There is enough excitement in the air for Cloud /SaaS practitioners as they envisage the transforming possibilities that would come their way as more and more businesses opt for Cloud. The businesses are realising the potential of simple, efficient and cost effective model of software/platform/infrastructure as a service or simply called ‘Cloud’. The enthusiasm is so much that some of the leading supporters of cloud such as Phil Wainright, Chair of the Eurocloud UK, questions the very existence of an in house IT department.
Some of the advantages Phil cites in favour of Cloud are : more frequent interactions between developers and the business people, no delay in technology going live, work is completed in short sprints, results are faster and feedback much better. Cloud model helps you expand or contract your requirement as you like or your business demands. You need not worry about having big budgets, approval from IT department to meet your requirement, and no wait period in sourcing the IT staff required for new business requirement. So, it does offer lots of flexibility as compared to a traditional IT department. What you are getting when you opt for cloud is a solution, and what you are not getting is installation, maintenance of on premise business system. Granted, but is that a threat to a traditional in house IT department for most businesses?
There can be a long and short term perspective on the need of an in house IT department if cloud is the preferred way for a business. If the business makes a strong case for opting for cloud, which may be appropriate for most short and medium sized businesses and for some bigger businesses as well, in the short term it may be appropriate to downsize the IT department. Nicholas Carr, Harvard Business Review Executive editor suggests that in the long run IT departments are unlikely to survive, at least not the way they are now.
Nicholas also suggests that individual employees in their business units will be able to control the process that would reduce the need of having in house technical specialists. However, as more and more vendors come into the market for more and more solutions for the businesses, to take a call on the vendor, assessing the levels of service, monitoring the level of service, reporting, trouble tracking, versioning and server load balancing can be burdensome if expected to be tracked by the business unit themselves.
It would be certainly important to assess if the vendor is in a position to guarantee quality and security. It is also true that some SaaS vendors provide service at an additional cost, as you have to have a service level agreement that has to be monitored and administered. So if you decide not to have that put in place, any outage may not have any recourse as required. How efficient would it be for the business unit to handle that uncertainty? 4Availability of integrated standards as part of the software as a service, as also the complete level of support is what is of utmost importance while deciding on the vendor.
While Google, Amazon and Microsoft are all set to take advantage of cloud forces, some of the other emerging names that are creating the headwind in the cloud space are AppZero, Enomaly, Long Jump and Vaultscape, Flexiant, Workbooks, CloudSigma and Cloudmore etc. Although, it was Salesforce that pioneered software as a service market for its CRM software and have more than 50,000 customers to its credit, CRM still remains one of the popular cloud based application as indicated by the presence of many others leading names such as e sales track etc. The companies are taking advantage of the simple guaranteed levels of service for their customer and offering them cost effective pricing and serves industry in IT, construction, manufacturing, not for profit, transport and insurance. The advantage of cloud is about eliminating the need of having unused IT employees and need of creating a physical infrastructure.
While cloud/SaaS is agile and responds to business needs faster, saves costs; the issue of dependability on a third party as well as security is what bothers a large organisation to opt for cloud. Nick Carr in an interview with Info World keeps that transformational timing for bigger enterprises from 10 to fifteen years. What he emphasised is that even in bigger enterprises the traditional roles of IT would change. However, for most businesses it is the transition itself and complete integration that would be a challenge. Companies that are able to ensure security, dependability and provide integrated solutions with a good hand holding about handling change to cloud and provide complete support are going to be the winners in this space.