Tech Insights: an Introduction to Doing Business in the Cloud

Cloud experts Jane Silber (left) and Daniela Gomes (right)The Tech Insights series is a spin-off from our hugely successful The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series, which profiles female business heroes.

The interviews were so popular that we are creating a new series, speaking to experts in the DWEN community about hot technology topics. Forthcoming articles will cover Social Media; Mobility; Data Management & Security. 

This first article shares the knowledge of Cloud experts Daniela Gomes and Jane Silber.

An Introduction to Doing Business in the Cloud 

Daniela Gomes is one of the founders of Tellfree, a Brazilian Telecom Company based in Sao Paulo. Founded in 2005 and focusing on the small and medium businesses market, Tellfree was founded as an IP Telephony company. Later on, anticipating the trends of the market, the company became a pioneer in developing and offering a complete solution of Unified Communications to the market, based on the concepts of scalability, collaboration and productivity, integrating voice, PABX, e-mail, instant messages, presence, and audio and video conferences, all hosted in the cloud. Daniela was previously responsible for the development of Tellfree’s Business Plan and is currently the Administrative Director of the Company.

Jane Silber is the CEO at Canonical, a company launched in 2004 to create software platforms that compete with the best but are free to use, share and develop. Their key offering, Ubuntu, provides customers with a new operating system every six months. Canonical now has over 500 staff in more than 30 countries. Jane has over 20 years of business development, operations and software management experience. Before becoming Chief Executive Officer in 2010, she ran several of Canonical's business units as Chief Operating Officer. Her previous roles include Vice President of Interactive Television Company and Vice President of General Dynamics C4 Systems. 

We spoke to Daniela and Jane about how their businesses use the cloud; the benefits and challenges of migration; and how the cloud is affecting their customers.

TNW: Which part of your company uses cloud technology? 

DG: Tellfree was pioneer in Brazil in developing and offering a complete unified communications solution to the market , integrating voice, PABX, e-mail, instant messages, presence, and audio and video conferences, all hosted in the cloud. Before lauching the solution to the market, we have implemented  it internally. This way, all areas of the company started using cloud technology at the same time. 

JS: All of Canonical uses cloud technology in one way or another.  We run our own private cloud in our data center to allow agile scaling and rapid deployment of new services. 

So when our engineers or web developers are setting up a new service, they can quickly provision machines themselves without getting blocked by slow, traditional IT approval processes.  And, like many fast-moving companies, we use multiple software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings as part of our company infrastructure, including Google Docs, Salesforce, Taleo, and others.

Tip 1:  Your own private cloud allows agile scaling and rapid deployment of new services.

TNW: What is your cloud strategy? 

DG: As we are talking about services that we have developed to be part of our portfolio, our first strategy was to implement and test these services internally, before lauching them into the market. This way, all our communication services have been migrated into the cloud - E- mail, PABX, audio and video conference, instant message, presence and colaboration, which enabled us to reduce our TCO (Total Cost of Operation), and increase the security and availability of our data and services. However, for the operation as a whole, besides the communications systems, the company counts on other systems - such as ERP and CRM. Our strategy is now to migrate these other systems into the cloud as soon as we have our datacenter infrastructure ready for that.

Tip 2: With all systems in the cloud, one can count on a much higher level of security, availability and simplified management. 

JS: We are a cloud company.  Canonical is the leading provider of open cloud infrastructure - we offer software and services around Ubuntu and OpenStack to enterprises building clouds, whether they be for internal use or public clouds.  In addition to wanting to leverage the resource optimisation and agility benefits the cloud offers, we also practice what we preach. That means, we run Canonical on our own products to ensure they continue to meet the needs of customers such as Dell, HP and AT&T.  As a result, the cloud is critical to our internal operations and to the services we provide to customers.

TNW:  What has been the single biggest benefit of your migration into the cloud?

DG: Undoubtly, the reduction of our TCO - Total Cost of Operation. When your systems are based "on-premises", your TCO tends to be very high, as you need to invest in systems or software and in the respective equipment to host them; you have a fixed cost with the maintenance and actualization of this equipment and software, besides the cost of depreciation. 

