In-House Group Seminar Report: Cloud Computing – How It Can be Made to Work.

March 28, 2011

Thursday 24 March saw the first SCL event sponsored by the In-House Group of SCL, welcoming around 55 people to the London offices of DLA Piper to an array of perspectives on practical issues related to cloud computing.

The event was grounded in the practical challenges and opportunities offered by cloud architectures from a business and technology perspective. Alan Lee-Bourke, who is CIO at the Wise Group (a UK social enterprise), commenced proceedings. Alan reported from the coal-face and described his organisation’s experiences of having deployed cloud technologies. He explained that the Wise Group had placed their e-mail, CRM & ERP systems as well as their collaboration tools in the cloud over the last two years and described their experiences as so positive that they were now looking at moving their finance and HR systems to the cloud. Alan extolled the virtues of the cloud, which he identified as the reduced hardware infrastructure cost savings, simplicity of running the systems and the ability to scale and provision users quickly. He gave a number of examples and also spoke about the challenges, such as the insistence of their UK public sector customers that certain types of data be kept on-shore and how this had resulted in the Wise Group adopting a hybrid solution.

Nick Hyner from Dell voiced the perspective of the cloud supplier and led an interesting discussion about the role of the legal community in enabling the adoption by enterprises of cloud architectures.  Whilst the cloud appears to be the answer to many problems, Nick raised some of the challenges for enterprise adoption. He asked provocative questions related to the role of lawyers in cloud computing transactions and the kinds of lawyering expectations that clients will have in this brave new world. He spoke about the gap that currently exists between the expectations of enterprise customers regarding the commercial and legal terms and those that suppliers are prepared to offer as part of standardized and shared services – a gap that he said was not going to be bridged overnight but one that the legal community have a critical role in helping to bridge.

Mark O’Conor from DLA Piper provided the public sector perspective on how to make the cloud work, based on his experience over the last 18 months of working with the Cabinet Office G-Cloud Program.  He raised a number of topical points, ranging from public sector procurement issues to the terms on which the public sector are likely to procure cloud services. The important take away from Mark’s presentation was that the cloud is going to happen in the public sector, but it will take time and it will not be without pain.

Jamie Smith, an Associate at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, provided the fourth perspective: that of a consumer-facing business and the practical implications of moving to a cloud based service for the provision of online video gaming services.  Jamie explained how Sony is addressing a number of data protection and security issues as well as service performance and moderation issues within this context. 

The seminar provoked a lot of discussion and the audience went away with a valuable array of real-world perspectives on the challenges and opportunities that cloud architectures entail for both users and suppliers and for both the public sector and consumer-facing businesses.   

Dervish Tayyip is Head of UK Legal at Microsoft and is the Chair of the SCL In-House Group.