Feature:

Don't PAAS Up This Opportunity

By Jason Tee

TheServerSide.com

In a controversial 2010 white paper, Gartner, Inc. made the prediction that within 2 years one out of five companies won’t have any on-site IT infrastructure. So, if you’re used to storing your lunch in the server room to keep it cool when the break room fridge is full, you may have to change your strategy soon. Actually, the likelihood is that this trend toward divesting infrastructure will be most popular with smaller companies that haven’t invested as much in on-premise solutions. Choosing a fully PaaS and IaaS approach will also probably be common for startups who want to completely avoid the costs of traditional hardware and licensing. For larger enterprises, a hybrid approach blending on-site infrastructure and platforms with solutions in the cloud is likely to become the norm.

Why Are Businesses Clambering on the Cloud Platform?

Platform as a Service is giving businesses more than just a way to lower IT infrastructure and maintenance costs. It can also provide a less complex way to manage data. That’s especially true for enterprises that have cobbled together a patchwork of database solutions on a legacy system over the last several decades. Making the switch to a cloud platform offers a chance to do some spring cleaning and standardize everything. This means easier data administration and, ultimately, better business intelligence. In the Network Instruments survey mentioned above, more than 60% of respondents said that application availability was improved after the switch to cloud computing. So, better service quality may be another perk of PaaS.

The other main benefit of a cloud platform is that it can increase the agility of an enterprise. The stodgy, rigid architecture of a legacy system is part of what makes it difficult for businesses to evolve. Often, getting new applications to “fit” with an old platform means a lot of extra work for IT. Sometimes, organizations have to be content with interfaces when true integration would offer much greater business value. A lot of resources are wasted trying to cram a square peg into a round hole by connecting applications designed using service oriented architecture (SOA) with legacy servers and databases. Companies that realize this are moving business processes that need the ability to change rapidly onto PaaS systems.

Be the Architect, Not the Mechanic

With a traditional on-premise setup, IT is often inheriting a system that requires constant attention simply to keep it functional. You get tasked with patching things up over and over and “MacGyvering” interfaces with whatever new SaaS product catches the fancy of various departments. IT is often placed in the thankless position of simply keeping things running. If you do your job right (and if no unforeseen disaster strikes), no one notices. But you get all the wrong kinds of attention when things go badly. Isn’t it time to start thinking about how to get some positive recognition?

One way to do this is by leveraging PaaS to add value to existing business software – or to develop new applications that give your company an edge. If your existing on-premise server infrastructure is stretched to capacity, there’s little chance that you’ll get budget approval and provisioning for more on-site resources to play with. However, if your company is already using a public or private cloud for any aspect of business processes, raising the monthly dollar amount a little to cover some extra PaaS resources could be doable. This would give you the platform you need for testing and development to let your IT team show its true capabilities.

Making Your Case

With PaaS resources that are purchased from the provider on a month-to-month basis, you pay only for what you use. This makes it attractive to executives because it limits costs and they can pull the plug at any time without batting an eye. This means you had better be prepared to deliver on whatever project you’ve got lined up to work on in the cloud. Your best bet is to pick an application or data management process to develop that:

  • Fixes a longstanding problem that has been irritating people and/or draining revenue. If you can start with something that makes the CFO’s job easier, you will be set for life.
  • Aligns with the goals of your organization for greater efficiency, productivity, and profitability. This type of thinking is what makes IT a strategic partner rather than a “janitor” in the eyes of business leaders and decision makers.
  • Not only replaces an existing function but actually improves it. The cloud shouldn’t be viewed as simply a new location for data, but a superior way of managing business processes.

Can you think of a project off the top of your head that meets one or more of the following criteria? Bonus points if the project sounds complicated to the layperson but that you know will be pretty easy to accomplish (so your team will look like geniuses!)

27 Jul 2011

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