When we talk about cloud, we don't suffer with any of these costs. Instead of investing in equipment, in spending significant amounts of money in the maintenance of that equipment and suffering with its depreciation, we host our systems in a provider's datacenter, and pay for the hosting services.

Depending on the strategy of the company, the cost of systems or software licences can be substituted for services expenses - what is called "Software as a Service". This is what we have done with our communication systems and what we offer to the market.

Instead of buying a package of Exchange licenses, for example, the company contracts the quantity of accounts it needs as a service and pays for the service monthly/ annually, while the accounts are in use. In this case, we count on something called "scalability", that means, you contract exactly what you need, and the quantity that you need.

Tip 3: With cloud software as a service, you scale as your business grows - which is not possible when talking about "on-premises" solutions.It reduces Total Cost of Operation

Besides, you are not affected by the new versions of your system or software; on the contrary, the company that provides the service is responsible for the updates, so that the user can always count on using the most up-to-date versions of the systems they have contracted.

JS: Agility.  We can scale up and scale back our computing resource according to need; we can move quickly to set up new services, both in test and dev environment or in production. As an example, we release a new version of our core software product every six months.  During the two weeks surrounding each release, our website sees incredible amounts of traffic and we need to provision many additional front-end servers.  We can easily dedicate new cloud instances to that task, and then simply release the resources when the wave of traffic generated by our product release subsides.

TNW:  What challenges have you encountered in setting up your company processes etc. in the cloud? How have you handled these?

DG: When you migrate a service into the cloud and the funcionalities keep the same, the process is transparent to the user. However, in our case it hasn't been so because we have added new features to our communication services. And, as a result, the challenge was to introduce these new features to users (our employees), teach them how to use and implement the culture of using them - which is the most difficult part, as people in general are resistant to changes, mainly to new technology .

JS: The technology adoption path has been smooth. As relatively early adopters of cloud, we’ve been at it longer than others and we are a very strong engineering company.  We solve the technology problems so you don’t have to!  

Tip 4: With any programme of change though, there are some initial challenges with getting people to accept new processes and standards. Take time to overcome them.

Our internal approach to cloud gives more flexibility to business units and developers rather than outdated gatekeeper models.  That sort of disruptive change can be difficult to accept. But once our engineers, system admins and users saw the speed and agility that came as a result of the shift, that social resistance to something new melted away. 

TNW: Which part of the company does not use the cloud and why? 

DG: As I have mentioned before, all areas of the company use the cloud. As we are talking about the communication services we use in our day-by-day, everybody has access to the same services, with the same features and availability.


Every part of the company uses the cloud, although some may not realise that they do!  

One of the advantages to the computing on-demand paradigm that cloud computing enables is that as a user you don’t need to be as aware of where the compute or storage capacity is coming from.

TNW: Is the cloud having an effect on your customers?

DG: In our case, yes, for sure, once we commercialize the solution we use. Our customers see all the functionalities and bennefits of the cloud technology in practice and get interested in knowing more about it. What we observe in general, however, is that companies are not totally convinced yet about moving to the cloud because of questions of data management and security and because of their legacy - all the investments they have done over the years in equipments, softwares and systems.  

Tip 5: Cloud technology is irreversible, though, and companies who are already using it are a step ahead.

JS: Definitely. Many of our customers come to us specifically because they want our cloud technology and expertise. We see first hand their business drivers and how the cloud is improving resource optimisation, creating agility, and improving the pace of innovation in their businesses.  

Every large enterprise, from banks to telcos to pharma to petrochemical, is looking at how they can leverage this new wave in computing technology to provide a commercial or operational benefit. Start-ups have an easier growth path because they can scale without the capex expenditures that were previously needed.

Whether you build you own cloud or use services on a public cloud, you can’t ignore the transformative effect the cloud can have.

The Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN)celebrates the wonderful accomplishments of women in business, whilst looking forward at how we can progress and learn from each other. Natural networkers and relationship builders, women have innate flair for entrepreneurship. With DWEN, Dell is helping women in business to expand their networks while offering technology capabilities designed to help them innovate and grow their businesses.

The Tech Insights series is a spin-off from our hugely successful The NextWomen DWEN Interview Series, which profiles the world's most influential female founders, investors and decision makers. The interviews were so popular that we are creating a new series, speaking to experts in the DWEN community about hot technology topics.

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