Will cloud soon replace client-server?

This week on the Fed Cloud Blog, we chat with Greg Gianforte, CEO and founder, RightNow Technologies, a company that delivers cloud-based solutions for the federal government.

Gianforte tells us all about the work his company is doing in the federal cloud space in the first part of our two-part interview.

GG: “We provide software in the cloud for over 170 government agencies — every executive cabinet-level agency, every branch at DoD, and we help them deliver better government at lower cost by creating citizen portals so that citizens can get immediate access to the information they need over the Web or in a contact center environment or a social interaction.”

FCB: Do you have a specific example of one of those portals?

GG: Sure — usa.gov [is] the main federal portal supported by RightNow Technologies. If you go to ssa.gov, [we support] all of the answers to common questions. . . . Typically what these systems would do is, if you go to ssa.gov, for example, click on ‘I need help’ and the knowledge base that you would search — maybe you would type in a question ‘I lost my social security card’ — the answer that comes back is all coming from our system out of the cloud.

FCB: We were looking around on your site before this interview and saw something called the RightNow Cloud Challenge. Can you tell me a little about that?

GG: We’ve been in the cloud for 13 years [and] recognized something last year that kind of disturbed us — that, although the cloud industry has done a good job of embracing the technical benefits of the cloud in terms of making it easier to get started and costing less to operate these systems, they hadn’t really embraced the business side of it.

Vendors were still asking government agencies and commercial enterprises to sign long-term contracts, sign up for capacity they may never use, didn’t allow them to rebalance, and, honestly, the cloud’s original concept was to pay for what you use.

Yet, we had drug along all the nasty, evil contracts from enterprise software, so, we put out a cloud challenge earlier this year — and challenged the entire industry to adopt these less evil contracting methods. So, that’s what the Cloud Challenge is about.

FCB: You just said you’ve been in the cloud for 13 years. In doing past interviews, some have said they are just looking at cloud, and other say that cloud computing is nothing new. What’s changed and why do you think cloud is becoming so much of a buzz word?

GG: It is the future of the software industry. The software industry has gone through a couple of major transformations. We started with lots of programmers sitting in dark rooms writing software in assembly language.

Then, the first revolution was when people realized they could write and application and actually use it over and over again, rather than building everything from scratch.

Then the second revolution was when we moved to client server technology. This was an idea that meant we could kind of separate the intelligence, we could build better user interface, put intelligent databases on the back — and that really became the standard and it gave birth to companies like SAP and Oracle and others.

Well, the cloud is really the next generation — it’s going to replace client-server, and the reasons [for that] — in the cloud, applications get stood up into production five times faster than they did in client-server, and they cost 80 percent less to own and, when done properly, they’re actually more secure and more reliable than client-server applications.

So, because of the economic benefits of the cloud, this is a very slippery slope. Over our 13 years, we’ve seen this occur in the commercial sector, which is about where 80 percent of our business is — 20 percent is in the public sector. What we see now is there has been a barrier to government adopting the cloud because of the more stringent security requirements, but we’ve figured out how to work within that government security framework.

At this point — according to Vivek Kundra’s office over at OMB — we do more cloud computing for the federal government than any other application vendor on the Earth, but we’ve been at it for 13 years and we’ve had to figure a whole bunch of stuff out to get here.

Come back tomorrow for more of our interview with RightNow Technology’s Greg Gianforte.

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