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The Cloud and Data Analytics Opportunity in Ireland.

ICT is a result of the natural evolution of a movement that began back in the ’80’s and ’90’s when companies like Apple, Intel, and HP came to Ireland to manufacture products to serve their European markets. What they found was a government that took great interest in their work and did whatever they could to facilitate it…a workforce well-trained in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics…and a mild climate that offered a major advantage in terms of the significant costs involved with cooling their data centres.

The Irish government itself recognizes the opportunity that cloud computing and data analytics represents and is becoming a user of the technology itself all the while partnering with the IT sector to facilitate its growth in Ireland. Ireland's colleges and universities are also working with cloud and big data businesses on a variety of initiatives while focusing their on-campus efforts on turning out graduates well trained in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths) and developing courses and formal degree programmes in cloud computing and data analytics.

As part of its “Programme for Government and Public Service Reform Plan,” Brendan Howlin, TD, minister of public expenditure and reform, recently published his Cloud Computing Strategy. Among other initiatives, it outlines how the Irish government will use cloud computing to revolutionize the way public services are delivered to citizens and introduces a plan to consolidate its computer and data centres from potentially hundreds to just 10 primary facilities.

In addition, EMC, which has been operating in Ireland since 1988 and already employs 2,500 people in the country, recently announced along with the Irish government, Cisco, VCE, VMware, plans to open a new cloud innovation centre.

Dubbed Cloud4Gov, the new centre will feature two world-class private cloud infrastructures that will perform a number of important roles. The first will be a testing and proving ground for apps targeted at the public sector, created by indigenous SMEs and multinational corporations. Secondly, it will be a place where public sector departments and agencies can test new cloud solutions without the threat of making expensive IT mistakes. The centre will also play a role in promoting Ireland’s leadership position in cloud computing and big data and provide entrepreneurs and start-ups opportunities to compete for government contracts on a level playing field with larger firms.

On the educational side, Cork Institute of Technology and EMC recently collaborated on the development of the world’s first suite of undergraduate- and masters-level degree programs in cloud computing. The one-year, add-on courses for computer science graduates aim to provide them with advanced conceptual understanding, detailed factual knowledge, and specialized technical skills required to hold such positions as “data scientist,” professionals tasked with understanding, forming, and executing useful strategies for volumes of data residing on corporate servers.

Meanwhile, University College Cork has partnered with Dell and VMware to open a cloud incubator for SMBs, a project aimed at helping SMBs realize the significant cost savings possible with cloud-based IT infrastructure. The UCC law faculty also recently hosted a cloud computing conference, which sought to explore the legal questions of cloud computing, such as cloud computing client contract issues, the regulatory balance between cloud provider and cloud client, and legal consequences for security breaches of data held in the cloud.

Indeed, there are many aspects of the cloud and big data, and all of this is merely a snapshot of Ireland’s rapidly growing involvement with it. As the U.S., China, and other traditional powers try play catch-up, Ireland has established a blistering pace in the race to become the “Silicon Valley” of the next great computing revolution.

Companies such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Accenture, D&B, Aon, Munich Re, Fidelity, IBM, HP, and Cisco have all opened data analytics or cloud computing research and development centres in Ireland.