At Empower this week, Emptoris unveiled what at first may seem to the disinterested, non-tech focused procurement reader, its own answer to Ariba's cloud: Echos. The Echos name is an abbreviation for Emptoris Cloud Hosting Operating System. Yet Echos, as currently positioned, is anything but a "Commerce Cloud" of the type Ariba champions. Rather, what it really amounts to is a more tightly configured, controlled and streamlined architecture stack and installation/upgrade program designed to make installing and deploying enterprise software that much easier. I'm not sure if it has as much to do with the cloud as we've come to think of Amazon and other true virtualization services -- aside from the new "burst" capability to gain additional capacity when needed -- but it doesn't seem like fluffy marketing. Nor do I think that many in the audience at Empower truly got the nuances of it.
Before offering a few words of analysis looking at Echos, let's first examine what it is. In Emptoris' words, Echos "is a cloud-based delivery system built to streamline the deployment and management of Emptoris solutions. With Emptoris Echos, companies can install and run Emptoris solutions behind the firewall within minutes. The solution removes the technical challenges associated with on-premise application hosting with pre-configured, turn-key installations and upgrades. As a result, Emptoris Echos significantly reduces total cost of ownership of strategic supply and enterprise contract management solutions."
So in essence, if you read between the lines, Echos really feels like the "anti-cloud" solution because it gives installed software a new lease on enterprise life. But dig a bit deeper. The flexibility inherent within an architecture that simplifies deployment in behind-the-firewall, hosted or hybrid modes while also delivering the ability to rapidly scale-up CPU and general computing/network capacity with burst capabilities in a similar way to the Amazon cloud -- e.g., in this case for very large sourcing events with tens of thousands of line items and three or four constraints in an advanced optimization scenario -- is actually, at least in part, a true cloud infrastructure model based upon the more technical definition, even if Emptoris is taking a bit of marketing license by wrapping all of its architecture now under the cloud moniker.
I agree with you that all of this is terribly confusing when simplified. In fact, I can't believe I just wrote that last sentence in the prior paragraph. But I do think if you read it over a few times that at least some of it will become clearer (it did to me). You see, the problem here is that every vendor under the spend management sun has its own definition of what the heck the cloud is. What Echos is feels more like an architecture or infrastructure model than marketing lingo. But Emptoris may not be that far off (on some levels) from a technical "cloud" definition standpoint regarding at least part of what Echos can deliver in either hosted or a hybrid installed/hosted approach. Still, I say the weather forecast here is pretty easy to predict: cloudy with a chance of software. Enterprise software, to be exact.