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Clouds in the IT forecast

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Thursday, March 17th, 2011

Israeli ‘cloud computing’ solutions such as CloudShare and Gizmox are helping to propel a massive worldwide move to virtual information technology services.

A cloud has descended on the computing world – and in that cloud, the lion’s share of the applications we work with, and even the data we produce, eventually will reside. As the cloud rolls in, Israeli companies are working hard to make sure it’s as safe and useful as possible.

With the recent rise of mega-data companies like Google and Amazon, the concept of “cloud computing” has spread like wildfire through the tech world. Cloud computing is based on the concept of IT-as-service, with most of the infrastructure – both hardware and software – owned and operated by service providers.

Online cloud services, from Google Docs to movie-making and video-conferencing tools, give businesses access to an always-available, safe and robust network without the need to build a costly dedicated IT system.

By 2012, it is estimated that 80 percent of Fortune 1000 companies will be buying cloud computing services, and 30 percent of them will pay for cloud computing infrastructure. A similar explosion is expected among mid-size and small businesses as well, given the potential infrastructure savings that is a prime motivator for companies to move to the cloud, says expert Eddie Resnick, who helps companies review and choose cloud services.

Although the cloud is largely in the hands of big organizations like Amazon that can provide wide-ranging IT services, there are plenty of opportunities for small companies’ niche products and services to establish a presence in what promises to be a major industry in Israel.

Israeli infrastructure and security tech

Israel’s got two of the most important components that will be necessary for successful wide-scale deployment of the cloud – IT infrastructure technology and security technology, says Resnick.

Tel Aviv-based CloudShare allows IT service providers to produce “virtual machines” for their customers, showing them how applications, business scenarios, Internet appliances, training programs and sales efforts would work – without the need to install anything on the customer company’s computers. “A year after coming out of stealth, CloudShare has built the first comprehensive cloud platform for simple, turnkey IT access for companies to power their application development, testing, demos and training,” says CloudShare CEO Zvi Guterman.

Security is perhaps the area of greatest concern to potential cloud users. What good is saving money in the cloud if your data is insecure? Israeli startups, which have a strong tradition of developing applications for IT security, such as Check Point, are working to make the cloud safer as well.

Gizmox’s Visual WebGui is a totally open-source, in-the-cloud web application development platform similar to – and meant as a secure replacement for – Adobe’s Flex, Microsoft’s Silverlight and other solutions being promoted by companies like IBM and Mozilla. VWG is touted to be perfectly immune to hackers.

“Since we’re just sending metadata and update commands, and the client does not contain any code, there’s nothing for a hacker to monkey with,” explains CEO Navot Peled.

In late 2008, VWG announced a hacker contest for the first time in the software industry, offering $10,000 to anyone who could successfully compromise the platform. The contest ran for four months, and can be still accessed on the corporate site. “Not a single one of the tens of thousands of hackers who tried were able to break the system,” Peled reports.

The VWG platform is already being used by Cisco, Sony, the US Army, the governments of Germany, Thailand and Canada, and several Israeli ministries, as well as thousands of individuals and small companies. And in January, Gizmox introduced Instant CloudMove, the first automated tool-based solution for transforming enterprise client/server applications from desktop to cloud/web and mobile deployment.

Entertainment in the clouds

Beyond business, Israeli companies have developed unique applications that harness the cloud power to make life a bit more entertaining.

Libox, founded in 2008 by Erez Pilosof, who previously founded Israel’s Walla! web portal, lets you stream and share music, photos, movies and any other media file on different devices. Creating private “clouds” between your devices allows you, for instance, to listen to music stored on your home computer or iTunes playlists at work or on your cell phone.

“We are changing the way people think about storing, sharing, and using media,” says Pilosof.

These and dozens of other creative uses of the cloud – from data backup to helping farmers manage their crops – guarantees that Israel is going to continue to be a world center of cloud application development.