Posts Tagged ‘ SaaS ’

Intriguing Cloud Computing Statistics

If you remain skeptical about cloud computing, the following stats may put any lingering confusion to rest:

  • CRN predicts that by 2014 small business spending on cloud computing will reach nearly $100 billion.
  • IDC approximates that the market for public cloud products and services are at $16B in 2010 and will expand to $56B by 2014.
  • An estimation by Gartner places the cloud market at $150B by 2013, while Merrill Lynch places it at $160B by 2012.
  • SandHill recently conducted a survey of 500 IT decision-makers and when asked to name their primary reason for adopting cloud applications, 50% of the respondents cited business agility.
  • Enterprise applications will need to adapt to the rapid growth of mobile and social computing, which is unprecedented in the history of technology.
  • According to an estimation made by Gartner, the rapid growth of virtualization will mean that 60% of server workloads will be virtualized by 60%.
  • Although public cloud infrastructure, applications and platforms are growing at 25%, IDC estimates that the market for enterprise servers will increase two-fold by 2013.
  • A recent survey revealed that every enterprise was using a SaaS application, while less than 25% of IT departments were aware that they were using one.
To learn more about cloud computing and how it can benefit your organization, contact Nubifer today.

How Cloud Computing Could Change the Role of the CIO

Cloud computing is at the top of conference agendas and a common buzz word online, so it should come as no surprise that it is also on the minds of many IT executives. And as more and more enterprise IT departments move to the cloud, many are beginning to wonder how this will affect the traditional role of the CIO.

The role of the CIO will change if the IT department shifts from a service provider to a utility model, with usage-based metering. This will result in a shift in core tasks from developing applications and user interfaces and result in a new set of tasks involving the definition of service-level agreements, selecting cloud management tools and understanding customer service. The role of the CIO could shift to become more like an independent business manager running a public service.

Usage-Based
The CIO used to be involved in strategic technology planning for the organization and was likely making strategic decisions, such as when to upgrade Microsoft Office and Windows and which strategic vendor to use for hardware. But this changes when an organization implements a cloud architecture, as new tasks and skills come into play. Some of the traditional roles of the CIO remain, while the CIO is also required to play a new role as a cloud manager. This requires providing the tools and computing power to meet the changing needs of users in a quicker, more efficient manner. This may also include setting up a private cloud, in which users have access to consistent, repeatable services from a services portal available via standard Internet protocols.

Earlier this year, an InformationWeek article revealed that a survey of IT executives found that, when stating the top reasons for moving to cloud computing, cutting costs was nearly just as important to respondents as faster response to end users. The same survey found that although 58 percent of respondents were making the move to the cloud, most were taking a slow approach to do so.

The Future Lies in the Cloud
With that said, a Mashable post citing a different cloud computing survey predicts that by 2011, a vast majority of computing will take place in the cloud. Although this survey seemed to focus more on the consumer side of things, most IT executives see a future in the cloud. The CIO job will adapt and change as this transition occurs, and will function more as a logistical manager.

As cloud services move outside the firewall, understanding how the vendor is providing the services your company needs will become increasingly important. As will understanding that your company’s information is safe and secure wherever it is stored.

To learn more about the cloud, and how it can help your organization, contact Nubifer today.

Cloud Computing: A Guide for Small Businesses

Cloud computing is all the rage these days, being generally described as a computing model in which services and storage are provided online When small business owners or new software companies refer to cloud computing, they most often mean an application that runs on the Internet; as opposed to operating from a desktop that is connected to the Internet—Software as a Service (SaaS). 

Everything from phone services to marketing operations has a cloud based solution. Oftentimes, you are using SaaS without even realizing it. For example, your email provider is likely delivering service from the cloud, without on-premise hardware and software.

The following is a guide of different factors to consider when deciding to adopt a cloud solution for your business.

The growth of cloud computing is astonishing.
The worldwide cloud computing market is estimated at $8 billion, with the U.S. market accounting for $3.2 billion of that sum, or 40%. Gartner’s 2011 predictions place Cloud Computing at the top of their list of Top Strategic Technologies. Additionally, Gartner predicts that the SaaS market will reach $14 billion in 2013.

