Bertrand Meis is the CEO of a provider of access routers for managed services. OneAccess Networks is a member of the Red Herring Global100. Most recently, serving as President and CEO of King Products, Mr Meis developed an advanced software platform for interactive terminals used by telecom carriers in North America, Europe and Asia. Previously, Mr Meis served as Executive Director of Ascom, with responsibility for the overall direction of the company in Central America. Bertrand Meis earned his degree as an electrical engineer at Supelec, in France; he also holds a MBA from IPADE (Mexico).
The cloud gives businesses of all sizes an opportunity to use sophisticated applications without the upfront costs and delays of building and maintaining their own data centres. This is especially important for smaller organisations without in-house installations or expertise. Cloud-based services are available on a pay as you use them basis. This means that companies using the cloud gain the agility and ability to turn on, turn off, scale and shrink a company’s usage and costs- and the ability to ‘pay-as-you-grow’.
The Internet has been around for a long time, but only in the last ten years have businesses and consumers really started to harness its value. Ubiquitous access to bandwidth has opened our eyes. Stimulated by early broadband leadership in Korea, Hong Kong and other Asian economies, the whole world is now hungry to communicate in richer, fast and more mobile ways; to produce large amounts of content ourselves and share it on social media platforms; and to access business information, education resources and entertainment from deep within ‘the cloud’. With 1Mbps broadband available to near-enough every home and business, we now crave super-fast broadband of 100Mbps and beyond. This level of demand was just not conceivable outside of the major Asia-Pacific cities until a few years ago, but will soon become the norm as households download enormous amounts of data from the cloud, and upload almost as much back the other way. In the business world, information inflation has taken root. The dependence upon remotely provided web and cloud applications, increased use of IP communications and the infiltration of personal consumer habits into the enterprise has squeezed every drop of utility from business bandwidth. This has provoked comparatively small branch offices and SME-sized sites, which make up the overwhelming majority of all business premises in Asia Pacific, to increase their connectivity to unprecedented levels and push as much down those pipes as they possibly can. The pace of innovation is blinding, but user businesses and consumers do not accept the quality problems associated with new services for long. It is a sizeable challenge to deliver quality services that work and perform perfectly. With so many free services available, consumers will only pay for high quality experiences. The mobile phone was once just a normal phone without the wires, and a collection of catchy ring-tones. Today, the mobile is a highly sophisticated miniaturised computer that runs business applications, entertainment services, advanced calling features and storage for thousands of pictures, video clips and music tracks. Again, it was Asia that led the way in this evolution - most notably with NTT DoCoMo’s FOMA in Japan. Service providers have concerns about how to meet growing demand for network capacity, but that question - focussed upon the technical mechanics of the network - is for another day. Here we can explore the implications of cloud services, particularly upon the business sector. The graphic portrayal of cloud computing is intuitively obvious the networks are drawn as fluffy clouds interconnecting lots of computers. Since the advent of the cloud, lots of familiar services, with familiar labels, are being re-labelled as ‘cloud’ services - software-as-a-service, application hosting and IP Centrex are good examples. To count as a ‘cloud’ service, applications should be highly virtual and highly distributed; having your data ‘out there, somewhere’ has been a familiar theme since the beginning of cloud service. For the millions of SMEs and the branches of larger organisations spread across the region the cloud is much more about the transformation in business models than it is about technology. ‘Cloud’ means increased agility to turn on, turn off, scale and shrink a company’s usage and costs. Cloud means the added sophistication of more unified services, more mobile services and the ability to ‘pay-as-you-grow’. However service providers build it, and wherever they put it, as long as these conditions are met, then it fulfils every meaningful market definition of a ‘cloud’ service. For large corporations, the cloud represents something of a conundrum. Clearly, the ability to extract more value from IT with lower technology investments and risks is a significant opportunity. Large organisations, however, already have a big investment in their in-house IT systems and software, tailored to their individual needs. Replicating their personalised systems in a cloud environment is not straightforward. Companies typically have a heavy compliance burden -regardless of where in Asia-Pacific they are based, particularly if major operations are globally distributed - so having their data ‘out there, somewhere’ is simply not an option. Large organisations, then, are likely to take a hybrid approach to cloud and use highly virtualised in-house data centres or ‘private clouds’. They will often also use public clouds to deliver specific applications - to relieve peak computing demands and to obtain business continuity and backup at reduced cost. Consequently, service providers will find that large companies will require a degree of sophistication and customisation that is likely to elongate development times, sales cycles and time to profit. No such constraints apply to the mid market. Mostly, SMEs hunger for the kinds of services that large organisations have built for themselves, and cloud is the only way they are likely to afford them. For SMEs, cloud services offer increased sophistication and accountability and an overall improvement in service levels. With cloud services, SMEs have no upfront capital investment. The cloud requires little in the way of existing IT infrastructure and users need no ongoing, operational IT expertise. The cloud lets SMEs to scale-up easily and inexpensively. Using the cloud calls for little investment, companies pay only for the services they use, when they use them - and at a reduced price since the service providers’ costs are spread out among all the users in proportion to their usage. Video conferencing is a great example of a cloud service; you can pay per session, it reduces IT management complexity and you have access to highly skilled experts that are able to deal with any problems more efficiently, whilst reducing costs for the enterprise. Growth for such services in Asia Pacific will be high, with Frost & Sullivan predicts revenue CAGR (compound annual growth rate) for the region of 13.6 per cent until 2016. Nevertheless, there are two major issues to resolve. The first issue is related to video conferencing itself, the application must be easy to use, reliable, but also powerful enough to address, the needs of small offices, home offices, SME customers and large enterprises alike. I believe, a lot of very large enterprises will go for telepresence, but few enterprises can pay for such high-end solutions. Secondly, being a cloud service and not managed internally, the customer’s expectation of the voice and video quality will be very high, so telcos need to ensure that the Quality of the Experience (QoE) meets their customers’ needs. The video conference software is ready, customers are ready, but the question is, ‘Are the telecommunications networks ready?’ The answer is probably not, as video conferencing is sensitive to bandwidth availability, latency and jitter. It has taken ten years to really enhance the quality and consistency of VoIP; now the same effort has to be put into video conferencing. There is a need for better visibility of network traffic, smarter management of bandwidth and application-driven technology to improve video conferencing QoE -and telcos have a key role to play here. If service providers can offer smarter delivery networks while building their hosted services, they will succeed. The CPE (customer premise equipment) access routers the operators choose are important - they are the entry point to the telco network; implementing the right bandwidth management for each router will dramatically increase QoE, and success, of cloud computing services. Parkinson’s Law applied to network bandwidth states that data always expands to swamp the capacity available. Active Quality of Service (QoS) priority for cloud-bound data is an essential component of cloud CPE and cloud network services. Businesses want guarantees for key applications that assure consistent performance independent of the activities of other less important applications, or other businesses when using a public cloud. With QoS controls available, cloud providers can offer a range of services and price points, backed by service level agreements (SLAs). As the physical distance between a user and their data increases - as is inevitable with any cloud services - so latency and other unavoidable physical characteristics of networks take their toll on application performance and, hence, the user experience. Cloud service providers must be able to guarantee the performance of applications. Accordingly, WAN optimisation technology is a critical pre-requisite for any customer premise ‘cloud gateway’ device. Moreover, the ability to provide cloud services such as security and numerous other applications on the gateway system will also be critical. , Cloud services must behave much like 3G smartphones which the subscriber can easily manage without reprogramming intervention from the manufacturer. Cost effective solutions, which improve the user experience, enhance security and simplify cloud service provisioning will be very compelling for end customers. Cost and convenience are king, but then it’s always been that way.