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Cloud computing has the ability to reduce complexity, cost and IT resources that often come with on-premise solutions. But despite the fact that cloud solutions are becoming an integral part of small and medium businesses, SMEs are still at the early stages of cloud adoption, with some believing the platform is only for larger companies, or simply not understanding the cloud at all.

Real Business talked to CloudBees CEO Sacha Labourey to discuss the benefits and future of the cloud, starting with what potential the cloud has for businesses.

“A century ago, to get electricity you needed to be a super-sophisticated and rich high-tech company,” Labourey explained. “Now, we expect electricity at all times. Plugs are everywhere, you just plug and go. The same thing is taking place with IT. You once needed to be a JP Morgan to enjoy the best level of service, but we have been able to capture all of that power and offer it as a service to anybody. What the cloud enables is for companies to consume those services without having to go through the cumbersome IT Tasks – a necessary evil that often takes too much time and costs money if you have to hand the project over to developers.”

But Labourey believes that the benefits of the cloud won't stop there, after all, with most technology, there is going to be an evolutionary process.

“It's almost come to the point where it becomes risky for any business not to start in the cloud. You'll merely be burning money to do things that someone else has already done for you, in a much faster way and at a reduced cost. What's wrong, however, is that because many businesses are wary about using this technology they don't fully understand, the decision to use the cloud is either a) opt-in, or b) opt-out. It doesn't all have to be black or white. 

"What works best, and what more companies will start to do in the future, is when you split core IT (the technology you have on the premises) from fast IT (a complete platform that helps you from start to end of a project without having to talk to IT). Don't change what works, but make it easier for yourself at the same time. By 2020, 80 per cent of the fast IT project will be in the public cloud. The costs of starting a business in the cloud will be so low and the way we market will be so interesting and appealing that keeping things as they stand today just makes no sense.”

So, what makes a successful cloud company in today's economy? It all comes down to how fast you move. Labourey states that “it's a new market, so what's good today won't necessarily be good tomorrow. There is a lot of discovery happening within the cloud space. Companies innovating at a fast pace, listening to the market and then reacting is crucial. It has to be on demand, be elastic, and pay-as-you-go. People don't want to fill in forms, they want to type in their email, select a password and go. In five minutes you should already be up and trying the cloud. After all, people now have a non-committal attitude to things. Once you fake it, call up and say it will be ready next week, you'll be in trouble. Ao, all of the successful cloud companies has some form of DNA at the core of their service.

But what about the cloud market on a global scale? We rarely hear about British companies or entrepreneurs being able to compete against the US. Why is that so?

“There is such a huge talent pool of specialists on how to build markets and sell software in the US – it's a science. Another thing is that it's a unique market. In Europe, you have more than one language to contend with. You have to go from market after market, translating language after language, and even then there will be some cultural barriers. It's also easier to get funding in the US, as well as the fact that they are more open to trying new things. In Europe, there's still a lot conservatism in choices.”

Michel Goossens, VP of Worldwide CloudBees adds, however, that “in terms of technology adoption, the market is quite similar. If you look within Europe you would find some differences. For instance, in the UK, it's a very innovative market, but there's not much difference between the US and the UK, so it's actually one of our better territories in Europe as compared to Germany. In Germany there are some cultural barriers on the public cloud, they're concerned about privacy and have a lot of rules and regulations there. What I find interesting working with AWS from Amazon, is that when you talk to the branch in Germany, the people there are more like lawyers than sales people. They know the regulations really well. Certainly the UK has a great adoption of cloud technology. But the greatest difference is partners. In the US, the bigger system integrators would cover the whole market. In Europe you still have this local touch, where it's important to have local partners in all the countries.”

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