Says Gartner, “Cloud computing services exist along a spectrum from open public to closed private. The next three years will see the delivery of a range of cloud service approaches that fall between these two extremes. Vendors will offers packaged private cloud implementations that deliver the vendor’s public cloud service technologies (software and/or hardware) and methodologies (i.e., best practices to build and run the service) in a form that can be implemented inside the consumer’s enterprise. Many will also offer management services to remotely manage the cloud service implementation.”

A recent study conducted by AMI-Partners revealed: “Small and medium business (SMB) spending in the U.S. on software-as-service (SaaS) will increase exponentially over the next five years, eclipsing growth in investments in on-premise software by a significant margin. AMI forecasts growth in investments in on-premise software by a significant margin. AMI forecasts a 25% CAGR in hosted business application services spending through 2014. This will come against a modest 5% uptick for all other categories of on-premise software combined. However, this growth will not be uniformly spread across all hosted applications. Mature applications such as ERP, SCM, procurement, finance, and core HR will turn over more slowly than those that are less saturated and have lower switching costs.”

Cloud computing software solutions vs. desktop applications.
Small businesses choose cloud computing solutions over desktop applications because it is less expensive. You pay a small monthly amount rather than a one-time fee, like with traditional desktop software.

Another reason small businesses choose cloud computing solutions is that the SaaS application is often a simplified version of what you are currently using, which is installed on your machine. The developers of many cloud computing apps have created just the basics required to get the job done.

One of the market leaders in the cloud computing industry, Salesforce.com, has over 52,000 customers in 2009 while hosting provider Rackspace has over 1,000 SaaS apps in its new AppMatcher.com service.

Cloud computing solutions are available whenever you want, wherever you are.
The application often needs to be accessible from a web browser for many small business users operating virtual offices or operating remotely on different machines depending on location. Cloud computing is available wherever you have access to a computer and browser, and that is one of its biggest advantages.

If you aren’t connected and operating your laptop offline, many apps have either a mobile app or a widget that you can download to run a lighter version of the software. Some Google Apps, for example, offer a desktop version called Google Gears, which will sync your data when you’re back online. Google Apps has over two million businesses and 25 million users in its cloud computing marketplace.

Simple, focused cloud computing solutions can often get the job done.
If you don’t use all of the features of your desktop, a cloud computing application might offer a “forever free” plan, which will allow you to do the same work as a desktop application, but limited in some way. A billing solution might let you run an unlimited number of voices, for example, but only for two separate clients.

With that said, all apps that live in the cloud are not more basic than their desktop equivalents, but rather they offer a paired down basic package that can help you complete the task at hand when you don’t require the feature-risk version. Zoho, for example, offers a simple bookkeeping app that is free. You can also integrate it with other financial SaaS apps to do more, or purchase the more feature-rich SaaS version.

Pay attention to the security of your data.
It is important to remember that you are still responsible for making sure data is where it needs to be—onsite or in a cloud. Your cloud computing vendor isn’t responsible for your data, security or data privacy. They may promise certain aspects of security, but your are responsible if regulators come calling if you are a financial institution, for example. It is important to make sure you aren’t violating any compliance concerns and that your data is safe.

A May 2010 ‘USA Today’ article told the story of a small business owner whose store was robbed. Eight desktops were stolen. They purchased eight new computers and were back in business in no time thanks to cloud services, like Salesforce.com, Microsoft Office 365 and QuickBooks Online.

Choose a stable and reliable cloud computing vendor.
It is important to ask questions like, What type of Service Level Agreement (SLA) do they have? How long have they been in business? Can you talk to users directly? How many customers do they have? It is often possible to read testimonials and get good information, and if the testimonials are real, they will often link to the person who made the comment. You can also do a search on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Consider the uptime of your cloud computing applications.
Uptime refers to the time a hosted application’s performance record and most are in the range of 98-99.9%–which acknowledges that servers go down for maintenance or unexpected issues. Make sure to read SLAs carefully and talk about changing terms with the vendor if you have to.

Pay attention to customer support.
Be sure to check if there is an extra charge for support and maintenance or if it is included in your monthly subscription fee. While it is often included, it important to read the fine print to check and also to see if you have access to a customer support team via phone, email or social media.

