With Information Technology (IT) increasingly moving from a business enabler role to a business differentiator, ISVs have been helping businesses in a variety of ways towards positioning IT as a competitive advantage. ISVs play a crucial role in the business ecosystem where enterprises can concentrate on their core business areas while leveraging the ISV’s expertise in tools, platforms, frameworks and the software development companies they work closely with.
In this article, we’ll look at a cloud platform’s capability in 3 broad areas and how ISVs help in each of these areas with the advent of cloud.
1. IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service
In this model, ISVs allow enterprises to setup their own private cloud, where computers (in the form of virtual machines) can be provisioned on demand. These clouds are usually hosted in data-centers located in places with cheap and plentiful warehouse space and electricity. Major vendors like VMWare, Eucalyptus offer cloud platforms (and associated help) with ability to scale services on demand. This leads to better computer hardware demand and purchase planning for the enterprise, and instant provisioning and de-commissioning of hardware resources as dictated by business needs. Some ISVs even provide tools where short-term demand spikes (that cannot be satisfied by the private cloud) could be routed to external clouds at a reasonable cost. This model where at least 2 different cloud installations are seamlessly integrated is called Hybrid Cloud.
Virtual Machines are created using an image library, and other resources like IP addresses, Load Balancers, firewalls etc are also provided.
2. PaaS – Platform as a Service
The PaaS model lets ISVs deliver a computing platform – which includes choice of Operating Systems, databases, storage, and programming language or software development environments to build and deploy applications. Enterprises can either make use of the cloud provider’s software license (say for Microsoft Windows) or bring their own license to the cloud.
Software development teams can create one good image of a development system and replicate it across the enterprise. With Database as a Service patches or upgrades can happen in the background without bringing down the underlying database or affecting people’s productivity.
DropBox is a good example of a storage platform – end-users can leverage it for storing files and backups, and Document Management Systems may use DropBox as an archival platform.
Platforms such as LongJump, OrangeScape, Rollbase enable even non-technology professionals to build applications (or prototypes) using drag-and-drop interfaces. There is very little programming or hand-coding involved with these tools hence making business professionals with more of an end-user knowledge very productive. The trend these days is to use such tools to develop short-lived applications or internal applications that have very few users.
3. SaaS – Software as a Service
With SaaS, enterprises typically “lease” application/business software deployed on the cloud by the ISV. Enterprises do not have to worry about purchasing licenses, blue-printing or services. This eliminates having internal hardware to install the application and the ensuing maintenance and support. For example, a typical enterprise with need for a CRM application may go for set of hosted Salesforce.com licenses rather than purchasing and deploying a software package internally. Such SaaS applications (based on business and/or regulatory needs) are available in a variety of “multi-tenant” configurations like:
- Exclusive Hardware
- Shared Hardware
- Shared Instance
An enterprise can choose to have its SaaS instance residing in its own private network in the cloud because data security laws demand that the underlying data reside in its own exclusive physical environment.
ISVs and their application development consultants support various ways to integrate the SaaS application with other enterprise systems at the data or application level. For example:
- Employee records from an enterprise HR system (deployed internally) may be imported daily into the CRM application hosted as SaaS.
- The Enterprise Reporting System can pick data from the SaaS application through APIs, and generate reports seamlessly as though the data was available internally.