Who is the Cloud(iest) or SaaS(iest)? Is This Even Important When Selecting Solutions?

Part 1: Cloud, Country, Mom and Apple Pie – Who Could Ask For Anything More?

The inspiration for this article came from Pierre’s report from Oracle OpenWorld (OOW). Note Pierre’s link to Larry Ellison’s rant against the term “cloud” – it is both funny and actually informative. That was from September 2008. Ellison repeatedly made a similar, even more entertaining rant against the term the following year – note the second half of this video.

For those of us who have “grown up” with Internet-based solutions – not customized onprem builds – even the term SaaS when it came out seemed a bit confusing. Why do you even need to state that? But OK, for those stuck with onprem apps, it made a world of difference to be able to have a business solution up and running literally overnight. That’s turnkey.

I think Larry Ellison’s point about the cloud is that this is not as simple as slapping a “cloud” label on the product and hope that settles all prospect worries, questions and debates. “Dude, it’s in the Cloud, man, stop worrying.” A bit of the politician’s debating trick by referring to "Cloud, country, Mom and apple pie" – it’s all good from here on. From procurement’s point of view – how do you cut through the hype? We need to look at "what is cloud" – this is quite relevant since so much marketing is thrown at the label, and presumably business decisions follow. Actually, a recent edition of The Wall Street Journal had a prominent Oracle ad hyping the cloud – as well as similar ones from IBM.

As Pierre wrote, and to Ellison’s point, the cloud thing is actually more complicated – it involves components like infrastructure, platform(s), applications, data – which some providers try to turn into a PaaS argument of superiority over the “mere” SaaS/cloud firms. Kind of the cloud marketing trick played at the next level – especially for Oracle, which has an unusually impressive tool box. The question is, do you need all those tools? Which ones make a difference? As a CPO, how do you make the case to your CFO that the particular ERP offering that the CTO/CIO has told you to use really doesn’t meet your needs – and also is not more “secure” or even “robust” than the best of breed solution you need?

“Cloud” – isn’t this often used with an overly narrow definition - the "pure" cloud solution, that is? Consider Oracle’s "mini-DB on a card" approach. Private Database Cloud, I think Oracle calls it. Isn't something like that cloud “enough?” Even if your private (single-tenant obviously) DB sits on its own hardware, but the surrounding middleware and the front end is "true" cloud, isn't that also a cloud delivery?

Multi-tenancy – similar to above, doesn’t this have a range of definitions? Think about having a hybrid with virtualization in some frontend areas - ERP modules for example. Think of Enrich and its delivery of Oracle EBS in a virtualized fashion, but available entirely on your own HW if you choose, or perhaps delivered entirely on their shared HW, maybe with the front end in the US, and the DB sitting in Switzerland.

From a solution provider point of view, the bulk of the expense with delivering any solution is the software development and maintenance. Think about it this way, even if you put each client on their own hardware – but delivered in a typical SaaS/Cloud user experience fashion (i.e. you disallow anything other than in-UI configuration) – well, then you have retained the multi-tenant benefits of development, maintenance, upgrades - while keeping the physical data separation that some or even many firms still crave. I think that’s still within the cloud spirit –even if much of the delivery might look onprem on paper. From the end user, it’s as Larry Ellison said – a computer connected to a server. But let’s look at some of the details in between.

In Part 2 of this series we will hear from Steve Brooke, serial CTO at Procuri, CombineNet and other firms, and his comments on cloud, SaaS and what is important when developing as well as buying scalable, reliable cloud solutions.

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