|Issue:||Europe II 2010|
|Topic:||Top things you should consider when selecting a cloud application|
|Title:||Vice President Cloud Computing|
Tom Fisher is Vice President of Cloud Computing at Success Factors. Mr Fisher most recently served as CIO and Senior VP of Engineering at DriveCam, and previously was VP of IT for Qualcomm CDMA Technologies Group. Prior to joining Qualcomm, Mr Fisher was VP for architecture and technology strategy and acting CTO at eBay. Mr Fisher has also worked as a senior executive in technology strategy, business development and M&A for a variety of software and technology companies including Gateway, IBM, KnowledgeWare, Exactium and Seer Technologies. Tom Fisher graduated summa cum laude from the University of North Carolina – Charlotte.
The cloud can be ideal for business applications. Not only can the overall total cost of ownership be dramatically less than a comparable on-premise solution but the cloud can also free up management resources to focus on specific business challenges. However, close attention needs to be paid to security considerations and best practices in application design. Key success factors when selecting cloud service providers include regular innovation cycles, the availability of integrated solutions, and the presence of relevant technical expertise.
The cloud is the ideal place for business applications. Vertically integrated suppliers of cloud applications enable the business executive and the chief information officer (CIO) to get major business capability and benefit in record time, at a low cost. There are no infrastructure set up costs, no software expenditures up front and no major expenditure on professional services. Cost savings include the elimination of the dreaded capital expenditure request typically required when installing an on-premise solution. The overall total cost of ownership for the cloud is dramatically less than a comparable on-premise solution. Cost reductions are reflected in both the ‘up-front’ costs typically found in an on-premise solution (buying the software, buying the hardware, getting the network infrastructure in place, adding systems management monitoring to the application, adding staff to manage the application in production, etc.) and the ongoing costs of the application – the cloud application’s annual subscription cost is often dramatically less than the annual maintenance cost of an on-premise solution. The dramatically improved process of releasing software in the cloud and the improved patch management makes for higher service levels for functional delivery, as well as the standard metrics of uptime and availability which are usually more in line with customer expectations. Applications, delivered via the cloud, have other benefits including freeing up one of management’s most capable technical resources, the CIO, to focus on specific business challenges rather than building core competencies in isolated applications that have long been built and delivered by industry organizations. Security continues to be a major consideration During the due diligence of a cloud-provisioned application or a cloud-infrastructure provider the CIO and their team should concentrate on security considerations. However, as many CIOs have found, the infrastructure, tools and technologies that are leveraged by cloud application providers are very similar to the environments they manage already. This has the net effect of increasing the overall comfort level of the operations teams when they allocate cloud resources for their own environments. Don’t let that be the end of security due diligence though – you need to focus on the built-in application security. It is important to ensure that customers are protected from a range of new challenges introduced by the complexity associated with the wide variety of roles and permissions typically found in any business application. In the cloud these enhanced roles may allow a user to perform tasks that could endanger the data contained within the application. Make sure that the application you select is truly designed for the cloud Cloud applications should be built on a common architecture platform built around multi-tenancy. However, just like everything in IT there are best practices even in emerging technology areas such as the cloud. Key considerations for enterprise cloud application buyers include the ability for customers to work within a standard data schema, but still have considerable flexibility to add or extend application functionality without the risk of losing or overlaying critical data. Innovate or die! In the cloud the cost of switching is far less than in the on-premise world. The reality is that switching is always hard – there are new user interfaces to be learned and different use cases that need to be defined and supported. However, the notion of moving from one application to a competitor changes the nature of our business and enforces the ‘innovate or die’ mindset. If you don’t innovate regularly you will lose your customer base in the cloud. The successful provider of cloud applications will understand this well and adhere to this brave new world. Releasing software, on a regular basis, that provides the greatest business benefit with the least amount of impact to customers is a key to success. Integrated/organically developed software suites are much better in the cloud A crucial consideration for the CIO or the business person is the requirement for an integrated solution. Too often, in the cloud, the assumption is that a ‘best of breed’ approach will work. The reality is that the ‘best of breed’ approach has limitations – the integration required between applications can quickly put you back into the business of buying lots of different applications. You should look for a provider that delivers much of the application themselves – including components you may not be considering for several years out. This ensures that you will be able to grow the software with you as you decide. And don’t forget about the people! The cloud is relatively new and depends heavily on the availability of technical expertise to make the experience as rich and as risk free as possible. It’s critically important to make sure that, when considering a cloud provider or enterprise cloud application, you ensure that the team driving your requirements has the depth to be able to meet your needs.