The Cloud - Platform for a Golden Era of Innovation in Scotland
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The Cloud - Platform for a Golden Era of Innovation in Scotland

The Cloud - Platform for a Golden Era of Innovation in Scotland

Posted on 22nd August 2017

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Cloud computing

The Wikipedia page of Scottish inventions boasts a national inventory of wealth-generating intellectual property that few other countries in the world can match, produced from ages of enlightenment pioneered by the Scots.

Cloud computing offers a platform for igniting and unleashing a second massive wave of world-changing ideas, in the form of exciting new digital business models powered by Scottish ingenuity.

The Venture Opportunity - Serverless Startups

Skyscanner is the poster child for this new Scottish era, harnessing the power of the Cloud to become the nation's first unicorn and billion dollar startup.

As they describe in their tech blog they've sought to emulate the global digital pioneers of these trends, notably Netflix, synonomous in the tech sector with cutting edge 'Cloud Native' approaches that best exploit the power of massive providers like Amazon, referring to a software architecture that utilises 'microservices', breaking large unwieldy single 'monoliths' of code into small, interlinked modules.

Moreover, as Phil Dalbeck, Principal Engineer for Skyscanner, describes in this Slideshare presentation, they too have leveraged AWS to make this dramatic growth possible and scalable while also implementing best practices to ensure their information security. They've also adopted for their sales team to use and, highlighting another key trend, 'multi-cloud', making use of multiple Cloud providers to fulfil all your business needs,

The industry has since made another evolutionary leap forward, called 'Serverless' computing, implemented through services including AWS Lamda, that further lowers the barrier for new digital entrepreneurs.

As the name suggests, and as Professor Bill Buchanan of Napier University describes in his Linkedin blog, this represents the ultimate pinnacle of the Cloud computing trend, a complete abstraction away from the underlying mechanics of IT, freeing developers to focus entirely on the value add software they're creating. They never have to meddle with any aspects of the servers or other infrastructure components, especially the parts that don't add new value.

For entrepreneurs, the critical point is that it’s implemented entirely On Demand. Other AWS services offer a utility pricing model; yes, linking pricing to usage, but it's not entirely fluid, requiring reservation of resources for example. In contrast, Lamda is entirely 'event-driven'; it activates and operates only for the time the software is called and executed and customers are billed only for that exact usage.

This Silicon Angle article captures the essence of the opportunity - Entrepreneur Ryan Kroonenburg has built the world's first 'Serverless Startup', a business model based entirely on leveraging this capability.

On Demand is the ideal model for startups: you incur costs only at the time you generate the associated sale, every transaction is profitable, but to date it's been a utopian ideal not a realistic possibility. Serverless now brings that utopia to the real world, and for Scottish startups who don't have access to the same investment capital as their USA counterparts but compensate for this through a wealth of ingenuity and creativity, it offers a hyper-accelerating rocket fuel for our innovation economy.

The Skills Opportunity

Of course, a subset of this entrepreneurial opportunity is the skills required to implement these new technologies. AWS serves the whole world and the whole world will respond to the opportunity it presents, but while they simplify certain aspects of technology they still require a subject matter expert to develop and operate.

The Cloud Native approach that Netflix and Skyscanner have utilised will become the norm, creating a massive new market for the required skills, and this too is an opportunity that Scotland would be smart to quickly adapt to, training and preparing our computing students accordingly.

Indeed, it will be such a profound wave of change it will redefine the very core of software engineering practices and consequently how Computer Science is taught in universities. It is that much of a game changer. Scotland should be first to reflect this throughout our curricula.

The scale of opportunity will be breathtaking as it's not just for startups: enterprise organisations will also want to refactor their creaky old mainframes, breaking them up into lots of little microservices so that they too can innovate as dynamically as their startup competitors, while those that don't will go the way of Blockbuster et al.

Therefore all we need do is concentrate on and invest in what the Scots do best and have in abundance: a self-starting infinite capacity for innovative ideas and a highly skilled workforce. These, combined with the financial and technological muscle offered via these USA providers, will usher in a new golden age of business innovation and growth for Scotland.

Neil McEvoy, Founder



Posted in Guest Blog, Opinion

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