Built For The Cloud vs. Adapting To The Cloud
It may just sound like semantics, but there is a real difference between something that was “built for” versus “adapted to.” Would you rather buy a house that was “designed for” energy efficiency or one that was “adapted to” be energy efficient?
“Built for” describes a software product that engineers designed from the ground up to utilize and incorporate the features of cloud computing technology. “Adapted to” implies a software product wasn't specifically designed with cloud computing in mind, but rather a company made its older, legacy solution “compatible “ with the cloud.
This is an important distinction for several reasons.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology's definition of cloud computing identifies “five essential characteristics”:
On-demand self-service: A consumer can unilaterally provision computing capabilities, such as server time and network storage, as needed, automatically without requiring human interaction with each service provider.
Broad network access: Capabilities are available over the network and accessed through standard mechanisms that promote use by heterogeneous thin or thick client platforms (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops, and workstations).
Resource pooling: The provider's computing resources are pooled to serve multiple consumers using a multi-tenant model, with different physical and virtual resources dynamically assigned and reassigned according to consumer demand.
Rapid elasticity: Capabilities can be elastically provisioned and released, in some cases automatically, to scale rapidly outward and inward commensurate with demand. To the consumer, the capabilities available for provisioning often appear unlimited and can be appropriated in any quantity at any time.
Measured service: Cloud systems automatically control and optimize resource use by leveraging a metering capability at some level of abstraction appropriate to the type of service (e.g., storage, processing, bandwidth, and active user accounts). Resource usage can be monitored, controlled, and reported, providing transparency for both the provider and consumer of the utilized service.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that is “designed for” the cloud incorporates all of these features. The result is that a wide variety of devices can access such software, thus increasing application portability. Additionally, the dynamic optimization of computing resources and elasticity ensures a consistent user connection experience regardless of time of day or location. This open accessibility and resource optimization without human intervention on the part of the user is the essence of cloud computing technology.
This capability may be critical to companies whose operations include offices in international locations or span multiple time zones domestically or who run multiple shift operations. Even more important may be the need for 24/7 availability for customer ordering and customer self-service applications.
Then there is the issue of deployment options. ERP solutions that are designed for the cloud can usually be deployed in the public cloud, a private cloud, of a combination (hybrid) configuration. The greater the available options, the greater the flexibility and potential “fit” to a given company's needs.
In terms of scalability, the public cloud is virtually limitless. Recent investments by companies such as Amazon and IBM in cloud infrastructure are indicative of the growing scalability and acceptance of the cloud as a primary enterprise computing platform.
Private cloud instances are limited by in-house infrastructure but provide similar potential scale constrained only by an organization’s ability to make the necessary investments. A hybrid cloud configuration is often a perfect solution when internal infrastructure is limited.
ERP software that is “adapted to” the cloud may not incorporate many of the accessibility and resource transparency features of a true cloud environment. As a result, the use of computing devices may be limited and the user connection experience may vary depending on location or time of day.
A variety of deployment options also provides for growth. A company may start with ERP software hosted in a public cloud, because it requires minimum investments in hardware and IT resources to set up and maintain. However, as that company grows in terms of transaction volume and process complexity, it may makes sense to move to a private cloud or hybrid configuration in order to more easily integrate its ERP system with other internal applications or databases. The limitations of an ERP solution that is “adapted to” the cloud to support a variety of platform configurations may inhibit a company's ability to change or may require a “re-implementation” of its ERP software at great cost and disruption of business focus.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, software that is designed for the cloud ensures future releases will keep pace with the evolution of cloud computing technology in terms of security, Application Program Interfaces (APIs), database integration, and other technical features. There can be little doubt that the cloud as a platform for enterprise systems is here to stay. Cloud computing technology will continue to evolve in terms of its underlying design, as well as integration with new technologies. By contrast, ERP systems that are adapted to the cloud may not be able to keep pace with cloud computing technology due to limitations or incompatibility of their underlying technology design.
These differences are important ones for any organization to consider in their selection of an ERP software platform. However they are of particular importance for small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) that are considering an ERP software suite for the first time. For them, choosing an ERP solution that is designed for the cloud ensures that they will employ the latest ERP technology to optimize their business processes and improve customer service. It also means they will have selected a technology platform and vendor that can grow with their business and deliver the future capabilities they will need to succeed.
There’s just no way one can “adapt” that!
By Jon Roskill