Choose a flexible cloud computing vendor.
Your monthly frees are usually dependent on how many users you have and you can add and subtract users as needed. Your capital outlay to “purchase” cloud based apps is often lower than traditional on-premise or desktop apps. Cloud computing is one streamlined way to scale with your needs.

Evaluate your requirement for software upgrades.
Cloud computing apps are regularly improved and upgraded, and you benefit from each and every improvement without additional direct cost and without the effort and time of downloading and configuring upgrades. Enhancements often happen more quickly and in shorter development cycles, often based on customer requests.

Make sure your cloud solutions integrate well.
Cloud computing might just be for you if your need involves some type of integration, as many of the current cloud based apps offer an API (application programming interface) which other synergistic apps will leverage. You might find an accounting package, for example, that ties into a CRM package. You would have to pay someone to customize both apps for you if you wanted to do this with your current desktop application. A web-based app would save you time and money and might have already done it for you.

You can look into an offering like CastIron (recently acquired by IBM) if integration is your concern, as it “pre-configures a number of apps” so that you can connect to the solutions you are using already.

Cloud computing offers a distinct advantage if rapid deployment is integral to your project, as many cloud computing projects are up and running in hours—sometimes in minutes. Although you may not get every feature set configured to your need, you can start working right our of the gate oftentimes. If the provider you evaluate has an API connected to another application you need, it may offer advantages over a desktop application—which will require more money to customize later.

Cloud computing isn’t always the least exciting solution.
Cloud computing may be the perfect option if cash-flow is an issue. While on-premise software purchases often involve high upfront licensing costs, cloud computing apps often require no large up-front licensing fees requiring department or board approval. There are usually no annual maintenance fees either.

On a website pricing page, SaaS pricing is often clear, and if a cloud computing app vendor requires a demo or doesn’t reveal its pricing, it usually means that there is a more complicated solution that demands some installation process or customization that will cost more upfront.

Pay attention to how quickly your software needs to change.
User are often forced to choose between a.) Upgrading at a high cost and experiencing delays as the new features are evaluated and plans for adoption are formulated, and hire or enlist local IT talent to develop, test, debug, deploy and train personnel on the new application, or b.) Continue using the older version of the software and avoid advantages of an upgraded version when an application packages requires an upgrade.

You are left waiting for software changes to be made by the software company in both cases, but with the cloud computing model, you will see those upgrades sooner than with a desktop application. The vendor applies upgrades at the data center and the upgrades are made available to users immediately via online connection and there are only minor delays—they also come at no cost to the user.

Remember: your monthly fee covers the upgrades so make sure to compare this when you need to consider this. If you upgrade each year, than the monthly outlay may be lower from a total cost perspective over time, while with a desktop application you are waiting until the next—often annual—release.

Many goals can be accomplished without all of the bells and whistles.
Because they are often focused on a particular area or business niche, cloud based applications can be less robust. While it can be argued that you have to operate your business—from a software perspective—using the Pareto Principle in which 80% of the effects come from 20% of the solution, this isn’t entirely accurate because most desktop users routinely admit that they don’t use all of the features of a desktop application. This partly explains how many cloud based applications get developed—they look at core problems rather than a large feature set that most users won’t even try.

If the cloud computing application lacks some of the features you need, you can add features via customization or premium levels of vendor service. Each application provider is different, but most offer extensive interface capability, usually via Web services that integrate both internal and hosted systems.

A common myth is that cloud computing software doesn’t play well with legacy applications/data sources, but there are two primary methods of integrating cloud computing apps: batch synchronization (which initially involved exporting/importing your data into a cloud based applications, after which your data can be incrementally synchronized on a scheduled basis) and real-time integration via Web services (which is like a neural middle layer where your application talks to the cloud computing company).

It is important to note that you have to evaluate the implications and limitations of cloud computing software for your needs. Some gaps remain for complex end-to-end processes that require complicated workflows or business processes.

Engage your technical team.
It is important to keep lead technical people in the loop for security and integration issues for a number of reasons. If you are a business owner and are unsure about what information you are sharing, you could be sending information out that onsite applications need or you could even be putting corporate information at risk.

