We’ve all been talking about cloud computing for a good while, but now that conversation has dramatically changed. Cloud has transformed from “great and powerful Oz” status to “the technology behind the curtain.” Still very powerful, but not quite as mysterious.
“People are discovering that cloud can do a lot more than they initially thought. Early on, everyone recognized the innovation, but were concerned about security,” explained Ken Stephens, senior vice president of Xerox Cloud Services. “The moment that security question was answered, the conversation shifted from infrastructure to applications. Now, almost everyone is doing something in the cloud, and looking for ways to do more. But, it’s no longer just adding servers or spinning up test environments – cloud is delivering the fundamental tools a company needs to simplify business.”
As adoption rates increase, providers are churning out new, cloud-enabled as a Service (aaS) offerings every quarter. More apps, more enablement, more migrations.
“We’re really into ‘aaS 2.0.’ The emergence of Salesforce.com was the catalyst, the proof point of what could be enabled in this model,” explained Bennett Indart, vice president of Cloud Services for NTT DATA, Inc. “The next wave will focus on the platform environment – specifically, developing platform options for cloud deployment.”
More Extensions to the SaaS Platform
According to Indart, the same kind of transformation that occurred with larger, more horizontal applications in the 1990s is now happening in the cloud delivery model. He expects a lot more extensions to the aaS platform, more customization and more verticalization.
“Different types of companies need different specializations across their applications. For example, purchasing in manufacturing is different than purchasing in transportation; CRM is different in different industries,” Indart said. “To that end, we’re starting to see more extensive customization in the aaS model, and the creation of more vertical templates that sit on the platform.”
While much of the initial spotlight focused on new applications, companies are now taking a broader view.
“As cloud becomes more mainstream, companies are looking at ways to move their existing applications, like CRM, to the cloud and configure processes around that delivery mechanism,” Indart said.
As a result, he predicts a significant growth in consulting, particularly in the area of cloud application migration.
The Disaggregation of Horizontal Apps
Cloud computing is also prompting break-ups – namely, the disaggregation of large, complex enterprise applications.
One good example is the emergence of “Administrative ERP,” like Workday, an SaaS offering that focuses solely on the human capital management functions in traditional ERP, without supply chain management. According to Mike Poarch, director of BPO at OneSource Virtual, when it comes to governance and compliance, less is more.
“Traditional payroll and ERP systems are comprised of older technology, built on “stacks” that integrate with one another. That means something as basic as a compliance audit could take months because it required companies to piece together information from system to system,” Poarch explained. “With an Administrative ERP, by contrast, the technology is unified, so all the governance, risk and compliance data companies need resides in a single system of record.”
New Tools for Performance Monitoring
But, as thrilling as the availability of cloud-based applications is, or how many opportunities these applications bring, one looming question remains: How do you monitor application performance in the cloud environment?
Until recently, the only thing most cloud providers could tell you was that the VM was up and running. So, if you’re on the receiving end of a help desk when an app stops working, you have no visibility into why it’s not working. You don’t know if the application stalled in response to another application, a security problem or some other issue. And, that makes troubleshooting like finding a needle in a haystack.
According to Stephens of Xerox, all of that is about to change.
“We believe Application Performance Management as a Service will emerge as a high growth area, particularly as more applications migrate to the cloud,” Stephens said. “With this tool, IT teams can track any cloud application end-to-end to see how it performs. The icing is that that the monitoring capability itself is delivered in the aaS model, so it can be as scalable as the applications it supports.”
A Means for Integrating the Cloud with Life on Earth
But, monitoring the applications in cloud is only part of the challenge. By moving to cloud, companies gain agility but lose the tight integration that’s taken years – maybe decades – to build.
“Companies need integration between their on-premise and in-cloud apps, or they can’t fully embrace the aaS model,” Indart of NTT DATA, Inc. said. “That is where Integration Platform as a Service (IPaaS) comes into play. Ultimately, IPaaS provides the layer of technical requirements that enables companies to get the benefit of cloud without the siloes, both within the cloud and between the cloud and traditional delivery models.”
A number of players have entered the market, and Indart believes this area will grow substantially as companies find their places in the cloud.
The Democratization of Services
It is impossible to have a discussion about aaS or cloud adoption today without addressing the fundamental way these are changing the global business landscape.
“In the past, large companies could really only buy from large companies. With cloud, there is a democratization of services that broadens the competitive playing field for every type of corporation in practically every industry. So, this allows big companies to buy innovative new products from the smallest of companies. It’s an amazing time,” Stephens said. “It’s the Information Age on steroids.”
What do you think will be the next “aaS” sensation?