We are hugely excited today to be launching our new guest blog feature. We hope to publish every month, each time with a new participant from our ever-expanding network of partners, suppliers and clients.
It is our great pleasure to reveal that our partners at multinational software provider Citrix have agreed to participate in our very first feature. Viastak won Citrix’s Service Provider (CSP) Apps & Desktop Partner of the Year award earlier in 2017, with our sales director Campbell Burns picking up the trophy at the annual Citrix Summit in California. Our partnership with Citrix has been instrumental in establishing our cloud desktop iFollowOffice.
Earlier this month, Vikram Ghosh, Managing Director of Cloud and Service Provider Strategy, took time from his busy schedule to speak with me. I’ve got the full details of our chat here:
Oliver Kiddell: Vikram, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I’d like to start off discussing the industry as a whole, and where it’s headed. In your experience, what makes the cloud most appealing to business?
Vikram Ghosh: I’m so excited to be working in the industry today, because we’re seeing a generational shift – we have a technological destruction combined with an economic destruction at the same time. What I mean by that is that we have always seen new technologies coming to market – every few years, the next generation of computing becomes available. Yet, never before has a shift in technology created this kind of opportunity for shifting the underlying business model.
This is probably the first time in our lives when, even if your business doesn’t have a lot of money to invest, you can still participate and use the same technologies available to large enterprises. That is phenomenal, in my opinion.
Let’s say we own a coffee shop. We want to reward our customers for the amount they spend with us. In the past, we would probably have used little punch cards that we stamped with every coffee the customer buys, but there was no way of truly engaging that individual. A small coffee shop could use cloud computing to know exactly who’s walking into their store. It can identify: “this is Oliver, he normally orders a black Americano and he has a bagel and a banana to go with it.” A unique combination of the cloud and the meta-trends in mobile allows this to happen. You would have thought, in the past, that such technology would only be available to an entity like Starbucks, but that’s not the case at all. A small coffee shop can leverage this same technology at really low barriers of entry.
Moving a little more upmarket, let’s say you’re a mid-sized manufacturing company. In the past, zero-inventory manufacturing was something that you could only do if you had large systems deployed – in terms of hardware, software, the operational expenses. Cloud computing allows that firm to manage operations with very little money put down. In all, the cloud has really removed barriers to firms and customers who look to use it for greater efficiency.
OK: Wow, thank you very much for that! Moving on from there, what do you see as the most significant shifts in the market over the last five to ten years?
VG: Well, we’re in 2017 now; 2007 was the start of the global economic slowdown. It was around that time – and I got to see it first-hand in Seattle – that Amazon Web Services started to really become more popular. I distinctly remember server shipments tanking around that time; we knew then that anything to do with back-end server computing was not being consumed. The interesting part is that, if you think about shifts in the market, the buyers of hardware would move from businesses into large hosting providers.
The term “cloud provider” was just emerging, though the word “cloud” itself was already pretty nascent in how people described it. The huge shift was that businesses wanted to consume back-end infrastructure as a utility. It started trends in analytics and even machine learning, which would become much more accessible to people over the next ten years. Most importantly, users had to put very little money down and started reaping the economic rewards immediately.
In the past, we might never have thought of something like GPS being so easily available and deployable, to the point where it is now on mobile devices. The commoditization of computer storage is driving a whole new wave of app innovation.
OK: If those were the shifts of the recent past, what developments do you foresee in the next three to five years – whether technical or commercial? Where’s the industry headed?
VG: I think a lot of the key advancements will be in advanced analytics, and what is being commonly referred to as the “Internet of Things.” I see it as a combination of really inexpensive edge computing devices – in fact, you can’t even call them computing devices, they’re really data collection devices – and that will ultimately power a whole new set of applications that we’re just now beginning to see.
Take the example of self-driving cars. Think of the possibilities of a self-driving car being able to detect bad traffic. It could re-route you automatically and get you to all your meetings on time, get you working, make you productive – and you wouldn’t spend 45 minutes stuck on the freeway. So, the role of cloud is to engineer a new realm of productive workers, who work with the devices they are most comfortable with.
