In the cloud computing space-arguably the hottest trend of 2009 and 2010-the CTO is the famed Man Behind the Curtain, pulling the strings and making sure everything goes without a hitch. Such responsibility is enormous. CTOs oversee million-dollar budgets, creating a class of 'super buyers' in the IT ecosystem that can dramatically affect the fortunes of any vendor. The trick is knowing what the CTO needs and delivering with no muss or fuss.
The broad spectrum of possibilities for cloud computing make it prime territory for technology vendors, and CTOs are the gatekeepers for those cloud computing companies.
Take Werner Vogels of Amazon, the largest cloud computing company in the world. As CTO, Vogels has unique insight into what users are looking for in cloud computing, what they're using cloud computing for, and what technologies are needed for Amazon to meet users' needs. During the Supernova conference in San Francisco last month, Vogels noted that a growing number of users are using Amazon Web Services for disaster recovery-a trend that he believes will continue and will take its place alongside the more 'traditional' cloud computing usage such as infinitely scalable networking and data warehousing. That means vendors in the disaster recovery/business continuity space have an ecosystem that is potentially infinite in its own right. And Vogels is the man to know at Amazon.
AT&T's CTO, John Donovan, is another example of someone to know. The company's Synaptic Hosting is an application-hosting service that offers pay-as-you-go access to virtual servers and storage along with security and networking functions. AT&T entered the cloud computing space with its purchase of application service provider USinternetworking in 2006 and has leveraged its scale and breadth to land customers that include the U.S. Olympic Committee. Keeping such a massive infrastructure running smoothly is just part of Donovan's job.
For vendors who want to make inroads in serving the cloud computing space, forget the CEO or president or even CIO. The CTO holds the fate of a vendor's ultimate success or failure.