated goal of supporting up to 5 million page views for free), but what you can do with the framework is pretty limiting in the context of the richness of applications now possible.  Lastly, Azure is a contender, but we have some things yet to prove, and of course, we are late to the game.  It’s still very early days, but there are some cool things happen in the clouds, both at the platform level, and at the “built on top of” level.

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  • Eric Stahl

    All good points, although many include salesforce.com as a key cloud player these days- for both apps and our platform for building and running custom apps. As a side note, I just wrapped up this video on Cloud Computing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ae_DKNwK_ms&fmt=22

  • Brandon Watson

    Yeah, in the context of this discussion, SFDC doesn’t really fit. They are a SaaS provider of a vertical solution with an interesting and innovative way for apps to be built and deployed to customers of that app. Long term, the requirement of the proprietary language and the closed garden nature of their app ecosystem is going to be an issue.

  • Eric Stahl

    I respectfully disagree (and don’t want to hijack your blog into a salesforce.com sales pitch). That said, we sell CRM apps but we also have partners who build and sell apps on our platform for everything like financials, inventory management, risk management, contract management, recruiting, etc. We also have tools for any of our customers to build any custom app that needs a relational database, workflow rules, a sharing framework, UI, mobile, etc. Many of these apps have nothing to do with CRM.

  • Brandon Watson

    The good action always happens in the comments. I was oversimplifying the position on SFDC, and you are correct in that you can get many interesting, non-CRM apps for their platform. However, in the context of the all up cloud story, I just (personal opinion) don’t see them as a long term player. They need to spend a little more time pondering the complexities of a 4.7% net income margin. Most software companies aren’t comfortable operating in that region.

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