by Chris Curran, Nalneesh Gaur and Rob Warren
In distilling perspectives from our clients for two upcoming events on cloud computing (Diamond Exchange, InfoWorld), we have developed an informal categorization that captures where companies are in adopting public cloud computing offerings. “Not Interested/Not Applicable” could have been an option for our list but we don’t know anyone not at least looking into applying the cloud.
Our clients fall into one of six categories in their cloud exploration and adoption:
- Surveying the market
- Using an off-the-shelf cloud service or app
- Using a customized version of off-the-shelf cloud app or service
- Developing/developed a custom app on a cloud platform
- Integrating cloud app with in-house app
- Multiple cloud apps integrated with multiple in-house apps
Surveying the Market
Several companies are still learning and evaluating. There are three example companies we are working with who fall in this category. A financial services company who deals in very small and very high-speed transactions isn’t convinced that any cloud players can provide the processing horsepower within their SLAs and security constraints, but they continue to survey the market. Maybe a less mission-critical application will be more appropriate? An industrial products company we work with tends to move in a more measured way when evaluating new technologies and approaches and are, in that vein, just taking their time. Finally, one of our clients is a managed IT services vendor and is interested in moving some of their in-house help desk apps into the cloud for their clients and maybe as a more general offering – still evaluating though.
Off-the-Shelf Cloud Service
All of the users of vanilla Salesforce.com, Google’s Docs and Mail services, multi-media hosting, cloud-based backups and the host of others fall in here. (Un)fortunately, these services are so easy to buy and use, some corporate users are buying directly instead of through more formal channels (procurement, IT, etc.). To combat this, one of our clients is establishing blacklists on their perimeter to clamp down on unapproved usage.
Customized Cloud Application
This takes the vanilla cloud app a major step further in that the organization must commit some resources to learning the cloud provider’s development tools, languages and quirks. Beware of vendor lock in due to proprietary development tools, APIs and runtime environments. Several companies who use Salesforce.com have added custom functions and extensions to the core system using Force.com’s visualforce, application frameworks and APIs.
Custom Application on Cloud Platform
Instead of using an off-the-shelf business application, some organizations are using cloud based application development platforms like Amazon’s EC2, Google’s Python environment of 3tera. Because Infrastructure clouds are agnostic to deployment platforms, they offer more freedom for building and deploying applications. These all have some limitations – few choices of tools and languages, limited data storage and movement options – but are great for quick and cheap prototyping, especially for web2.0 apps.
One of our transportation and logistics clients is evaluating Force.com and Google’s platform to serve as a basis for a re-write of their core legacy systems that are barely supportable and can’t scale fast enough to support aggressive geographic expansion.
Cloud – In-House Integration
A consumer products client prides itself on its efficient outsourced infrastructure. They, too, are a Salesforce.com customer and use a few other cloud apps to gather customer information and managed on-line communities. Their challenge is that no cloud providers seem to want to take responsibility for integrating the customer data across these apps. So, they feel forced to create an in-house data store to merge and eventually analyze their customer information. We believe that integration services – both message passing and database integration and hosting – is a huge opportunity for cloud providers. Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) offers such integration capabilities, but some of our clients have found it to be limiting in terms of number of queues, messages, and message size and have resorted to in-house application integration solutions.
Diamond has also used this approach internally to create a custom Salesforce.com instance integrated with our Peoplesoft financials and some other in-house databases.
Heterogeneous Cloud Architecture
One of our health care clients has begun the process of moving their internal and partner user identity management functions to the cloud. When they are done, all of their major applications will utilize cloud-based services to authenticate their users. A user’s identity created in this manner becomes fungible across multiple organization as more partners participate in the identity network (which of course adds a whole new set of issues).
It seems like everyone is at least considering the cloud. We think there are significant benefits in having someone else build and maintain application software and the underlying hardware and software platforms and bill it per use. What were are still unsure about is whether anyone has a turnkey service that handles the “whole project” – transition, integration, process redesign, procurement enhancements, etc.
Interested in your thoughts and experiences. What have we missed?
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