Interview with David Kirkpatrick on Importance of Cloud Services

Hi Folks, last week I was there at the NASSCOM Infrastructure Management Summit here in Bangalore, where I was invited to have a chat with David Kirkpatrick in the evening.

This was a jam packed event filled with the presence of all the top notch players in the industry. A quick summary of the event “When it comes to offshore outsourcing, India already has a success story to tell in the application development and maintenance (ADM) space. But another niche competency that has followed a silent march through the years is remote infrastructure management (RIM). Indian vendors, integrated solution biggies as well as niche RIM providers, have been managing critical or core IT systems that include datacenter and network management, end-user desktop services and security for global customers remotely. This has given the space its well-deserved traction, but given the untapped opportunity, it’s time for players to come together and raise the bar a bit. There were few other questions that the NASSCOM Infrastructure Management Summit 2010, held at Bangalore on September 15 and 16, addressed and also establishing the business-vendor connect!”

David KirpatrickWell, for people who have not heard about David Kirkpatrick, David for many years was the senior editor for Internet and technology at Fortune magazine. While at Fortune, he wrote cover stories about Apple, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Sun, and numerous other technology subjects. He created the Fortune’s Brainstorm conference series. More recently, he organized the Techonomy conference on the centrality of technology innovation for all human activity. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and appears frequently on television, radio, and the Internet as an expert on technology. He is also the author of the book – “The Facebook Effect: The inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World”.

This blog post has been broken into two parts, the first part would talk on Cloud Offerings and the second one would be on Facebook & his book.  Let’s begin the interview now –

Vijay – Hi David, it’s great to meet you here today at the NASSCOM conference and thanks for taking time for talking to me. I really appreciate this. Being an author and a technology editor, what has driven you so far?

David – It has a lot to do with the quality of the product, right thing at the right time, and it has to do a lot with the management which I am interested in – I am pretty much interested in the ecosystem in which the technology is constantly shifting, and players never stay still. Successful players will have to constantly change. Those who don’t change instantly start to fail. Intersection of the personalities, product, corporate strategy, corporate structure and technology itself – I tried to take the big picture of the holistic view of the industry and the industrial competition and sometimes it gets me holding to a product that’s definitely interesting. In the case of Facebook, what got me interesting was the meeting which I had with Zuckerberg, because I had dismissed before I meeting him. He impressed me and that’s when I started seriously thinking about it. Before Facebook, I used to write a lot on Microsoft, IBM, Intel and other players.

Vijay – What’s your take on Consumerization of technology? What is the importance of mobiles and Downloadable Apps mentality?

David – I think it’s more of the enterpriza’tion adaptation of technology these days, because everything is coming from the consumer these days. The consumer is in the driving seat for virtually everything that happens.  Even all the stuff around cloud which is talked in this tech conference today is driven by the consumers. The first big cloud service, Hotmail and Yahoo mail has been from the consumers. Even Google mail is the cloud and it has set a benchmark to all others. The companies are now realizing that it makes a lot of sense to move to cloud.  Its lot more efficient and companies are not in support to spend all that money in maintaining those email servers. Well, Consumerization has turned technology into a much interesting industry, since the consumer has taken over. I think the mobile device revolution which was in amidst of is the best example of how that has happened right now!  The iPhone is still relatively esoteric from the standpoint of the global market, but I just think that.., the desire of the individuals, to have the access of everything, everywhere is the single most defining trend in technology. So in that sense, the Consumerization is the only story really..! One of the reason, enterprises is taking about remote infrastructure and cloud services are that Employees have already got used to it in the personal lives. People are just acclimated now. With the mobile devices revolution and the apps around it, the range of capabilities which you can get is just spectacular. Even today in the conference, people were talking about how we bring a sort of downloadable apps mentality into the enterprise? So there is almost nothing in today’s Enterprise computing which did not start from Consumers.

Consumerization of IT

Image credit –

Vijay – Well, one thing which always pops-up in my mind whenever I hear about Cloud email services is “security”.  Though we understand and follow the principles on what goes into an email, I still do not find it safe to save my CEO’s emails in the Google Data Center. What is your thoughts on the security model?

