Industry Observations: Connecting with Cloud Technology

Manufacturing Insights Blog

By David Shugars, Senior Software Engineer, Plex Systems

I recently had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the 2012 Cloud Expo in Santa Clara, California, which was a great opportunity to meet and speak with other Cloud-focused companies, as well as those beginning to explore the technology.

My presentation focused on Plex Online’s ODBC Connector tool, which allows our customers to connect with their own clients’ data; it was great to be able to share with business leaders from all industries that their data isn’t “locked away” in the Cloud – and that they can continue to use the client tools they’re comfortable with. For many participants, I think this was a welcome connection to the power of the Cloud. 

But they weren’t the only ones who had some insightful moments; during the course of the conference, I realized a few things that I think are quite telling for the future of manufacturing:

The Cloud is taking over information technology. 

You see it in marketing materials all of the time – the “as-a” mantra: Software as a Service. Platform as a Service. Infrastructure as a Service. Database as a Service. Network as a Service.

It can be pretty mind-blowing, and there is some overlap in these services with no real standards body for the terms. However, what is clear is that all phases of information technology are moving to the Cloud. Plex Systems, of course, has had this vision for a long time, but it’s encouraging to see the rest of the IT world realizing the same power and flexibility that we have known all along.

Companies are becoming more open to interoperability. 

What does this mean? That companies are focusing on building certain services for the cloud.  And what’s interesting is that they are starting to focus on very specific areas. Gone are the days when companies are trying to become one platform for everything; instead, they are building services as part of a “stack” of services.

Many companies – specifically infrastructure-focused ones, including Cisco, Rackspace and VMWare – are participating in a movement called OpenStack, which is an open-source foundation focused on delivering this interoperability between infrastructure companies. More companies are taking a role in this initiative every day.

Cloud-washing is frustrating. 

It seemed like nearly every discussion and presentation at Cloud Expo referred to something called Cloud-washing – when a software company takes a “same-old” application and puts it on the Cloud. Although this is a somewhat derogatory term, it is a real issue in our industry because some companies think that just putting an application in the Cloud is good enough.  This is simply not true.

What these companies are not taking into consideration is whether or not they will be able to leverage the key advantages of moving to the Cloud. They aren’t addressing true multi-tenancy, how upgrades and deployments are performed, data security and all of the other key features of a true Cloud-based service. (And I can assure you that Plex Online is not, and has never been, cloud-washed.)

What are some of the observations you’ve seen in regards to Cloud technology for manufacturing?