Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading of blogs and other research (for example from Forrester) about cloud computing and the relevance of such developments to the enterprise. The definition of cloud computing from wikipedia is:
Cloud computing is a new (circa late 2007) label for simplification of the data center by leveraging virtualization technologies to reduce complexity. This complexity is reduced by homogenizing environments. Consumers of the “cloud” are concerned with services it can perform rather than the underlying technologies used to achieve the requested function.
Although cloud computing can exist within the corporation or externally via the various “public” providers, (Amazon, etc, more) . In this blog, I’d like to focus more on the public cloud providers.
Recently, there was a decision from Google to start their own initiative in this area. Take a look at “Clouds Rolling In: The Google App Engine Q&A from Stephen O’Grady for what I consider the most useful description of this new development.
Before you click away and say, “This isn’t relevant in the SAP area”, let’s take a look at a few possibilities / ideas. First, one of the main advantages / dangers is that cloud computing will allow that business users to avoid going directly to the IT department to deal with their application hosting needs. The potential that ideas / concepts can be tried out quickly without having to worry about hardware / operations needs is very secuctive. Thus, it might possible to circumvent the IT department – the old Shadow IT phenomenon. While this isn’t appropriate for all applications/situations in the typical corporation, it may be quite useful for some. For short-lived applications (project-based collaboration, etc.), this possibility might be ideal.
This idea of “circumventing the IT department” resonated within me and I tried to remember where else I heard the term. Then I remembered where I had seen this description before – “Mashup Corporations”. This book describes the use of SOA and mash-ups in a fictional corporation and often uses the same analogy for the revolutionary nature of the use of SOA in a corporation. What I liked abut the book was the idea that the corporation more or less supplies the data and end-users (internal and external) have the ability to create mash-ups to use this information.
What I’d like to see is the combination of these two things. Cloud-based mash-ups (both corporate-internal and user-created” accessing the corporation via SOA.
Although there could be an initial separation between the two types of applications, there would also be a much greater potential after merging the two. Think of the amazing synergy effects – the internal development teams would suddenly be augmented by the huge pool of external developers. They could share code modules ,ideas, etc.). OK, there are tons of issues (security, IP, conflicting requirements, etc.) that would have to considered as well. Such a collaboration, however, might be very advantageous to the corporation. Not only issues dealing with hosting considerations for the front-end applications would be re-examined but also points regarding development methodology as well.
There could be a blended environment where certain processes run in a cloud that exists outside the corporation and mission-critical processes that run in the corporation. Of course, there must be an ability to jump from area to the other.
When a corporation makes its processes via SOA for external usage available, then it suddenly has opened up a whole avenue to interact with customers. When this ability is combined with cloud computing, interested application developers who wish to use this data no longer have to worry about dealing with hosting costs or other operations-related issues as well. Thus, for those wishing to access this data, the barrier to entry has just been reduced even more. Thus, the “mashed-up” corporation should promote such environments.
Now, you might be thinking – “isn’t this similar to what SAP’s BusinessByDesign is all about”. From my understanding of SAP’s SAAS product, the difference is that BusinessByDesign is a controlled Software-as-Service model / environment. What I’m talking about, however, is much more viral in that users themselves create the application in the cloud environment. Of course, the cloud applications won’t be Visual-Composer-based but they will be in total control of the users themselves.
A Community-based cloud-based mash-up
Ever since Google App Engine was made available, I’ve been thinking about experimenting with a cloud-based mash-up that accesses the ESWorksplace and displays the data. There are some current restrictions in this environment – just Python, etc. What I’d liked to see is a community-based effort to examine this potential. I’ve started a wiki space in the “Emerging Technology” area regarding this effort and am looking forward to those interesting participating. Often, there is a problem when considering community-based projects (irregardless of general open-source or SDN-based) regarding application hosting, cloud computing may solve this problem. This effort also might be an idea for the Be a part of the 2008 SAP Developer Challenge! which also has cloud computing as one topic.
The technology itself might not be all that new. What might be revolutionary from a corporate perspective is that a corporate actively promotes this potential of cloud-computing environments as an avenue to access their data. Normally, such interactions with external customers / users must be run through IS and outsourcing units to get the environment to host the applications. The use of cloud computing combined with SOA-based environments means that involvement with IT departments is greatly reduced. If the SOA environments meets corporate standards, then business users may be able to act more independently and look at more options that the internal hosted environment.