Moving Enterprise Applications Workloads to the Cloud
Use of Public cloud for consumer applications, and common business productivity applications offered as "software as a service" is now a viable option understood and embraced by all but the latest adopters (it would be unfair to describe them as laggards). SalesForce has been the poster child in defining Software As A Service as a market reality, not just as a CRM vendor but as a platform environment for application development. The Public Cloud is synonymous with industry behemoths like Amazon AWS, and Google. Public Cloud is now a practical, affordable, and "resiliant-enough" proposition for many useful business applications. In business, good enough, is frankly, good enough in many situations.
For enterprise customers, impeding the march to cloud has been a natural aversion to risk in migrating mission critical applications to the new computing model.
Public-Private hybrid clouds increasingly are becoming the desirable norm for businesses wishing to retain responsibility over their core applications, company information and most importantly the private data of customers, suppliers and partners.
The battle ground for cloud service providers (CSPs), and the ISV application community is on how best to encourage and accelerate migration of core Enterprise workloads. That is those traditional ERP, HCM, CRM, SCM and core process-centric applications from the major platform vendors - SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, IBM, Pega etc.
New "cloud-first" providers in the HCM space - particularly SuccessFactors (SAP owned) and Workday, BPM space (Appian), and CRM (SalesForce) have led the way in re-defining the use cases and consumption model for software services and cloud delivered applications. The ERP, SCM, core transactional, middleware and data application vendors - typically executing on complex distributed heterogenous environments and/or running on "mainframe" class big tin, continue to lag behind.
Given the market velocity for cloud based solutions, the alternative for the major players is either to cede competitive ground and cloud market share to new entrants/more agile product vendors, or leverage their healthy balance sheets to acquire innovators. All the major players continue to be acquisitive and one could argue "creative" in accounting for software and services revenue attributed to cloud.
Migration of SAP core and typically heavily customised application workloads to cloud is inherently challenging. HANA provides a potential and necessary on-ramp to the cloud, but it remains hard to gauge the appetite of existing customers for risk in transitioning to the cloud. This probably isn't the intention. More likely, is that the "system of record" will stay on premise - in the medium term ? Whilst only new applications will be built with cloud and mobile "first" - to maximise the economic, on-demand elasticity of cloud resources; and to improve customer experiences.
The distribution of work - distinguishing clearly between "systems of interaction", "engagement" and "record" helps to show how core application investments can be re-factored and re-purposed without recourse to full application migration to the cloud. The vendors themselves are naturally actively engaged in this portfolio re-alignment, e.g. with the advance and strategic commitment by Oracle to it's Fusion application(s) platform, and as seen with SAPs acquisition of Ariba, Successfactors and it's determination to grow cloud based revenue and promote HANA adoption more widely.
Within the cloud infrastructure domain (IaaS), and recognising the market switch to Hybrid cloud as the de-facto enterprise norm, innovation players like Virtustream bring differentiated IP to the table in providing robust security, compliance and genuine consumption based pricing and analytics. IBM Softlayer have recently announced adoption of Virtustream to assist in supporting SAP and HANA cloud workloads. The same strategy could be applied to any number of I/O intensive "statefull" application stacks.
At the process and functional levels tools exist to help IT managers safeguard application "corporate memory" in porting existing applications to (a) more agile technologies whilst preserving process ASIS integrity, and (b) lift and shift candidate "TOBE" application processes to the cloud. (see ZDLC from Cognizant for Smart Process Migration.
So an informed combination of BPaaS / SaaS, PaaS, IaaS can be assembled or "composed" that can retain enterprise level qualities of service, mitigate business continuity risk, promote adoption of innovation and brings forward the true benefits associated with a migration to the cloud. Irrespective of topology be it Public, Private, or the more commonly seen Public-Private Hybrid combination.
New era analytical capabilities harnessing the power of Cognitive computing heralded by technologies such as IBM Watson afford new opportunities for semantic question/answer intelligent based services, again primed for the cloud.
We are entering the era of Composable business applications delivered on the cloud. Vendors and services companies are all being reconfigured to respond to the market shift, and not all will survive. On the flip side, as history teaches us, it is likely that some of the leading cloud, solution and services companies 5 years from now - probably don't even exist today.