Cloud computing is often in the news these days. But what is
it? In the simplest terms, the cloud is a new way to get access to technology
over the internet. Instead of buying a piece of software and installing it on a
server within your network, you “rent” the software from a cloud provider.
Just as shopping online has become mainstream, cloud
computing is well on its way to becoming an accepted way to use technology. And
just as Seattle led the e-commerce boom, it is now at the forefront of the
cloud computing movement. There are many reasons for this, including our
existing technology vendor base, a rich history of innovation, a strong startup
culture and a deep talent pool.
Not only are large Seattle companies like Amazon.com and
Microsoft making headlines with their respective cloud services, Amazon Web
Services and Azure, but many smaller companies here are also leading the pack
in cloud-based software and services. In addition, other world-class cloud
players like Google are setting up local operations to take advantage of our
talent and business environment.
Seattle has much to gain from its top position. At a time
when the rest of the economy is slumping, the market for cloud software and
services is growing at a rate of 21 percent per year, projected to reach $150
billion by 2013.
There’s also something democratic and leveling about the
cloud, which fits with Seattle’s personality. This technology allows small
players to access massive computing capacity while paying only for the services
they need. With lower upfront costs, smaller entities utilizing the cloud can
be more nimble, accelerate time-to-market and create new opportunities by
combining different technologies based on different standards.
One way to look at Seattle’s innovators in the cloud market
is to compare where they play in the traditional IT stack.
At the physical layer, we have a slew of companies offering
cloud-based servers, storage and other infrastructure as needed. Amazon Web
Services is the largest player in this space. But there’s also startups Mozy
and Newline Software, which provide cloud-based online backup and recovery
services, and Skytap, which offers a complete virtual lab solution over the
At the next layer up is Microsoft Windows Azure, which
operates as a development platform in the cloud. If you’re familiar with Microsoft’s
.Net development platform, you can think of Azure sort of as .Net in the cloud,
enabling developers to build custom web-based applications on this standard
At the application layer, Seattle also has a wide variety of
companies that build cloud-based applications for specific vertical markets,
such as Concur, with its employee travel and expense reporting software, and
Daptiv for project management. My company, Hubspan, provides a cloud-based
integration platform that helps businesses integrate and extend applications,
systems and business processes.
Many local startups are choosing to build cloud-based
solutions to address the ever-increasing need of enterprises to reduce
operational costs while increasing efficiency and revenue. Difficult economic
times mean doing more with less, and making use of every resource available for
as long as possible. The beauty of cloud computing is in companies’ ability to
start small, move one application or business process into the cloud, then
expand as the benefits are shown, all the while paying only for what they use.
Given Seattle’s expertise in cloud technologies, it makes
sense that we should encourage cooperation and further innovation between local
market leaders. While our cloud vendors address the various layers of the
technology stack, there is great benefit in leveraging core competencies to
increase the overall competitive stance of Seattle in the cloud. Besides, with
nearly 300 days of cloudy weather each year, who knows clouds better than Seattleites?
Trisha Gross is president and CEO of Hubspan Inc., a
Seattle-based provider of business integration software and services.