The rise in services geared towards helping non-programmers create software applications is a positive development for business IT departments focused on mission-critical and enterprise-wide projects. However, there needs to be an IT administrative role in place to ensure integrity and protection of sensitive data sources.
There is a large community comprising small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to individuals within large organizations, who have a need to create software applications but do not have the IT resources and programming skills to build them. For many business IT departments there is little time to help this community, so the rise in services geared to cater to this community by exploiting software as a service (SaaS) and utility computing (UC) concepts, is welcome.
The idea that online computer infrastructure and services will gain ascendancy over in-house IT is proving popular, for example, the latest book from Nicholas Carr, ‘The Big Switch’, heralds this as the next big step in IT. Whether this happens in quite such an overwhelming way remains to be seen, but there are certainly cases today where exploiting SaaS and UC makes sense. It is possible to short circuit IT hardware procurement, which can take weeks if not months, and have a project resourced and active in days. For the agile business, this represents an important option within the box of strategies.
For the non-programmer business end-user, relying on IT to fulfill small scale projects that may have quite a limited lifetime or have low priority but big impact on productivity, there is a failure in delivery. For this community there are now a growing number of ventures that provide online application build tools and IT infrastructure hosting facilities. One strategy within this vendor set is to provide pre-built components that can be pulled together to build a new composite application.
Coghead is a vendor providing basic business-function widgets that non-programmers can drag-and-drop to build new applications. Coghead has also recently introduced a partner program to encourage VARs and SIs to build applications hosted on its site. Of other small players in this space, the following can be included: Bungee Labs, Dabble DB, WyaWorks, and Zoho Creator. However, the major player here is salesforce.com with its force.com platform.
The SaaS and UC market is ideal for satisfying the needs of the non-programmer community described here, and with Amazon, Google, and Microsoft all having stakes in online services, there will be increased competition for salesforce.com and the smaller players mentioned. From the viewpoint of businesses, it is necessary to identify use of these services as a potential leakage of commercially sensitive business data. Given the ease with which web-based applications can be built and accessed through the firewall, it is essential that an IT role is established to vet hosted services and help create architectural guidelines for working with them; for example, creating web services that perform calculations on data within the firewall and then round-trip only the results via the hosted service, reducing risk.
There are significant benefits to be gained from using online services for business information workers, and businesses need to be aware of this trend and have roles and strategies in place to create a win/win situation.
Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)