Interest in cloud platforms is increasing rapidly, but there are some crucial points for organizations to consider before making the jump to ensure that the transition has a positive impact on their bottom line.
In particular, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud offerings are at risk of being so broadly defined that even those familiar with the technology are unclear on where to start.
What is clear, however, is that having access to secure, agile development environments and infrastructure will free IT departments from repetitive maintenance and allow them to focus on responding to the ever-changing needs and requirements of the wider business. Being able to focus IT resource on building new features into existing cloud applications, developing bespoke apps or creating custom dashboards showing real-time data are all compelling possibilities for many businesses.
With the introduction of a cloud platform, IT departments will soon be able to make the fabled switch from cost centre to revenue generator; from maintenance to innovation. However, all cloud platforms aren’t created equal. And, like many other technology investments, deciding which cloud platform is right for the business is an important decision with long term implications.
It’s important that companies eager to move to the cloud are aware of the common myths circulating around the technology so they can look past the noise and find themselves a cloud platform that best meets their needs.
Myth 1: All cloud platforms offer the same set of services. The market is growing steadily as specialist cloud start-ups offer vastly different interpretations of the services that make up a PaaS solution. Most providers offer a very limited number of prebuilt services, and many are dedicated to only one type of service, such as storage. Others cobble together a PaaS offering by purchasing smaller companies. These acquisitions are often separate entities and in no way work together easily. Often, the acquiring company has no intention of investing millions in R&D to bring the disparate acquired services together, which means it is unlikely their customers will benefit from a complete service.
If an organization is spending time and resources on integrating a provider’s clouds, then one of the most significant benefits of cloud technology – simplification – is being overlooked from the start. Also, IT staff will find themselves spending an too much time trying to understand services from multiple cloud provider and expending time and money trying to connect these different clouds together, something they may not even be able to do at all.
Myth 2: PaaS is a great catch-all solution to providing capabilities not found in SaaS applications. Not always. Some SaaS providers want organizations to use their legacy cloud platform so they don’t need to improve the functionality of their SaaS apps. They are essentially providing organizations with an old horse and asking them to buy it a new saddle. Some cloud providers even bury expensive cloud platform development services within customers’ monthly SaaS application fees. While bundling is not necessarily a problem, in some cases these providers are really asking organizations to spend more for services that should actually be baked into their basic SaaS applications as basic functionalities to begin with.
Myth 3: Non-standards-based cloud platforms or open source development languages can bring down costs. Not necessarily. Finding developers for a programming language that is not well-known can be difficult and time-consuming — not to mention costly. Hard-to-find programmers are more expensive than programmers of industry-standard development languages, such as Java.
Myth 4: All cloud subscriptions are more or less the same. Not so. Many cloud providers place numerous, complicated restrictions and limitations on how much work customers can demand of the platform for their basic subscription fee. Due to these restrictions, customers may be unable to scale their platform to quickly process large amounts of data that require significant amounts of processing power.
Myth 5: All clouds are built using the same architecture. Many providers have designed their cloud platforms to be as cost-effective as possible for them to "run and manage" — rather than to be more convenient for their customers. This means that their customers may find themselves forced to share the same database and processing power with other clients on the same platform.
To deal with this, many cloud providers cap the amount of processing available with their platform services – because this will avoid their entire cloud application going down or underperforming. However, a cloud provider that has all its customers sharing the same application creates a situation that if one customer hogs all the processing power in any given application, all the others’ response times will slow down dramatically. Dealing with these caps actually adds hidden costs and development time to the process of extending or creating new applications, unlike a modern personalized cloud platform.
Best practice for PaaS adoption
Once organizations understand the myths clouding the PaaS conversation, they will be in great position to make more informed decisions about how and why to select their ideal PaaS provider.
Those businesses looking to make the leap should bear a few things in mind throughout their search:
– Use a single, well-known, standards-based cloud platform. This saves organizations significant time and money in the long run, and allows them to innovate faster while avoiding unnecessary headaches.
– Use a provider that doesn’t lock customers into its platform by using lesser-known proprietary languages or databases.
– Look for a cloud platform that connects easily with the business’ SaaS applications, and that makes it easy for customers to move SaaS applications to and from another platform whenever they need to.
– Finally, choose a provider that has many prebuilt services integrated at every layer. This approach allows customers to innovate quickly while maintaining governance and standards across their entire organization.
Ultimately, by deciding on a secure cloud platform that is built on widely known standards, companies will save themselves both time and money as they make the transition to PaaS. Just as importantly, they will be in an ideal position to pursue their success in the future.
By Dermot O’Kelly, Senior Vice President for Oracle UK, Ireland and Israel