Executive Vice President
PwC: How do you see customers approaching cloud technology?
Nathan: Increasingly, customer willingness to use cloud technologies is on the rise, especially if it deals with data that is not confidential or at risk. Internal clouds are coming along, related to virtualisation as the first step, particularly in the data management area for better resource utilisation of the machines, to reduce operational costs, to control data volume expansion, and to distribute data.
PwC: As more software providers use the cloud to deliver services, what must they prepare for?
Nathan: A challenge for providers with cloud services is the ability to scale not to one corporation but to multiple corporations, because the user count goes up – you have to figure out how to solve the scale not of 3,000 employees but 30,000 or 300,000. The transactional volumes will increase, and the data volumes will increase. You have to worry about latency. Even a company as large as General Motors doesn´t have the scale of transactions of a Google. Big Data technologies such as Hadoop are trying to solve the data part of that challenge. On the business side as a cloud provider, I´ve got to be able to create a secure, isolated environment in a multitenant system for clients who need that.
PwC: Some virtualisation technologies have been in place for several years, whereas others seem still in early stages. What´s your view of what´s next in virtualisation?
Nathan: We´re not as far along on data virtualisation as we are on hardware virtualisation such as for servers and storage. We have got to integrate the application with the environment with the data and the storage – creating a virtualized vertical stack is the next step, then we have to be able to manage them in an integrated view.
PwC: The large number of mobile platforms today reminds me of the early PC days, when developers had more platforms available than they could target. Today, how should software providers address the new mobile heterogeneity?
Nathan: One strategy for the heterogeneity of mobile is to go to a common denominator and develop an application paradigm that is more scalable, via a messaging-based paradigm. You won´t take advantage of all the device capabilities or the richness of the device, and there is no persistence.
A second strategy is to offer a better user experience to deliver more content and rich interaction, and what´s happening with HTML5 lets you write to standards and get better richness than the messaging-based approach, but you don´t take full advantage of all the richness of the device itself.
The third strategy is that you need to take full advantage of the native capabilities of the device, so you partition the application so the native client-side aspects are minimized. You can maintain the same virtual process as a common logic, but how you take advantage of that on the client is different, and that means using specific languages for each platform. But I suspect over a period of time we will be able to develop once and deploy multiple times.
PwC: What other effects of the move to heterogeneous and cloud computing do you see?
Nathan: The amount of data that a person has locally stored on the desktop is actually in an enterprise starting to decrease in favor of server or online storage. For collaboration purposes, I don´t create a document on my desktop, I always save it to my collaboration server because I know it will have a lot of interaction with various people.
PwC: Collaboration tools have gained high interest among enterprises, but they typically require everyone to use the same platform. How does that jibe with the need to interact with business partners, contractors, and other external colleagues?
Nathan: The average employee probably spends 99-percent-plus of their time in collaboration with fellow employees, so single-platform systems make sense despite the general growth of heterogeneity. Yes, there´s a segment of the population that works with the outside, but most employees are collaborating internally, even those like lawyers who do deal with the outside. So you´re willing to pay the price to be on one environment because you get more out of it. So you´ll choose Lotus Notes or Microsoft SharePoint – you have to choose something, after all – because it makes more difference that you can exchange documents or find someone than to be able to work with a minority of outsiders. For merged organizations or multiple-organization environments, the question is where the center of gravity is, and you move the minority to the majority one step at a time.
PwC: Business intelligence remains a high priority in IT spending. What benefits are customers trying to get?
Nathan: Increasingly, we are seeing a growing percentage of analytics focused on the top line, of increasing revenue. Next is the use of analytics to mitigate risk, such as in credit card processing in e-commerce to stop a fraudulent transaction before the product ships. Third is to improve operational costs, which is traditional reporting. Even on the operational front, we´re seeing the use of analytics to predict usage such as to manage SLAs, to improve the service offering. Behavioral areas in analytics are becoming more important because the impact is greater.