In my April column I focused on the significant changes in the role of the contemporary CIO. One observation I made was that “the smart CIO is now sourcing in part through close partnerships with the new ‘big boys’ (the AWS, Microsoft, Google gang) but also now deliberately seeking out the young focused start-ups to bring them into partnership where their skills are relevant. The UK is now a rich hunting ground for such young, innovative and focused ventures“.
As chair of the Cloud Industry Forum I have been a judge for the annual UK Cloud Awards (UKCA) for a number of years now. The shortlist of the 2018 finalists in each of 16 award categories has now been published, and the winners will be announced at a gala event on evening of the 16th May. Well over 300 companies made submissions! (Pity us poor judges…..)
Drawing on my original judging notes for a small personal selection of four of the published finalists I will here illustrate what I mean by ‘such young, innovative and focused ventures’. Three are UK ventures, all less than ten years old – the fourth is a US venture, three years old and already actively building UK operations. I am not a stakeholder, employee or supplier of any of them – perhaps I should be!
The common thread that runs through the innovative approaches taken by each of these ventures is that we are now in the era of virtualisation – the potential of ‘Big Software’ in which data storage, data processing and data networking can all be software-defined – and thus all managed as software. An era of systems transformation, as legacy is reworked to be cloud-native, lowering operational costs and delivering higher operational agility! So I close this column detailing the UK consultancy Amido.
Natterbox, a UK venture launched in 2010, provides a Cloud telephony platform, operating both as a cloud software vendor and a full telecoms service provider. It operates inside the Salesforce platform, enabling clients to mix both Salesforce and non-Salesforce users, from their desk-phones to their mobiles/smartphones, within a single system – a totally cloud based ‘phone system. Now a £6 million UK venture it has built this system from scratch as cloud-native: this enables the customer’s telephony experience to be personalised based on that customer’s data. A powerful example of a capability to create strongly customer oriented services in a rapid and straight forward manner.
Spotinst is a US software company, founded in 2015. It provides a service designed to optimize utilization and reduce costs in cloud computing. It operates by exploting cloud spare capacity (i.e. Spot instances) but by exploiting a machine–learning algorithm it has developed to predict when particular Spot instances will be terminated, and move clients on to new Spot instances. In its UKCA submission it claimed an average of 79% reduction in clients’ computing costs, and a client base that is now 1400+ across the globe – not bad in three years!
Two of the five finalist in the ‘Best Cloud Managed Service Providers’ category are British – Databarracks and 4D Data Centres. The younger 4D Data Centres originally started life (1999) as a domain registration and hosting business. The venture has more recently invested in its own data centres and grown its business in ‘cloud, connectivity and colocation services’ with a particular focus in healthcare, finance & accountancy, and law. It’s most recent investment is in a tier-3 data centre, a dedicated colocation facility located close to Gatwick Airport. The requirement of many clients (the NHS being one!) to hold UK personal data in the UK strongly underwrites such investments – perhaps the potential impact of Brexit as well?
Lastly Amido – an independent UK technical consultancy specialising in implementing cloud-first solutions. Founded, like Natterbox, in 2010, Amido is listed in the 2018 issue of the FT1000 Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies having averaged 164% international sales growth over 36 months (2013 – 2016) – one of the fastest growing technology companies across Europe. In the UK Cloud Awards Amido’s work with the commercial radio station operator Global Media & Entertainment – Project FreQ – is detailed.
Historically Global’s commercial team ‘had to manually listen back to each radio show to record specific mentions within the duration of each presenter’s airtime…and then cut and pull each clip into an audio file so that the clients could listen to their campaigns’.
The essence of Project FreQ was to automate this resource-demanding process using, inter alia, VoiceBase, an innovative speech-to-text service, coupled with AWS’ Elasticsearch service. The outcome was that the work required by Global’s teams to ‘search and compile’ promotional audio content examples for their clients was more than halved – ‘a massive improvement which allows sales teams to focus on more value-add commercial opportunities.’