Has your business got its head in the cloud?

Over the past 12 months there has been a lot of talk about cloud computing. Vendors have been hyping up how they will deliver their services from the cloud, while organisations have been gushing about the potential cost savings and productivity benefits they’ll reap. While companies that need speed to market, or SMEs with smaller IT budgets, may see cloud computing as a Godsend, like any technology adoption it is essential to look before you leap.

You’re only as strong as your provider’s servers

 Businesses using cloud computing are completely dependant on Internet connections in order to access their applications. In particular, they are at the mercy of cloud computing providers in terms of application uptime as applications are hosted on the provider’s servers. It is therefore important to establish a service level agreement (SLA), backed up with meaningful penalty clauses. Your path to the clouds suddenly becomes one of the most critical components of your IT delivery, and as such needs multiple levels of resilience and redundancy to keep your business processes safe. We’ve all heard of Escrow agreements to safeguard us if there are issues with a software supplier, but what is your equivalent course of action for a software-as-a-service provider?

Customisation conundrum

 Many larger businesses use applications which have been customised to meet their specific needs. However, when the same application is delivered through cloud computing it may be more difficult, or even impossible, for the same application to be customised. If the application can be customised, this is likely to be expensive, and there is a question of ownership of this work should you need to exit the service provider.

 Compliance concerns

Cloud computing also has ramifications when it comes to compliance regulations. For example, the UK has data protection laws which don’t really take into account vendors using server environments based outside the EU. However, the cloud computing model means businesses don’t have the same visibility of which server their data is stored on, or where the server is located compared to if they hosted their own servers. This makes it impossible for a proper risk assessment to be carried out. If businesses using cloud computing don’t know where their data resides, it will be impossible for them to comply.

The issues outlined above mean that larger organisations are still wary of cloud computing and are choosing a watching brief for now. However, this does mean that they will be missing out on the benefits that it can bring. One way of getting the best of both worlds is to implement a hybrid model. This model has been introduced by some vendors including SAP, which has been criticised for being slow to adapt its solutions to the cloud. Yet by taking their time, these vendors have come up with an innovative approach which sees businesses have some of their processes in the cloud and others within the business. This approach means that organisations don’t have to put their business critical processes in the cloud if they feel it is too risky. However, by putting less critical processes in the cloud they can still reap the benefits that this approach can bring.

While cloud computing offers some exciting possibilities and allows businesses to run applications without a large initial outlay, clearly businesses must do their due diligence to endure that it is suitable for their organisation.

Here at the User Group we are currently surveying our membership regards their thoughts on cloud computing and we will be sharing the results over the next couple of months – so watch this space!

It’s time for a survey of “experts”!

Today (I know it’s supposed to be a holiday) I was reading an article from Chris Kanaracus in Business Week. Now before I start to give my view I need to be clear that Chris is the reporter here. He reports on some comment from Forrester or, more specifically John Rymer, who is stating (according to the article):

“SAP customers should still use NetWeaver to extend their SAP business applications, but avoid using it for complex, enterprisewide middleware projects, he added. “We think you ought to look at other providers,” Rymer said. “We don’t think SAP is going to step up to those requirements over the long haul.”

I thought, this is interesting and decided to check out John’s pedigree in this area – what experience has he with Netweaver? The Forrester site says the following:

 “John came to Forrester through its acquisition of Giga Information Group and has a combined total of six years with the company. He has worked as an industry analyst for more than 15 years, starting in 1989. John’s industry experience includes a stint as vice president of product marketing for IONA Technologies, where he gained first-hand experience in creating and executing market strategies.”

So John has only got what he has heard from “others” about Netweaver – what he lacks and this is the difference to user group members, is front-line experience of the product. I was glad to see that SAP refuted this position with this statement:

“NetWeaver is our platform and will be our platform going forward — and there is an incredible amount of innovation we intend to continue to bring into it”

Which, of course, is known by anyone who has used it. So this then made me question the statements of “experts” and perhaps it’s time to consider who are the experts? In my view an easy question to answer – those who use the product and strangely that is user group members, so if you want to know more about Netweaver – speak to UG members.

Amusing view on the hire of Ruby Wax

Mike Simmons of Computerworld has presented an interesting view on the hire of Ruby Wax as facilitator and a keynote speaker at our annual conference – worth a read (and a giggle!)……………

Ruby Wax, SAP and the user group