Cloud Computing is now reaching the masses.   With brand names like Amazon, Google and Microsoft consistently in the news, everyone is trying to find out more about this new way of providing computing services.  We in the IT industry are influenced by the “Technorati” who hone in on what the “big names” in the industry say about Cloud and who is offering what service. This leads to some important dialog: How will this affect our business? What is the right positioning strategy to propel our products into the spot light?

During a recent speaking engagement at a Cloud Computing Conference, attendees, who included CIOs and CTOs from 70 different corporations and government entities, wanted to know how to prepare for this emerging technology.  Speakers ranged from high speed access companies to attorneys and everything in between.

For the past couple of months I’ve been in the field listening to Managed Service Providers and even some Tier 2 Telcos talk about their plans to deliver IT as a Service using Cloud Computing as a platform – which we all know is some form of virtualization.  One thing has come out of these conferences and customer/partner visits… AWARENESS.  There is a growing awareness around the world regarding Cloud Computing.  Not just in IT circles, but even down to Mom and Pop shops, the small and medium businesses that make up a bulk of most country’s GDP.

So, on the one hand there are massive press campaigns under way to establish this “disruptive” approach to using personal computers and the applications as a service under the banner “Cloud”.  On the other hand we have another wave of large IT/Internet technology companies providing reams of information about their “Cloud” products.  Growth is taking place as seen in the numbers presented by some of the large Cloud players.  But there still exists a chasm between the “Cloud” we hear about and the people who will pay for it in mass.  Or is there?

After being in the industry for the past 25 years, I have found that my wife is a great sample testing of mass market awareness.  I was surprised when she cut out an article for me from a magazine produced by Costco, the largest Consumer Warehouse Club in America.  The article was entitled, “Take Your Business to the Clouds.”  There is no doubt that “Cloud” is getting exposure.  But how does the SMB connect to it and who will own the face-to-face support of these services?  Sure, Amazon and Google represent an offering that is plausible for some.  But there are holes in both offerings related to the SMB… namely support of the end user.

Regional Service Providers may be the answer to service level agreements that include personal interaction.  I visited one of them this week. In the state of Louisiana, where the LSU Tigers hail, there is a ginormous data center set in the city of Baton Rouge.  You might say… so what…there is a data center in the middle of the sticks!  That would have been my impression too until I met the principals of the company, GreenQube.  In this quiet town in the Southeastern U.S., GreenQube owns the capacity of a datacenter capable of servicing tens of thousands of subscribers, with multi-gigabit fiber from four major operators around the U.S.  The center is comprised of a 12,000 square foot “hardened” facility with enough power generators and HVAC chillers to self contain for weeks on end.  As a part of the Citrix Service Provider Program, GreenQube has implemented the Citrix Cloud Center to supply IT as a Service to customers in the Southeastern U.S. and beyond…. Just a side note, GreenQube also performed a technology “bake-off” between VMWare ESX and Citrix XenServer for their infrastructure platform… they decided to use XenServer (enough said).

I asked one of the Principals, Preston Rose, why they had gone to such extremes in outfitting this huge data center.  He responded, “My partners and I have been in the IT business for over 20 years.  Providing IT as a Service isn’t just a dream, it’s here right now and we want to insure that our customers can take advantage of a cost effective way of doing business without all of the concerns of hiring IT managers and spending the capital on equipment and facilities.”  And outfitted it they have.  There are multi-billion dollar corporations that don’t have the capacity and growth potential that GreenQube has today… all based on subscription services… and Yes… in the state of Louisiana.

GreenQube and other Managed Service Providers across the U.S., Europe and Asia are all in the process of launching awareness campaigns of a different sort.  Namely, “come and get it”.  Their messages are not about some amorphous Virtual Machine in the sky, but rather a simple way for businesses to supply applications and desktops to the end user, for one simple monthly fee.  That’s it.  No frills or thrills, just plain old good business practices to help their customers be more productive at a fair price.