The healthy state of the UK cloud industry

The entries for the UK Cloud Awards reveal much good about our cloud market ... and some areas to improve

I’m recovering after sifting through an avalanche of entries for the UK Cloud Awards. We were expecting a healthy number of submissions, but we didn’t quite expect the volume we got. When we passed 200 entries with still some time to go, we knew the inaugural UK Cloud Awards were a success.

There were several aspects to the awards worth commenting on. Firstly, we used the cloud ourselves for storing and accessing the entries, as we put everything into Google Docs. It’s fair to say it was an uneven experience: we did get to see all the entries (eventually) but in many cases access had to be sent several times.

That’s not to say using cloud itself is a bad idea but you get what you pay for and if, like us, you use a free service, then you can expect a few hiccups along the way. It certainly stresses the point, that if you’re a business user, then you need to pay for a cloud service. Trying to get by on a free-of-charge service isn’t going to cut it. It's not just security that’s an issue but the reliability of the service itself.

When it came to the entries, it was apparent how mature the market has become. If we’d gone back four or five years and questioned the early adopters of cloud, we would have heard how cost would have been the driving factor in cloud adoption and other issues were put to one side. That's no longer the case: when we looked at some of the very impressive projects, it was clear there are some organisations thinking very clearly about business needs and how best to solve their problems.

There was some inventiveness in the way organisations were tackling issues, a clear reminder that moving to cloud was not just about replacing an existing supplier, like for like, but a chance to think again about business objectives and the way to achieve them.

 When we looked at some the very impressive projects, it was clear there are some organisations thinking very clearly about business needs and how best to solve their problems

If there was one disappointment in the project section, it was the lack of interest in the award for the best use of the government Cloudstore. This was launched nearly two years ago but it has still not been widely embraced by public sector projects. We actually had to scrap the award due to lack of interest, only to find, when we looked through the entries, there were several instances where CloudStore wasn’t used but could have been.

It’s yet another reminder that, while the government’s intentions are good, there’s still a long way to go before CloudStore really becomes the must-do for public sector IT projects.

The was an also an interesting array of Virtual Cloudsducts and services. There were many excellent ones, a lot of very good ones but a smattering of poor products too. It was quickly apparent that the tendency to cloudwash hadn’t gone away and there were many services described as cloud that clearly weren’t (this was true of a couple of projects too – “great, so they’re using the internet,” as one judge sourly said).

All in all, the judges are happy with the selection of finalists. There’s a good mix of new and established companies and big and small ones. There’s a good spread of projects too. All in all, a successful first awards.

One other aspect of the awards worth mentioning is that the UK cloud community is still a small one. Many people we approached to be potential judges were expecting to be in contention for an award (indeed, one judge dropped out when it was apparent that he had a commercial connection to several of the entrants), this made choosing judges a bit of a challenge. Having said that, the panel we did have did a thoroughly superb job in assessing the entries and sorting out the excellent from the ordinary.

It was apparent how small a world it is when we discussed the entries. Many of the individuals mentioned in the entries were known to one or more of the judges – an occupational hazard when it comes to dealing with cloud. Let’s hope next year we’ll see a newer generation of cloud users and cloud vendors emerge – we judges want to be shocked some time, you know.

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