Google Atmosphere Conference

I was fortunate enough to attend the Google Atmosphere conference last week in London. My top 3 take aways were:

  • Cloud computing is a reality here and now, and is being used by businesses to reduce cost and redeploy expertise in a strategic manner
  • Even if your business is not considering how cloud computing can be used in order to create a competitive advantage, remember that your competitors will be.
  • Cloud is not just about saving costs, it’s about freeing up resources in order to align them better with business strategy

I have to say that it was one of the best events that I have attended. The delegate level was very high, the speakers were all excellent, and the WiFi worked perfectly throughout! Plus Google showed their commitment to the cloud by running all the demos live over the Internet and most of the presentations were run live over the web using Google docs.

The conference was opened by Google execs Nikesh Arora (President Global Sales and Business Development) and Adrian Joseph (Managing Director, Google Enterprise EMEA), with some personal anecdotes on their experiences as digital immigrants.

Next up was Nicholas Carr with his talk titled Era of the Cloud: The Big Switch. As expected, he talks about the historical move from self generated power to mass scale power grids, but the general theme is how disruptive some innovations and trends such as cloud computing can be. If these are embraced, IT can be aligned in order to deliver real value to the business rather than “producing electricity”.

Next up Dr Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon on “The Cloud Capability” talking about why customers are actually buying cloud computing services.

Now time for the first panel, “The Perfect Storm”. I really enjoyed the panels, for me they were one of the highlights of the whole day. The first one has a high level/visionary focus and the next 2 panels are more practical with some real customers. Guy Clapperton moderates this panel On stage:

  • Werner Vogels – CTO & VP, Amazon.com
  • Nicholas Carr – Author, the Big Switch
  • Paul Daugherty – Chief Technology Architect, Accenture
  • Dr. Carsten Sorensen – Senior Lecturer Information Systems, LSE

Then, the next panel titled “Risk and Reward” – some real customers talking very frankly about their experiences. In this session, the Jaguar Landrover deal is announced. On stage is:

  • Marcello Cordioli – CIO, Permasteelisa
  • Olivier Carre-Pierrat – Infrastructures & Telecoms Director, Euromaster
  • Jeremy Vincent, CIO Jaguar Landrover
  • Claudio Umana – CIO, Fracarro
  • Jean-Francois Caenen – CTO, Cap Gemini France

Then it was time for the Google Engineering team. I really enjoyed this session. They even touched on some futures which is very unusual for Google. Nelson Mattos starts it off and then Matthew Glotzbach does a fantastic demo.

During lunch, I took a look at the demo pods. These were manned by the Google “doctors” in their white lab coats – very cool. I watched some demos of Google Wave, Google Apps, and Enterprise Workflow  for Google apps with Google partner Cordys. CapGemini and Nordic Edge were also there although I ran out of time so didn’t get to see their stuff.

After lunch and it was time for the customer panel “Collaboration in the Workplace” with:

  • Paul Cheesbrough – CIO, Telegraph Media Group
  • Francois Blanc – CIO, Valeo
  • Todd Pierce – SVP & CIO, Genentech
  • Andy Beale – CIO, Guardian Media Group

It starts off with Paul Cheesbrough, CIO of Telegraph Media Group showing the results of their research relating to the move to Google Apps… for example he showed a stat that staff now spend 36% more time communicating with co-workers which has had a positive effect on productivity. There are loads of interesting things in here, take a look.

Now time for the big man, Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com. Marc is an entertaining speaker, and despite the pretty salesy pitch, most people seemed to lap it up.  I really loved the demo double act of Tim Barker and Jager McConnell, who showed an amazing demo of “Service Cloud 2” – my key takeaway was how a business can use Service Cloud in order to interact better with customers whether it’s by phone, twitter, facebook or old-school email. This could really create a competitive advantage since not many businesses really do CRM well.

Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm, was up next. This video is essential viewing. His session is all about the importance of focusing on core, essential business. IT energy should be focused on improving the business, not on running commoditized services (such as email for example). Geoff says it best, watch him…

Last but not least… the “Fireside Chat” with Dave Girouard (President, Google Enterprise) and Alan Eustace (SVP Engineering and Research, Google). This was an awesome session. When you watch this you can see the difference in culture between Google and their competitors. Open, honest, straightforward, insightful…

Thanks to the Google team for a great event. If you want to follow the happenings of the day over twitter, it all happened on the #atmosphere hashtag And if you missed atmosphere, you might still be able to attend the “Innovation at Work” event happening in London later this month. No famous authors, just pure time with the Google folks looking at the latest stuff from the Google Enterprise team.

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