Applications and services are now easily accessible to end-users, who can acquire SaaS capabilities without input from their IT or data management teams, which is a major challenge with cloud computing. Other related issues like data replication, outages and the complications of outsourced data storage can complicate cloud integrations. And if your tech team isn’t aware that your are running certain cloud based apps, you could create  challenge in multiple functional areas.

Good cloud computing companies have built their web apps on a Web-services based architecture because it is less proprietary and easier for these apps to share data with one another. These standards make it easier for companies to integrate services, but they can inadvertently create security problems by making a hacker’s job easy if the proper security isn’t in place.

Internal training is still required.
Most SaaS vendors provide online video tutorials in addition to robust user communities and forums where you can get your questions answered. This makes cloud applications easier to use with less training involved. Direct access to these teams means less of a burden on your own internal technical teams.

Conclusion
Cloud computing is drastically shaping the current small business market and if you are trying to grow your business and are limited by cash flow, cloud computing is an attractive option. The addition of Smartphones and other mobile technologies—aka mobile computing—makes for a dwindling audience for on-premise applications. The previously listed 16 things to consider before choosing cloud computing solutions will help give you a new outlook on how to get work done and solve problems.

For more information on how cloud computing can help your small business contact a Nubifer representative today.

IBM’s Tivoli Live

IBM recently announced a new addition to its SaaS portfolio, IBM Tivoli Live – Service Manager, which provides integrated service management capabilities as a monthly subscription on IBM’s cloud platform. Along with IBM Tivoli Live – Monitoring Services, Tivoli Live solutions allow organizations to quickly adopt and deploy key ITIL processes and combine them with performance and availability monitoring, all under a common subscription and delivery model. There is no need to purchase hardware, software licenses or installation services. 

Both solutions are based on a common platform and architecture that many IBM clients use today as on-premise software. Customers are not locked into a single consumption model and in fact can choose from an array of flexible delivery options including on-premise software, SaaS, appliances and managed help desk services. Now, organizations large and small can take advantage of enterprise-class software and easily migrate from one model to another based on their business needs.

For small and medium-sized businesses without large IT departments, this service provides a quick, and practical path towards improving IT performance. For larger organizations, this service can complement existing IT management infrastructure, helping organizations better manage their costs and standardize IT operations.

Tivoli Live – Service Manager offers a comprehensive set of capabilities for implementing problem, incident, change, release and asset management processes, leveraging a common data model and a robust change management database. Customers have the flexibility to purchase any of these capabilities through our unique role based user pricing.

Tivoli Live – Monitoring Services delivers Tivoli Monitoring and Tivoli Composite Application Management software over the Web, which allow customers to manage the health and performance of their data center’s resources – including operating systems, virtualized servers, middleware and applications.

For more information on IBM’s Cloud Services, visit Nubifer.com.

DoD Business Applications and the Cloud

The current cloud spending is less than 5% of total IT spending, but with an optimistic 25% growth rate, cloud computing is poised to become one of the dominant types for organizing information systems—which is why it is important for the Department of Defense Business Mission to begin organizing the path to cloud operations in order to migrate from its current low performance/high cost environment. 

The DoD Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 IT cost of the Business Mission—excluding payroll costs for uniformed and civilian personnel—is $5.2 billion, in addition to 1/3 of the costs of the communications and computing infrastructure tacking on an additional $5.4 billion to total costs.

The average IT budgets of the largest US corporate organizations are exceeded by the scope of DoD Business Applications by a multiple of three. As a result, DoD Business Operations need to think about its future IT directions as operating a secure and private cloud that is managed organically by the DoD Business Mission in order to squeeze the cost benefits out of the cloud.

There are many forms of cloud computing, ranging from Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), but when it comes to the Department of Defense, offerings that can offer support of over 2,000 applications need apply. Business Operations cannot be linked to “public” clouds that are proprietary.

The DoD, for example, can’t rely on the largest cloud service like the Amazon Elastic Cloud, which offers computing capacity completely managed by the customer and is thus a “public cloud.” Because compute processing is purchased on demand, Amazon is an IaaS service. Once your applications are placed in the proprietary Amazon cloud, however, it is difficult to transfer the workload into a different environment.