Citrix has a BYOD policy where you can plug your device into the network and have all your applications right there. We will see a lot more of that, especially with smartwatches and mobile devices.
OK: You mentioned the Internet of Things. How much stock should we place in the media narrative of connected toasters and kettles and so on?
VG: I think we’re already there. A few months ago, my wife got these Amazon Dash buttons and we have them everywhere now. After a recent trip to Europe, I came home and realized that I was running low on detergent for my laundry. What do I do? I press the Dash button. The detergent was delivered the next day.
To put this in a business context, wouldn’t it be awesome if you could walk into a conference room for a meeting and have the room automatically know what meeting you’re there for, who the presenter is, and be able to project the content that the presenter has to all those who dial in? IoT makes that possible. Another example is office cafeterias, where users can check in using a card that connects to their payroll. Workplace IoT is a big part of the future of work.
OK: We’ve spoken about the benefits and the potential of the cloud – but on the flip side, if you had to pick out one aspect of cloud computing that could be improved on, what would it be and why? What does the cloud still need to get right?
VG: One thing that cloud customers still struggle with is the standard pricing structure. Some firms fear that they won’t be able to project how much they will end up paying cumulatively for the service. There is a mind shift that needs to happen for people to trust that aspect. We still see a lot of companies with fixed budgets who want the security of that information; that’s partly why Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is still so popular, as it’s more predictable financially. But this is also a huge opportunity: it creates room for partners to become not just technical engineers, but financial engineers. They can remove the unknowns of cloud computing and offer an easy-to-consume package to the customer.
There can be also issues around security – partly to do with mindset, but more importantly to do with complying with legislative measures between different governments.
OK: Viastak won Citrix’ Apps & Desktops Partner Of The Year award at Citrix Summit this year. In your eyes, what made us the winner?
VG: We had a committee that looked at your profile and voted on it. From my perspective, I looked at Viastak and thought, “Wow, this is actually a new-world company – one that is cognisant of the fact that from a business perspective, if you were to look at hosting your own infrastructure and data centers, that would mean that the efficiency and cost basis of your service would be limited.”
The fact that you were absolutely open to embracing cloud, as it is today, with its imperfections and be able to deliver an awesome service to your end customers means that the cost and efficiency boundaries, which a hosted service would hit, would not be applicable to you guys. At the same time, you will be in a much better position to respond to the needs of your customers, who look at scalability and reliability to draw key confidence in what they need from a service provider.
OK: Looking towards our future, we’ve taken Citrix’ advice regarding Microsoft Azure and have expanded our capabilities with them; Viastak are now a dual service provider. What impact do you see that having on our business?
VG: Having a multi-cloud strategy allows you guys to deliver a much more efficient and predictable service to your end-customers. I say that because of geographic reach: any of these public clouds are unique in their own ways. Second, you are able to leverage the most efficient public cloud technologies out there. We have a strategic partnership with Microsoft and we make sure that we are developing Citrix software that works on Azure.
That does not mean that you guys, as service providers, only get a choice of deploying things on Azure. One of the most important differentiators about Citrix Cloud is that it is able to provide a service that is truly hybrid. Citrix provides customers with flexibility over where they want workloads stored – it could be public or private clouds – and either way, it can be supported in both Azure and AWS. That’s what we always look to offer: flexibility to the customer. Obviously, Viastak wants to provide that, too.
OK: Absolutely! Vikram, this has been fantastic; thanks again for taking the time to talk with me.
Our thanks to Vikram Ghosh and Citrix for their brilliant input into this piece; ours is a relationship that we always prize. If you would like to hear more from one of the industry's leading cloud experts, you can follow Vikram on Twitter at @_VikramGhosh, or connect with him on LinkedIn here. Citrix can be found at www.citrix.com.
We hope to feature some great new guest pieces in the coming months too – until next time!
Viastak work to support businesses looking to leverage technology, in order to streamline the way they operate. We believe in creating flexible, dynamic enterprises that are equipped to deal with the demands of the modern global economy. To find out more, please get in touch.
Topics: Workplace Technologists
Written by Oliver Kiddell
Oliver Kiddell, Author at Viastak Technologists.