Mediaplanet: What does the concept of data as a service mean to you?

Steve Wozniak: I think many of us use “data as a service” in our daily lives, although most of us don’t think of it that way. With the cloud and mobile devices, we can now access a lot of information from anywhere. It’s now natural for us to stream something from a cloud service like DirectTV to a smartphone, or to access and share photos on a platform like Instagram. We are starting to take data services for granted in everyday life, and that means they are becoming transparent technologies for most of us.

MP: How have you most effectively utilized cloud software in your personal and business life?

SW: There are differences between a consumer or end user experience using cloud services like DropBox or Salesforce.com, and cloud archiving services like Amazon Web Services for enterprises. The consumer-facing cloud services have user-friendly interfaces, while the enterprise versions have APIs that IT professionals integrate with applications.

I use cloud file sharing software more than enterprise cloud storage today. I speak at a lot of events around the world, so cloud software helps me access and share files no matter where I am. While you still can’t get online over an ocean, it’s definitely a lot easier to use the cloud than to carry lots of hard drives around the globe in my backpack. This helps me both in my personal and business life.

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The cloud has removed a lot of barriers for end consumers of data in both our personal and business lives, but interestingly, it is introducing new challenges for IT people. I bet most of us use more than one cloud platform for our personal files, and it’s the same for companies. Now companies are using many different cloud platforms, and it’s becoming harder to manage your data sprawl.

MP: How has cloud-based storage technologies allowed large companies to operate differently?

SW: The cloud helps companies of all sizes in many different ways. For example, Amazon makes it easy for a startup to create a store and get selling quickly. Microsoft Office 365 makes it easy to get up and running with business applications. Salesforce.com can start out small and scale as companies grow. File-sharing services make it easy for companies of any size to share documents and collaborate.

It is usually faster and easier to add cloud storage than another hardware system in a company’s data center, so enterprise cloud storage can help engineering teams get new ideas developed faster. This can be a big advantage for an innovative company, and cloud-based development and testing is a big area of interest for many companies.

"The cloud has removed a lot of barriers for end consumers of data in both our personal and business lives, but interestingly, it is introducing new challenges for IT people."

The cloud also goes beyond storage. Cloud computing is growing, especially as we are all used to having our mobile devices link us to data wherever we are. Cloud computing puts lots of unused CPU power to work, and the end user gets a great experience.

MP: What is the best route for a company to take when choosing a cloud storage option that is a good fit for IT needs?

SW: IT builds the infrastructure that companies run on. This is like building the infrastructure in a city where roads and bridges keep things moving. IT keeps data moving for a company. In both cities and companies, no one likes a traffic jam, and it’s the IT team’s job to make sure that we keep data moving smoothly, whether it’s on the cloud or somewhere else.

Today’s modern architectures incorporate everything from servers, all the way to the cloud and everything in between. It’s a lot to keep running without traffic jams.

MP: As companies move toward cloud platforms, what advice would you give to ensure a smooth transition?

SW: No matter which cloud file sharing or enterprise cloud storage you choose, make sure it can still deliver data seamlessly for users. People expect technology to be transparent today, and as engineers, it’s our job to deliver a great, easy experience. One thing that some companies overlook when adopting enterprise cloud storage is how much it will cost them to move data off that cloud when the time comes. Sometimes this can be very expensive, so doing your homework at the start can save you from surprises later.

Beyond user experience and planning, we need to look at how adopting the cloud can simplify things for our IT team as well. We’re working on a data mobility platform that makes it easy to migrate from servers to storage systems to the cloud. We’re initially working on this from an enterprise application perspective, but ultimately, the enterprise serves end customers.

MP: Over time, companies have spent a vast amount of money on infrastructure maintenance alone. How is cloud computing assisting in cutting cost while allowing for IT innovations?

SW: Cloud capacity is great for cost savings, but the even better thing about the cloud is that it’s easy for both IT and engineers to deploy and use. I love that it can help engineers get the resources they need to keep working on development of their ideas as fast as possible without having to wait for more local systems.

To support fast development and testing for engineers, you can add more cloud storage more quickly than buying more hardware when developers need to clone a database for testing. The clone doesn’t have to be on high performance storage, so the cloud is a good option to use when you need to test something quickly and inexpensively.

MP: In your opinion, what does the future hold for the industry of big data and cloud storage?  What should readers be looking out for in 2015?

SW: Ease of use and automation will be big trends for enterprise technology. We saw this in consumer technology, and it will soon come to enterprise technology too.

Flash made applications fast, and the cloud makes it easier to scale, but nothing ties these two tiers together yet. The missing link is the ability to manage an application’s evolving needs for more performance or capacity. And we’re just going to see more and more data generated as we start to adopt the Internet of Things.

More hardware isn’t the solution. We can solve data center complexity with smart software to make the entire system more efficient and effective. With smarter software adding bigger brains to the data center, systems become more intelligent and powerful. This makes things better for IT teams whether their applications are using resources on location or in the cloud.