Google, however, offers a PaaS service as a public cloud (read: accessible to all) via the Google App Engine. Google allows developers to build, host and run web applications on Google’s mature infrastructure with its own operating system; Google only provides a few Google-managed applications.

Salesforce.com’s enterprise level computing currently operates at $1.4 billion revenue rate per year, with 2 million subscribers signed up for SaaS application services running in a proprietary PaaS environment. Because Salesforce offers only proprietary solutions and can’t be considered by DoD, although Salesforce’s recent partnership with VMware might change all that.

Other cloud providers offer IaaS services, but they all leave it to customers to manage their own applications; they qualify for DoD applications provided that would meet open source and security criteria.

Open Platform and Open Source
Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform offers a PaaS environment for developers to create cloud applications and offers services running in Microsoft’s data centers on a proprietary .Net environment. These preferentially .Net applications are integrated into a Microsoft controlled software environment but can be defined as a “closed” platform.

Currently, DoD Business Mission applications are running largely in a Microsoft .Net environment. What remains to be seen is if DoD will pursue cloud migration into a multi-vendor “open platform” and “open source” programming environment or continue sticking to a restrictive Microsoft .Net?

The largest share of the DoD IT budget goes towards the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), which has advocated the adoption of the open source SourceForge library in April 2009 for unclassified programs. DISA’s Forge.mil program enables collaborative software development and cross-program sharing of software, system components ad services in support of network-centric operations and warfare. Forge.mil is modeled from concepts proven in open-source software development and represents a collection of screened software components and is used by thousands of developers. Forge.mil takes advantage of a large library of tested software projects and its components are continuously evaluated by thousands of contributors (including some from firms like IBM, Oracle and HP although not from Microsoft, which controls its own library of codes).

OSS is defined as software for which the human-readable source code is available for use, study, reuse, modification, enhancement and redistribution by the users of that software by a DoD Memorandum of October 16, 2009 by the Acting DoD Chief Information Officer on “Clarifying Guidance Regarding Open Source Software (OSS).” OSS meets the definition of “commercial computer software” and will thus be given preference in building systems. DoD has began the process of adoption of open course computer code with the announcement of Forge.mil.

Implications
Due to the emigration of business applications, a reorientation of systems development technologies in favor of running on “private clouds”—while taking advantage of “open source” techniques—is necessary in order to save the most. The technologies currently offered for the construction of “private” clouds will help to achieve the complete separation of the platforms on which applications run, from the applications themselves. The simplification that can be achieved through the sharing of “open” source code from the Forge.mil library makes delivering cloud solutions cheaper, quicker and more readily available.

For more information regarding the DoD and open source cloud platforms, please visit nubifer.com today.

Cloud Computing’s Varying Forms of Functionality

Although everyone associated with the industry is likely familiar with the term cloud computing, what remains ambiguous are its offerings, both now and in the future. The benefits of cloud computing can essentially be classified into as many as five categories, the majority of which are discussed in the paragraphs to follow.

The Internet allows for you to market your brand internationally, whether you are a SMB or a multi-national organization. It also enables organizations to reach out and offer their products/services to an international audience, and the ability to combine data/applications with the ability to use remote computing resources thus creating exciting new opportunities.

Take the latest and greatest mobile app, for example. This new application has the ability to travel anywhere the user is, whether they are surfing on their TV, phone, or laptop. A tremendous amount of information has to be transferred online and shared with several services in order for that application to operate seamlessly, while guaranteeing privacy and security.

Cloud computing offers more than the storing of data off-site and allowing access through their browser. Cloud computing also has the ability to adapt and scale its services to fit each users’ needs through intelligent algorithms. The basic usage of the cloud results in a more personalized experience, as the platform acquires greater familiarity about the intents of the user. In turn, this allows users to effectively use smart services, acquire better information so they can take action wherever they happen to be.

