Is On-Demand The Right Solution For Your IT Team?

by drjim on August 5, 2010

Sure It Sounds Great, But Is On-Demand Right For You?

Sure It Sounds Great, But Is On-Demand Right For You?

If you’ve been reading any of the trade press over the last couple of years, you have undoubtedly run across story after story that talked about the next big thing in IT: on-demand computing. I’m willing to bet that members of your IT team may be clambering to take your next project “into the cloud”. Sure it sounds sexy, but should you do it…?

It’s All About The Upside

Look, haven’t we all finally figured out how to do all of this IT stuff the right way? Why would any IT Leader in his / her right mind even consider using an on-demand solution when you are creating your next enterprise solution?

The upside of moving your team’s efforts to using an on-demand IT architecture are pretty powerful: much lower hardware requirements (for you, maybe not so for the on-demand provider!), a drop software development costs, and simplifying the always-present challenge of how you can update an application that is used by lots and lots of employees. Having a single version of an application that exists on an on-demand system sure seems to be the right way to go. Or is it…?

…But Then There’s That Downside

Pesky issues such as reliability keep popping up when IT Leaders start to talk about on-demand based IT solutions. What are your customers going to do if the on-demand system can’t be reached. Oh, and how long is this down time going to last…?

Can anyone say “customization”? When you have a single version of an application running in an on-demand environment your end users will by necessity lose at least some of their ability to customize the application. Is this a big deal? It all depends on how big of an impact on productivity that customization had…

No man is an island and the same thing can be said for your IT applications. It turns out that integrating an on-demand application into all of those other applications that the company is using can be a tough nut to crack. Yes it can be done, but no it’s not going to be easy.

What All Of This Means For You

For those of you who were looking a silver bullet solution and thought that you had found it in the on-demand design, sorry. Yes there are benefits, but these come with some serious costs.

Getting out of the business of having to worry about what hardware your solutions are running on and where they are located would be a great feeling. However, you then start to have a brand new set of reliability and integration issues that show up.

In the end, on-demand is here to stay and just based on the cost savings that it delivers alone it’s going to be the right solution for certain IT challenges. However, it’s the wise IT Leader who pauses before jumping into the on-demand lake and makes sure that it’s the right decision for right now…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that the on-demand security issues will ever be solved or will we just learn to live with them?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

What if software was free? Every IT Leader has to stop and ask themselves this question every once in awhile. With the cost of ERP and database systems constantly increasing, software costs can quickly become a significant expense for any IT department. The “Open Source” software movement, born in the days when Napster was giving away commercial music for free, is one way the IT departments can get high quality software for free. But should they?

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chett Rubenstein August 6, 2010 at 3:46 pm

With all due respect, the three points you list on the downside (reliability, customization, integration) are actually unfounded. Reliability will theoretically always be better in a cloud services offering vs an on-premise solution because a) the service provider will likely have a stringent SLA in place for which they will have financial loss if not met, and b) the service provider is focusing all its resources on keeping the one environment running and available, whereas an in-house IT group is focused on keeping multiple different applications/environments running.

Customization is something most efficiently handled via metadata as opposed to code changes. This results in an easier-to-maintain, single code base which makes ongoing support and distribution of updates a much more simple and robust process. There is nothing inherent in either of the cloud services or on-premise models that prevents this type of customization (see Salesforce.com for an excellent example), and I would have serious reservations about any software vendor that did otherwise.

Providing solid, comprehensive and easy-to-use integration options is one of the more important best practices in the cloud services model. There is really no excuse for an on-premise software provider to deliver any less in their integration options. With the now ubiquitous acceptance of web services as a common method for programmatic dialog across a LAN/WAN, providing such integration layers is easier than ever. Again, there is nothing inherent in either model that makes integration more difficult to implement or use.

With all the above being said, it is critical for buyers to do their due diligence with any software vendor, whether they deliver their solutions via cloud services or on-premise. The three issues mentioned above are just a few of many that should be evaluated to both understand and limit risk as much as possible.

Current research supports the fact that the cloud services model has more than reached the tipping point in corporate acceptance, with the majority of companies either having already deployed such solutions or having plans to do so in the near future. There are many underlying drivers behind this shift, but that is a topic requiring more depth than is appropriate in this response.

For a much more comprehensive view of the cloud services model and the best practices one needs to be aware of in order to make informed buying decisions, please contact Mural Consulting at http://www.muralconsulting.com.

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Dr. Jim Anderson August 6, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Chett: Wow — you really, really care about this topic. We may just have to disagree about this one — even after having read your thoughts, I still believe that the three main drawbacks of cloud computing need to be front-and-center of any IT shop’s decision making process. Amazon’s well documented outages (http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-20009241-93.html) as well as interfacing issues (http://www.crmlandmark.com/salesforce-user-reviews.htm) can bring even the best run IT department to a grinding halt.

Yes, cloud computing is here to stay. However, it isn’t the right answer for every IT problem and knowing when to say “no” is the key to an IT shop’s long term survival.

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