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Can the Cloud Boost Small Businesses?

Enterprise Cloud News

There's consistent chatter about the new world of the cloud, and much of the discussion involves how a small business saves substantially and can then invest the savings elsewhere in its business.

For many small businesses that have used the cloud for a few years, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, the experience has largely been positive.

Operating servers both on-site and in the cloud is "a very effective way of reducing risk," said Michael Harries, chief technologist at Citrix Startup Accelerator, a Silicon Valley investment firm that works specifically with software startups, according to the Journal.

Business owners should make their cloud-deployment decisions based on the "support they have available," he said.

Harpaul Sambhi, chief executive of social-media recruitment firm Careerify, said running his company solely in the cloud has allowed him to focus more on business growth. Careerify allows a company to connect to its employees' social networks in order to find candidates for jobs at that company, be it through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Sambhi said because an average employee has about 300 social-media contacts, he didn't want to burden his staff of 12 with trying to maintain servers that are mining the data of hundreds of thousands of users.

"It's a lot of work for us," he said.

Cloud Computing and ‘Appification' Speed Up Software Innovation
Cloud computing and cloud storage not only can help trim costs, it also speeds innovation, according to several business executives.

Cloud computing and "appification" are changing the frequency and speed of developing software and, in turn, the way technology providers deliver those features to insurers and risk managers, according to an article on BusinessInsurance.com.

Kathy Burns, Chicago-based CEO of Aon eSolutions, which provides cloud-based and on-premises software to risk managers, said her firm's embrace of the cloud has accelerated the process of innovation. Instead of needing to push updates to separate clients that may be running separate versions of the on-premises software, cloud-based applications allow automatic changes, Burns said.

"We provide cloud-based solutions to risk managers and it enables us to do more for them more quickly," she said. "If we create a great report or piece of analytics or a new module for a client, I can then make it accessible to our broader client base."

Brian Vannoni, San Francisco-based director of product marketing for Guidewire Software, said the firm wanted a hybrid model blending the best attributes of on-premise and cloud-based software. In October, it launched Guidewire Live, a series of hosted applications intended to augment the functionality of the Foster City, Calif.-based company's underwriting, policy administration, billing and claims systems.

The advent of the cloud and app-driven development has freed business units to adopt new technology without taking the time to involve the IT department, Vannoni said. "Previously, the cycle time for technology-based innovation was so long that it stifled business innovation," he said.

OpenStack Brain Trust Gains $10M in New Funding
A cloud consulting firm recently received a $10 million infusion so it can, among other initiatives, increase the number of OpenStack contributors it employs.

Mirantis, a cloud consulting firm, announced it received $10 million in funding from Intel, Dell and WestSummit Capital, according to InformationWeek.com.

Mirantis has successfully self-funded its own growth up until its recent $10 million funding. CEO Adrian Ionel said it could have continued to do so. Rather than a handful of entrepreneurs working in a garage, it's already a staff of 300 consultants and engineers with a list of pedigree customers building major cloud projects, such as PayPal and AT&T.

Mirantis "is looking for organizational support," or members on its board who can boost its young reputation. Mirantis is already a close business partner of Intel Capital, which was the lead investor, as well as Dell Ventures. Mirantis is helping Intel build out an OpenStack cloud. Dell will base its own public infrastructure-as-a-service cloud on an OpenStack architecture, and Mirantis is "the designer and implementer" of that data center space, said Ionel in an interview.

Mirantis, Intel and Dell are all code contributors to the OpenStack open-source project, and the infusion of capital will help Mirantis both add to its consulting ranks and increase the number of OpenStack contributors that it employs. It currently has four developers working full time on the project. It will add six more in the next three to six months, said Boris Renski, co-founder and executive vice president, in an interview.

More Stories By Patrick Burke

Patrick Burke is a writer and editor based in the greater New York area and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting.

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