Cloud computing and SaaS have gained considerable momentum over the last few years. Although companies are adopting cloud and SaaS technology, there is great confusion over the applications in which cloud can serve an organization. Organizations are left with endless questions about security, infrastructure options, scalability, administration and business agility.
While application programming interfaces (APIs) have improved from many vendors, going cloud does not eliminate the need for integration and/or middleware. Some smart platform-as-a-service (PaaS) vendors have architected middleware right into their technology stack. This gives the organization a more robust cloud platform in which to architect an enterprise application strategy.
Cloud and SaaS can play an important part of the organizational IT strategy, especially for mid-sized companies that are strapped for resources. The secret of implementing the correct software or technology solution is always to ask what this can do for the organization. A few questions to begin designing your enterprise application strategy include: Will this assist us in facilitating growth? What are my organizational needs, now and in the future? Is it scalable? Should we use full cloud? Can we supplement our existing systems by using the cloud? Can we use the cloud to unify disparate systems? Can we sustain this solution and maintain it?
Cloud does not necessarily complicate your enterprise app strategy. In fact, it can aid in quickly constructing a scalable, agile business infrastructure to adapt to your quickly changing business requirements. While it is convenient for organizations to select one vendor on which to base their infrastructure strategy, collaboration in the cloud ecosystem is rapidly changing. Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) firms are partnering with PaaS and consequently adding complimentary applications (SaaS) to offer a complete infrastructure strategy framework for organizations.
In the case of best of breed vs. integrated suite, the landscape has changed so much and so rapidly that it really boils down to what the objectives of the organization are. Our customers are using cloud to quickly add functionality, scale or unite their systems. We have several dozen posts on how to unify disparate systems, how companies are using cloud, cloud/SaaS software evaluation etc. If an organization selects a vendor that offers IaaS, PaaS and SaaS, it does simplify the infrastructure application strategy equation. The cloud technology stack can be a combination of SOA and other methods as outlined recently on our blog and ERP Cloud/SaaS Research buyers guide.
Organizations must exercise caution as to how they configure their enterprise application strategy whether it is on-premise, cloud (private or public) or a combination, and what kind of business agility it offers. Cloud has definitely opened an opportunity for more organizations as an easy point of entry but the advice for enterprise infrastructure strategy should be taken seriously as it will affect the ability of your organization to run effectively. Thoroughly investigate the expertise of your providers and make sure they have your best interests at heart. An impartial firm that does not sell or implement software is probably the best bet to succeed as they will define, aggregate and configure your organizational objectives to best fit your requirements.
Dylan Persaud is Managing Director of Eval-Source, an analyst/consulting firm that offers enterprise software evaluation, cloud computing consulting, business process optimization and technology planning for organizations. He will be contributing regularly to IW's Technology newsletter.