To the Cloud, and beyond… (Part 3)
Phil is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
Welcome to my multi-part blog aimed at demystifying “The Cloud”. Although The Cloud is practically a household term, widely used in the media, its application is so broad it has lost some of its meaning. To help define The Cloud I have categorized the various Cloud offerings into five major focus areas;
- Personal subscription cloud services
- Personal private storage clouds
- Private enterprise clouds
- Enterprise platform clouds
- Enterprise service clouds
The first two installments focused on personal clouds. Now I’ll focus on corporate enterprise clouds.
Private enterprise clouds (#3) are a vast and growing market of private enterprise systems that are contributing to a radical shift in traditional IT. In the past five years the corporate workforce has become increasingly mobile, thanks in part to Virtual Private Networks (VPN), and the rapid accent of personal mobile technologies. This new breed of workforce is forcing IT departments worldwide to deal with accelerating demand for global access to corporate information systems, and to adapt to a new paradigm simply called Bring Your Own Device (BYOD).
Many corporate enterprises today already have some or even several corporate information systems remotely accessible over the Internet. These are private enterprise clouds, broadly accessible, most of which are navigable with a common web browser. A key enabler for the mobile workforce is content management, which enables businesses to capture, organize and secure the vastly growing stores of corporate information. Microsoft’s (NASDAQ: MSFT) SharePoint is gaining a lot of traction in this segment. Microsoft has also taken SharePoint into its own cloud with Office365, which I will cover further in another segment. Open Text is another key leader in enterprise content management, which enterprises and investors alike should keep an eye on. But a growing number of enterprises are now grappling with the mobile convergence revolution currently spearheaded by Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iOS and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android based smart devices, which is driving the BYOD paradigm. This fundamental shift in the workplace is driving private enterprise cloud implementations to seek better ways to manage and secure corporate information assets, while integrating these new technologies.
While Apple, Google and the rest of the mobile smart phone industry are obvious winners in this new realm, there are a number of other key technologies that are crucial to enabling and furthering the revolution, namely; networking and security, among others. There are too many to list, so I’ll mention just a few of the standouts.
The 800 lb. gorilla of networking has long been Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), however in the high-end enterprise networking segment Cisco has been put on a forced diet by the likes of F5 Networks, Riverbed Technology and Juniper Networks. In the SMB segment Netgear (NASDAQ: NTGR) is generating some sizzle with 33% growth in APAC, and 28% growth in America (TTM) with growing share in various WiFi, 3G, 4G, DSL and NAS solutions, much of which has been gained at the expense of Cisco, Alcatel Lucent and Motorola. Sierra Wireless, a Canadian networking firm, is getting on the leading edge of 4G with mobile wireless hotspots and rugged embedded wireless modules for everything from coffee machines to automotive applications.
Opening the corporate information pipes to the Internet comes with risks. Information security is a very broad topic, but security is one of the most essential ingredients for The Cloud to succeed. Innovator Check Point Software Technologies based in Israel, has taken an appliance based approach to security, with a unique line of security software blades. Fortinet is a Gartner Magic Quadrant leader in unified threat management (UTM) with multiple solutions. Up and coming Palo Alto Networks is producing some unique firewall solutions, and recently filed for an IPO. But Cisco, F5 and Juniper are still key players in securing The Cloud globally.
Securing and managing mobile devices, and the data stored on them, are currently urgent focus areas for IT and The Cloud. Unlike Research in Motion’s BlackBerry smart phones, which can be tightly managed and strongly secured via the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, iOS and Android devices are harder to manage. The ability to automatically push software updates and security and management policies to the devices, and the ability to encrypt contents and wipe the device remotely are essential. 3LM, started by two former Google employees and acquired last year by Motorola Mobility, which was subsequently acquired by Google, has been working on an enterprise class solution for the Android platform. Apple made some key security improvements in iPhone 4, but apparently not enough, which prompted BlackBerry to introduce Mobile Fusion late last year for iOS and Android mobile devices. Mobile Fusion is a significant step towards parity for enterprise security and management of mobile devices, but its acceptance and market penetration is as yet undetermined.
Where to from here?
As cloud solutions mature, corporate information systems will ultimately branch out beyond the corporate firewalls. In the meantime, trust, reliability and maturity remain key concerns that many enterprises feel most comfortable addressing themselves, so the private enterprise clouds will continue to proliferate and grow. The mobile technology onslaught will continue to overwhelm IT departments, but innovations in security and management will eventually tame the beast. Continued advances in capturing, securing and managing content, particularly when combined with business intelligence capabilities, will further accelerate private enterprise cloud adoption. Advances in major enterprise software, such as ERP and CRM systems, will continue to improve the cloud experience, and many are working towards seamless integration between private on-premise and hosted enterprise platform and service clouds.
This concludes the third installment in the series. Please feel free to comment and provide your feedback.
FoolSolo owns shares of Apple, Check Point Software Technologies, Netgear, Open Text and Riverbed Technology. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Google, Microsoft, Open Text , and Riverbed Technology, and has the following options: short AUG 2012 $70.00 calls on Open Text. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Check Point Software Technologies, F5 Networks, Google, Microsoft, Netgear, Open Text , and Riverbed Technology. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.