We as human beings are social entities. We naturally and instinctively interact with those around us. In the past, communication was done by telegraph, letters, telephone and faxes, but it is now largely through the Internet. The Internet has created a plethora of communication opportunities, such as instant messaging, Internet telephony and social media. Cloud computing expands on this concept and offers the opportunity to make it possible to incorporate interaction and collaboration capabilities into areas that were seemingly beyond our reach previously.

Due to this progression of the common-place, our expectations become higher and higher over time. At some point in our past it was unthinkable for a cellular phone to be able to surf the net, and provide driving directions. But today, not only do we expect our mobile phone to give us the Internet at our fingertips, but also we expect it to guide us where we need to go.

Because of these expanding expectations, the cloud must be intelligent as well. There will be corresponding pressure for devices to catch up to cloud computing as it becomes increasingly intelligent and more intuitive.

Hand-held devices are great examples of this. Smart phones have a multitude of functions in additions to communications, such as GPS, voice recorder, camera, fame device, calculator and the list goes on. If a phone is paired with an operating system like Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, it becomes a smart device capable of using cloud services to their full capabilities.

Because the cloud is built upon the capabilities of servers, it is appropriate to imagine large data centers when thinking of cloud computing. This means that server technology must advance as the cloud does—but there is a catch. Cloud services will become more powerful as a server software does. In this way, server and cloud improvements mutually drive each other, and the user greatly benefits from this, whether the user is an individual, organization or company.

Once we tap into cloud computing fully, web sites will no longer crash because of surges in traffic—the cloud will accommodate to computing activity peaks accordingly.

For more information about the form and functionality of the cloud, visit Nubifer.com.

A Review of IBM’s Cloud Services

With more than 20,000 members and more than 200,000 processes currently modeled and documented, IBM’s new Blueworks Live offering unites process documentation and social community elements. IBM’s new cloud service provides a new ability to structure and automate ad-hoc processes quickly, effectively and efficiently.

IBM’s latest business process management cloud offering, Blueworks Live offers the most effective way for businesses to acquire and use IT with IBM’s reputation for security, reliability and integration. IDC predicts that public cloud services will grow at over five times the rate of traditional IT products. In 2009 worldwide revenue from public IT cloud services exceeded $16 billion, and that figure is expected to reach $55.5 million by 2014 (representing a compound annual growth rate of 27.4%).

With IBM’s new business process management cloud offering, employees will be able to quickly improve simple processes like new marketing promotional campaigns, employee on-boarding, and sales quote approvals, gaining increased visibility, understanding, insight and control. With Blueworks Live, business users interact with their departmental colleagues and collaborate through a private and secure company work stream, choosing to easily follow any updates to roles, processes, etc. These are updated in a stream view similar to that of the popular social networks enabling managers and team members to instantly see the status of work in progress via built-in dashboards and reports.

Blueworks Live offers intuitive discovery and documentation capabilities for even the most complex processes. For example, one client, PRC, is using Blueworks Live’s capabilities as part of its integrated call center operations.

IBM WebSphere Decision Server
Automating decisions to streamline process design and execution and subsequently make better, quicker decisions is a key to improving business processes. IBM is adding a new technology to its market leadership in Business Rules Management Systems – WebSphere Decision Server. Among this decision management software’s capabilities is the ability to deliver more dynamic marketing promotions and pricing, better fraud detection and prevention and more refined risk assessments.

Joining SPSS Decision Management, this product builds on IBM’s growing decision management portfolio, allowing business users to set up industry-specific data for fast, efficient modeling, providing predictive analytics to business users.

IBM enables organizations to detect and react to defined data patterns as they occur and provide the appropriate decision response based on various factors such as business policies and best practices or regulatory requirements by combining Business Rules Management technologies with WebSphere Decision Server.

IBM WebSphere Lombardi Edition
An easy-to-use business process management (BPM) offering for building and managing process applications with less time, money and risk in a unified platform, WebSphere Lombardi Edition’s graphical design makes it easy for process owners and business users to implement and improve their business processes.

Clients can gain the visibility to understand process bottlenecks and inefficiencies so they can be streamlined, with built-in real-time monitoring and analytics. WebSphere Lombardi Edition is tailored to business processes requiring a high degree of usage and collaboration, and its shared model architecture ensures collaboration between business and IT departments.