Is there a cautionary tale to be told about all the hype surrounding the “cloud”?
I’ll share a few statistics from a survey [of thousands of people] that was done in August by Citrix, which is a virtualization company. One in five people admitted [they lied about having any understanding about the cloud or what it is in reference to]. Conversely, and this is some interesting psychology, but 57% of people thought that vendors and other people were being untruthful to them about the cloud.
Yes, there’s a cautionary tale in there, especially when people admit to being dishonest about the cloud. There are no bigger offenders than the marketing departments. Companies that change their name, for example, to have the word “cloud” in the name, even though they don’t make cloud products. People use terms like “it uses cloud protocols to communicate”; that’s just IP protocol. There are certainly a lot of people that are grabbing the term and using it as a marketing appliqué.
The same thing, by the way, is happening with Big Data. There are scads of companies that have traditional business intelligence products or database analysis products, and suddenly they’ve renamed themselves. They’ve rechristened these products as Big Data. A lot of that’s happened with the cloud.
If you look at the security industry, there aren’t that many real cloud companies, meaning multitenant software solutions that are being run on behalf of a large customer base. What you are finding is a lot of it is people just doing remote computing, where they take the computer out of the customer facility, move it to some other datacenter, and they call it a cloud solution.
Being in a remote datacenter or even in a virtual machine environment isn’t the same thing as being in the cloud. We’re seeing a lot of that going on right now. Customers need to be careful to understand whether they’re dealing with a real cloud company or not because over time the real cloud companies are going to offer a lot of the benefits that people are expecting, whereas a remote computing solution is never going to do that.
Do you see dealers and integrators stretching the envelope when it comes to describing their “cloud” expertise or offerings?
There are two flavors. We have 300 dealers who are reselling cloud services we provide as a backbone for them. They start at the top of the industry with ADT and Protection 1, companies like that. They’re selling a real cloud product. They don’t run it necessarily and they didn’t write the software, but it’s a real cloud product that has the virtues they’re saying it does. They’re attaching the local, physical devices to that cloud and adding value. They’re effectively completing the last mile of the solution. There’s a very legitimate body of people that are doing that. There’s a bunch in hosted video too, about 15 or 20 companies that are providing that backbone of hosted video. They’re running the servers. They’re running the large disk arrays and that entire sort of thing. Then there are dealers reselling those cloud services. That’s also legitimate.
Then there are dealers who are selling somebody a system and instead of installing that one PC at the customer’s location, they’re installing the PC at their own office or some other datacenter. That hasn’t changed the character of the solution one bit. All it’s done is to move the PC. You ask yourself, can anything be different just by moving the PC five miles or 50 miles? No. It’s the same thing with the hide-the-PC factor going into there. Those are the ones that are deceptive. Among those, people are getting substandard solutions.
One of our guys was saying he was at a dealer who was running — I don’t know what kind of system, it wasn’t what we sell — and they were selling it as a cloud service. They had the computers for it in their own office and they were backed up with the same kind of generator that might be used when the power goes out during a hurricane. That’s not a real cloud service. Those customers aren’t being very well served by the solution because it’s just a hidden PC running in the dealer’s back office. That’s not in the kind of datacenters that real cloud companies use that are equipped with 24-hour power and fire suppression and 24-hour staffing and biometric control to get into the computer room and tons of Internet bandwidth and redundancy. They’re totally different classes of solutions, but a lot of the end users aren’t being told that.
What is Brivo enthusiastic about these days?
We see several things. We were a cloud company before people even used the term cloud, so we’re very excited about the fact that industry attitudes have shifted to something that we’ve been doing for a long time. That’s been very good for us.
Secondly, as for Big Data or business intelligence, we have tons of data that we’ve aggregated over the last 10 years; so again, we’re in a very strong position to begin to mine that data — both historically and current real-time data. We’re serving millions of people walking around carrying cards, so we’re a natural aggregation point for that. Now that there is more interest in Big Data and business intelligence, we’re very well-positioned to do that.
The third thing, more and more systems are becoming integrated systems and by that I mean you can’t really just have a standalone access system or a standalone video system anymore. They have to be integrated and we carry both of those lines of service. Again, we’re very happy to see that that’s becoming a purchasing priority in the public.
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