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Monday, 20 February 2012 17:25

Altium cloud guru weighs his options

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The wholesale adoption of cloud based computing made listed technology company Altium's move from Sydney to Shanghai last year much simpler from a logistics point of view. In theory having the majority of systems in the cloud should also make the physical location of the company's chief information officer immaterial - but that's not proving the case in practice.

Alan Perkins, Altium's CIO and one of Australia's better known cloud computing enthusiasts, acknowledged that in theory adopting a cloud based solution should mean that it does not matter where a company's CIO is based. 'It shouldn't but it does,' he said, adding that Altium's CEO wanted him to relocate to Shanghai.

Most of the company's IT operations staff who had been based in Sydney have now left the company and Altium has rebuilt a team of around six people in China. Mr Perkins said that there were also two IT staff in the Netherlands, one in the US and there would be one IT person remaining in Sydney.

Mr Perkins however has been encouraged to move to Shanghai. He has resisted the move to date for personal reasons, but is now having to spend about two out of every four weeks in China. The monthly commute is 'onerous at this point,' he said.

Asked directly whether he planned to stay with the listed electronics design software company, Mr Perkins said that 'The reality is we will have to wait and see.' Should he decide to jump ship, his extensive cloud computing experience and skills are likely to be in high demand, with recent

Australian skills surveys pointing to cloud experience delivering up to 45 per cent salary premiums.

And Mr Perkins has cloud experience in spades. In 2006 he implemented the Salesforce cloud based customer relationship management tool, and also adopted the Force.com cloud as Altium's business platform.


Mr Perkins has also progressively migrated the bulk of Altium's administrative computer applications to the cloud over the last three years. Working with Brisbane based Google Apps reseller Devnet (which was last year acquired by Cloud Sherpas) Altium has moved email, word processing and calendar management to Google's cloud.

Today according to Mr Perkins the only core systems remaining on premise, are the version control system for the Altium source code and Altium's build and test platform. Mr Perkins said that the hardware required for those systems was very specific, even 'exotic' and not generally available in cloud form.

A cloud convert Mr Perkins said that in his experience although data sovereignty, privacy and systems security were all important issues when companies were considering cloud computing, they were too often seized as an excuse not to innovate. In practice Mr Perkins said that cloud computing proved very compelling when people took the plunge.

As to the limitations of some cloud based apps, which are often vanilla flavoured, one-size-fits-all, Mr Perkins said that there were still some situations which called for fuller functioned applications, but that in most cases cloud based apps provided sufficient functionality, and added collaborative capabilities not possible on standalone applications.

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