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Cloud City: Local tech firms building world's biggest 'cloud' cluster


Read the full article at Puget Sound Business Journal.

In October 2008, Microsoft launched an AWS competitor, Azure, which it initially pegged as an operating system in the cloud. That was a difficult sell at first, as Microsoft’s biggest customers — large companies — weren’t ready to shift all of their applications to the public cloud, a place they perceived as fraught with security issues.

But now, cloud infrastructure has been shown to be quite secure, and the cost savings are proving irresistible. Large companies are moving hundreds of previously in-house applications to public clouds, and there’s a whole cadre of new companies lining up to help them. Many of those companies are based in the Seattle area so they can be close to the infrastructure companies with which they’re partnering.

“We’ve grown our R&D team about 300 percent in the last year and a half,” said Adriaan Van Wyk, co-founder and CEO of Bellevue-based K2, a company that started out in South Africa helping its clients customize applications on their local servers. But when the cloud started taking off, K2 moved its headquarters to Bellevue and built its system to work on AWS, Azure and other cloud infrastructure. Recently, K2 has zeroed in on Azure because it sees a huge opportunity for Microsoft’s cloud services to take off. The fact that Microsoft just promoted its head of cloud and enterprise services, Satya Nadella, to CEO is evidence that Microsoft sees Azure as a big market opportunity.

One-stop cloud shop

Most of K2’s customers don’t need to know — don’t even want to know — whether it’s Amazon or Azure running in the background. They just want their applications to work. Building a system that could run on anyone’s backbone was just smart business, Van Wyk said.

“There’s an element of risk if you lock yourself too deeply in with any one vendor,” he said.

Having multiple vendors and many different cloud service companies in the Seattle region means that the world’s biggest companies see Seattle as a one-stop cloud shop.