To become a licensed Hackney Carriage operator (aka Black
cabs) in London, you have to "do the knowledge." This can take 3 to 4 years of
memorizing hundreds of routes, streets and points of interest. These cabbies have
picked us up and taken us where we want to go sans maps, GPS or navigation
systems since the 17th century. There's been a lot of banter lately
regarding private clouds versus public clouds. No company of any significant
size can move its IT infrastructure to the cloud all at once. You need a plan. And
considering policies such as identity management, backup/DR, directory synchronization
outside & behind firewalls, IT organizations will not escape paying the
price to learn the architecture of cloud computing. Most companies I talk to
are attracted to the upfront cost savings but still need a comprehensive
strategy for cloud & SaaS scenarios. This becomes especially important when
you want to bring your applications & services in-house at a future date. You
need to "do the knowledge" of the technology stack because you will still need
to integrate both premise and off-premise IT systems. I don't believe there are
"private clouds," that was a data center as I recall, why invent more jargon?
Google's presentation at the Enterprise 2.0 show in Boston pushed
out more sound bites regarding cloud computing. They made the statement that
innovation in enterprise applications during the next 10 years will happen on
the Internet (in the cloud).Certainly, company
spokespeople like to put forth the vision at these conferences, but I doubt we will
see the obsolescence of Microsoft, Oracle, SAP or other on-premise software during
that same 10 year period. The capabilities of the cloud have from most analysts
viewpoints, caught up with what you can do on the edge. The question is not
about technology however, it's about who carries the asset on their books and
how it is managed. There are many companies with rather significant investments
in "legacy" systems. What may come to a surprise to this generation is much of
that legacy business logic drives corporate differentiation and value creation.
It can certainly be ported to new technologies (e.g., SOA hype), but why bother
when most of these systems are already depreciated and continue to work? There
are still those users who want to "see" the systems running on site,
especially if they are communication systems or data centers. It's up to the business
leaders to make the case for a change from the status quo. Lasting innovation
is driven by market forces, not from the innovation itself.
Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR) allows users to run web
applications natively on a desktop without having to launch them in an open
browser session. This will begin to blur the lines between a PC "fat client"
experience and a web browser experience. One Adobe AIR application for Ebay allows
bidders the ability to monitor their auctions without going to the website by
having their bid status made available in a Window desktop tray application.
There are several other examples from the New York Times, Yahoo and
SalesForce.com. I see this move toward Rich Internet Applications (RIA) as
significant because of its impact on the SaaS market. One of the biggest
drawbacks with hosted office applications for example is the issue of being
disconnected and not being able to access user files. Future development in RIA
will include the ability to load a small encrypted database on the client side,
thereby retaining portions of the user state machine. The battle has already started at the mobile
device level with Microsoft squaring off with Apple. Microsoft recently
announced they will support Flash Lite for Windows Mobile while Apple has
rejected it for the iPhone "due to performance issues." The truth is Adobe
Flash Lite is already on over 450 million flash-equipped mobile handsets today
and expected to grow to over 1 billion by 2010. Another major inflection point
will be the post-Ajax development world when we see Adobe's new Flex and
Microsoft Silverlight 2.0 come in to the picture. The benefit of Flex includes
cross-platform, cross-browser interoperability and when combined with creating
offline applications utilizing AIR, you have what will become the next browser
war in the making - only without the browsers! I will be posting more regarding Flex, but if
you want to see what it can do, go to buzzword.com and create a simple account.
You'll think you are interacting with a Mac application when you are really
running this over the Internet. The user experience is amazing. Now we just
need to add presence, video, click-to-call and collaboration tools in an RIA "widget"
thereby increasing the capabilities of this technology.
If you know anything about managing a complex email system
like Lotus Notes or MS Exchange, you know it can be a pain. Most companies
would prefer to leave it to the experts, especially smaller organizations.
Microsoft brought out its online infrastructure services beta this week and
will begin to make a name for itself in Managed Services. While the SaaS
industry is in the early stages, Microsoft will need time to rework their
software to support multitenant architectures. OCS doesn't support a
multitenant instance either (by the way, all this means less money for
Microsoft, could we see any more PE contraction?). This is still a beta
offering for under 5,000 seats. The competitive set includes Google's Postini and
Yahoo's Zimbra along with many other niche players. Other Microsoft partners
already provide some of these services for enterprises. They will have to
carefully maneuver their channel relationships because they rely on a
substantial revenue stream from these service partners and systems integrators.
Beyond advertising, Software as a Service (Saas) may be
the next big opportunity for both companies. A combination of free and
fee-based services will ultimately replace software licensing as we
know it today. But not very soon. Bob
Warfield, with SmoothSpan, has a good quick analysis of why Microsoft
would want to go to a SaaS model now that Vista and Office 2007 are
far Ray Ozzie's been careful to say, "Software Plus Service."
Microsoft's acquisition of Yahoo can benefit both their advertising
push (AdCenter) and SaaS as these intersect in their Online Services
Group (MSN and MS Live). The question is what happens when you try to
merge them together? You don't want a MSN-Yahoo-Live mashup; there has
already been some user confusion between MSN and Live. We are still at
an early stage of this evolution. Neither company has a fully mature,
corporate-ready application service provider solution on the scale of a
Salesforce.com. For an enterprise customer dealing with a multi-vendor,
multi-application environment, one size does not fit all with regards
to SaaS "in the cloud." What hasn't been addressed very well is the
uptime and SLA's that corporate customers need. Just look at some
recent outages from "the cloud." We have RIM Blackberry (3 hours,
second one this year), Salesforce.com (7 hours in February, no one's immune), MS
Hotmail/MS Live (6 hours) and let's not forget the BGP injection that
brought YouTube down for 2 hours. If I'm an SMB or an enterprise
customer relying on these services for anything mission critical, I've
introduced another layer of risk to my business. Are outages going to
be the norm? Do you really want to put everything in the cloud?
Tom Austin from Gartner gave his presentation, "Google vs. Microsoft: Consumerization and Web 2.0." He started with a premise of what happens when you have a product that took a company 20 years to perfect and costs hundreds of millions of dollars to develop duplicated by a 4-man team in one year that is available free at the click of a mouse? He was referring to writely.com which was acquired by Google. I'd have to admit I've not considered any web-based office applications, particularly because they are not available when you are offline. What's interesting is Microsoft appears to be taking a shot at Google's coveted advertising revenue while Google is attacking them with SaaS office applications. There were a small group of IT users who were asking questions about Google's GAPE offering (Google Apps Premier Edition). The cost model looks like $50/year with 25GB of storage. You would have to take a serious look at it especially if you are paying high licensing fees to Microsoft. Maybe not everyone in the enterprise needsthe full suite of applications. I personally could not live without Office 2007 and now with more integration with Sharepoint 2007 and .Net for development, it still has compelling value. Apple faired quite high at the conference with lots of buzz about IT support. We now need new support models so that the IT community does not have suffer chaos from "rogue" users. There was good contrast between the iPhone and RIM Blackberry, especially in the area of security. The big point made was that now software developers have a reference design from which to design good mobile software - Apple. I also heard some substantiation of my analysis of the iPhone battery life. Gartner estimates the WiFi radio in the iPod devices cut battery life by 60%, higher than I estimated. Also we got a good data point on 3G, it turns out it reduces battery life by 30%. For browsing, you need 3G or better.
Paul Lopez is a 20+ year technology veteran whose career has spanned multiple disciplines such as product management, software development, engineering, marketing, business development and operations... read more