Cloud Computing Pioneer Victoria Livschitz: The Cloud is the ‘New Reality’

Business on a laptop

Victoria Livschitz immigrated to the U.S. from the Soviet Union in March 1991 along with her husband and infant daughter with $500, a few clothes and hope for a better future. All the political refugees knew about their new home city of Cleveland was that they had relatives there and that it was home to an orchestra.

They had no U.S. work experience, and jobs were hard to find in 1991. Livcschitz’s husband delivered pizza and she worked at a dry cleaners. Soon, they began giving chess lessons and Victoria played in a chess exhibition. Her skill caught the attention of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which wrote up a story on her chess prowess and eventually the Livschitzs opened up a chess academy. They used the money generated from the academy and tutoring lessons to finish college. While Victoria was finishing her bachelor’s of science degree at Case Western Reserve University, she began to develop an interest in technology and computer programming, taking computer jobs where she could find them.

Although it was assumed Victoria would follow family tradition and enter academia with a focus on math, she had different plans: She wanted to be a technologist, writing software and programs.

“I figured, ‘well, maybe I’ll do something more pragmatic – maybe I’ll do programming,” she said. “I fell in love with computers anyway. It ended up being a much better choice.”

Now, 20 years later, Livschitz is considered a pioneer in the cloud computing field, running her own international consulting company called Grid Dynamics, which uses the latest advances in grid and cloud computing to help companies ranging from the likes of Microsoft (NADAQ:MSFT) and eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), to other marquis technology providers turn monolithic applications into scalable services, and turning underutilized server clusters into virtualized compute clouds.

Grid Dyanmics has helped some major cloud operations go to market, but according to Livschitz, this technology is just getting started.

Where the Cloud Trend Began

Just like the electric utility grid changed how and where businesses locate and conduct business, the cloud is also changing work flow. Companies now don’t have to build their own email servers or human resources systems; instead, they get those services from cloud providers.

“What’s happening to the generation of power a century ago is now happening to the processing of information,” writes Nicholas Carr, author of “The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, From Edison to Google,” considered to be one of the most influential books on cloud computing. “Private computer systems, built and operated by individual companies, are being supplanted by services provided over a common grid – the Internet – by centralized data-processing plants. Computing is turning into utility, and once again, the economic equations that determine the way we work and live are being rewritten.”

Livschitz spotted the trend toward the concept of cloud computing early on. After a four-year management program at Ford, she joined Sun Microsystems in December 1997. From December 1997 through August 2006, Livschitz was the principal technology architect for Sun, pioneering the use of Java in factory automation, designing the industry's first real-time fraud detection system and creating the first utility-computing product for software developers.  While at Sun, Livschitz also helped build GM’s Internet, core systems and other technological designs to help that company modernize their computer systems and manage real-time production processes at the plant. She worked with Wall Street firms and the New York Stock Exchange to use next-generation technology, horizontal computing and other methods that allow companies to do processes that used to take days – nights, rather, since the work then could only be completed while customers slept – in real time, anytime.

The last project Livschitz worked on at Sun was the Sun Grid, a commercial cloud offering. But few had heard of the cloud back then. The basic principles of computing on demand - how somebody puts up and operates the cloud as a utility to others who can just use it - “all that was on the drawing board and being implemented” at Sun, Livschitz said. She knew cloud computing was the next “big thing” – the next generation of Internet for infrastructure services“It was going to be a gigantic transformation and incredibly exciting.”

“The notion of the network … the big invention of the ‘80s, which later grew into the Internet … started to morph into something else.” Technology was now able to not just create networks of devices or linked devices, but linking people – what is now known as social networking.

That process was called Web 2.0. Instead of every company owning their own data centers and other back-end devices, users should be users and suppliers should be suppliers.

Livschitz left Sun and, in October 2006, started Grid Dynamics to further explore this new technology on her own terms.

“What really excited me was to create a company … that would be hired by customers to build the next generation of software products and platforms that would be cloud-enabled and cloud-based.”

Trends in cloud technology now include more of a focus on data rather than processing – the creation and mining of data, the formation of new business intelligence that can now sit on data sources the size of Google, and how to make sense of them.  Trends also point to more of a focus on analytics, which shed light on peoples’ buying trends and preferences to boost sales—every small business owner’s dream.

And Livschitz sees this technology becoming even more pervasive.

“Cloud computing is not something you consciously encounter and say ‘ahhh, there it is.’ It’s about the way you structure the plumbing  … it’s an economic model in many ways. “

For end users, it increasingly means they can more frequently and easily get the capabilities they need through the Internet. Owning and managing the cloud will be relegated to a small number of service companies that can add value to products. It will liberate companies of all sizes from having to focus as much on managing their IT, so they can instead focus more on their core business. There will be a lower barrier of entry to start a business, since companies won’t have to put up as much money to invest in IT infrastructure.

For example, a doctor running his or her own practice needs to keep track of patients, their medical histories, and other vital information. Before doling out prescriptions, the doctor can run a drug interaction algorithm to find out what could happen if a certain drug is prescribed – adverse interactions with other drugs, etc… Since most doctors’ offices just have basic record-keeping programs, as cloud computing becomes more prolific, all they will need is a web browser – it can be on their desk top, iPad, or other devices – and use a record system kept by someone else on the cloud.

“All the technology is packaged … all you have to do to run your business is to open a web account,” Livschitz explained.

“It’s very much an eco-system play. …I think it’s just a new era, a new paradigm, new reality, which is nothing but good news for everybody involved.”