David – Well, I think security is one important point of discussion wherever I speak on Cloud. Google has not had that much of a problem from the standpoint of consumers; the biggest problem which Google had was when the central architectural design of Google security was stolen by some Chinese. It’s the same security model which is used to protect corporate data and their own emails, which was also used for Gmail or anything else. I don’t know if that has caused any hard problems to the individual user, who knows..! But my own opinion is security threats are so genuine and wide spread these days that you cannot count anything on the internet to be secure and the biggest question hanging over the internet is whether it can be made secure for the long term or whether is it something intrinsically porous. Definitely, a lot of people are worried about that. Now that, we have the whole world knit together in one big network, the worst actors are all targeting that network and some of them are smart even though they are evil. It always an arms race with security between protection and assault; The security can bring down anything. Well, it amazes me that, Facebook has never had a major outage ever.. and that’s unfortunately only a matter of time.., but they do seem to have a good security from the stand point of operational and performance integrity. There is no other thing which was down, even Gmail was down, indeed even Google search was down, due to it. Summing up, the whole world is waiting for that solution which would solve this important need of security.

Vijay – The emphasis on cloud is being given a lot these days by the product companies, where they want to move their existing infrastructure services to the cloud; what do you think would be the business impact to countries like India and others who provide infrastructure services to product companies back in US and Europe?

CloudDavid – I don’t think India has a slam dunk, when it comes to cloud services, because I think… the cloud services in general are less labor intensive; therefore India’s primary advantage such as labor costs  does not matter much. Plus, one of the speakers today said.., there is a sort of stay at home mentality, emerging in the IT industry especially in the US.., if you see in Ohio, there is a state law from prohibiting outsourcing to other countries. That’s the mentality in which we are in. Actually cloud can accommodate that political environment, better than traditional outsourcing because you can save a lot of money using a domestic sited cloud service. In fact you also have latency issues where proximity does matter, because most of the times, you want to have the servers as close to the users as you can. so that’s something which you need to think. May be, India can just operate them in US and Europe, owned by an Indian company. There is no reason, why one shouldn’t do it.  I think, one problem which India or any country which provide services might face is on innovation of services. I don’t know if there are any services that have been invented here. There are services which pretty much, you can maintain here. There is no reason whatsoever, why India couldn’t do it themselves. Is it a failure of marketing, failure of innovation, failure of imagination…? I don’t know. But I would say, when it comes to cloud, operating the infrastructure is not that big of an opportunity, the real opportunity is inventing the infrastructure that has a global extensibility. So far, I have not seen any evidence that India or any other country is moving into that dimension, I would be really glad if that happens!

Vijay – How is Facebook operating and looking at Cloud?

David – Facebook is like one of the big cloud services today. It’s interesting that it is just entirely operated out of US. It basically has 2 data-centers – One in East coast and one in the West Coast of US, and the rest of the international services is done by partners like Akamai etc. They buy a lot of capacity constantly, which helps them not to think about having datacenters around the world even though they have this incredible scale of usage all over the world. I think, this is only an interim approach. Facebook should eventually build datacenters of their own elsewhere. At one point, they were planning… but they delayed it because of the economic downturn, and I don’t know what their plans are now. If I was in the outsourcing Infrastructure business, Facebook would be my top target company just because of the scale of the operation and the inevitable need for being global. Because this issue of proximity will go in reverse in US, as their use is primarily outside the US.  Network and its usage are piling up as well, which means the number of users are growing every day!

Vijay – I agree with your David, this morning I was reading a stat which said that, the demographics of the most popular social networking sites are changing quickly and, the team at Flowtown has done a great job of compiling the latest statistics about Facebook users and social network usage in general. The average age of a Facebook user is 38 years old. Even more interesting is that 61% of Facebook users are now older than 38 — the company has come a long way since first launching exclusively to an audience of college students! – Read more on Flowtown’s Blog

The Part 2 of this conversion covers more on Facebook and his book “The Facebook Effect: The inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World”.

One of the Good Takeaways of the interview was this picture, which I clicked with him –

David and Vijay


  1. Good interview! Regarding the topic of the role of India in Cloud: I would echo David’s comments. As more Software as a Service offerings appear, the role of outsourcing will diminish somewhat, since the SaaS model is easier to manage, more predictable and cheaper. However there is no reason that that Indian IT market can’t evolve with this change and become major SaaS players.

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