Cloud+Apps=New Enterprise Paradigm?
"We'll see a move away from the 'build' to the 'buy' mentality, as many enterprises move away from custom to packaged applications," said Rikke Helms, managing director of the Global Telecom division and vice president of the EMEA region for Antenna Software. CIOs will soon be buying apps the same way they buy MP3s now: from an app store.
"The parallels between music and cloud computing are eerily similar when it comes to format (mp3 vs. OVF), enabler (mp3 player vs. virtualization), and the delivery system (network vs. cloud)," pointed out Pat O'Day, co-founder and CTO of BlueLock, a provider of cloud hosting and managed IT services.
Such immediacy in deployment and ease of use on the cheap is simply too compelling for enterprises to ignore.
App stores abound
"The idea of an enterprise class app store is starting to take hold," said CloudSoft CEO, Duncan Johnston Watts. "Like cloud adoption itself though, the likelihood is that large companies will start by trying to pool applications internally using this model, i.e. create private app stores."
Watts cites the UK G-Cloud initiative, which includes an app store aimed at pooling applications across government departments, as a prime example. The U.S. Government has also launched their Apps.gov, a GSA-operated website that government agencies can use to buy and deploy cloud computing applications.
External enterprise app stores, ranging from the McAfee's to the Korea Telecom's (KT) of the world, mostly address the mobile sphere. For example, Korea Telecom has developed a service called KT Enterprise Mobility Platform (KEMP) for enterprise apps. KEMP offers a range of enterprise mobility packages, from a fully-hosted service, with apps supplied on-demand over a multi-tenanted or dedicated single server to an on-premise offering with Antenna Mobility Platform (AMP) located behind the corporate firewall, and even a remote cloud-based offering.
"The latter will operate as a 'switch in the cloud' allowing enterprises to virtually provision and control apps while enjoying the scalability and cost-savings of a hosted solution," said Helms.
Interestingly, KEMP allows the same app to be propagated over disparate operating systems - be it Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, Windows Mobile or Windows laptop.
However, there are already several enterprise app stores that offer both mobile and desktop apps, such as GetApp.com, Force.com, Intuit Marketplace, IBM's Smart Market, and Google's Apps Marketplace with more sure to come.
"While it might not be in full operation in 2011, we will see the emergence of cloud stores," said O'Day.
Harnessing disparate data sources will entail complex integration, requiring information to be pulled from systems inside and outside the enterprise using a variety of protocols such as XML/HTTP, SOAP, JMS, RMI, JDBC, text file, etc. Therefore, some coding work is still required but not at the levels programmers previously enjoyed.
"The two primary sources for software will be purchased applications with best practice processes and offshore development for efficiency when purchased applications do not exist," said JimVenglarik, U.S. general manager for Bleum, a U.S.-owned and China-based applications development outsourcer. "The programmer function does not go away; however, he/she is employed by a provider or living in a low-cost country."
Selling the Sizzle
Realizing that the mammoth enterprise software deals and the endless license fees are gone forever, some leading technology vendors turned a savvy-eye towards leveraging consumerism in the enterprise space and coupled that with a brand-new agility play: piecemeal app sales.
"When it comes time to buy, the cloud is forcing application vendors, both old and new, to embrace a more flexible architecture so smaller components can be procured and mashed with others," explained Mike Jones, agile evangelist at OutSystems. He says this will exert pressure for standardized interfaces and will "challenge any vendor who offers their apps using a proprietary approach."
In addition, many organizations will want the flexibility to run the application in the cloud or on premise.
By reinventing their sales packaging, vendors aim to emerge from the recession as aggressively agile and dominant players. "But with everyone focusing on making cuts and putting out fires, it is easy to overlook the larger strategic shift in how enterprise technology is used, sold and paid for," said Zvi Guterman, CEO of CloudShare.
The promise enterprises are seeking is the "ultimate notion of disposable apps" said Jones. The meaning of such is clear: one can subscribe to an app, use it until it is no longer fit for purpose and then simply replace it with something new that better fits your changing business requirements.
"IT can empower individual business units to address their specific needs for tactical applications; freeing central IT from having to be involved in every project but assuring a standard infrastructure," said Jones. "As these tactical apps become more enterprise critical then it will be much easier for corporate IT to take ownership without having to re-write them like many situations today -- a much more efficient overall approach to IT."
Security vendors, such as McAfee, are offering enterprise app stores to leverage the need presented by other enterprise app stores. "The power of mash-ups has spurred the evolution of more sophisticated security and access control features to keep the corporate enterprise protected when deploying this new generation of applications," explained Paul Gardner, Associate Director at Xantus Consulting.
Cloud, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) make it easier than ever to develop new apps and extensions (or mash-ups) to existing applications. The continued improvements in software security models also make it safer for large enterprises to explore these new apps.
"So, indeed, the catalogue of applications will explode," said Alex Heneveld, CTO of CloudSoft.
All told, the shift to enterprise app stores is already underway. Now is the time to prepare guidance on how and when to use them.
"Software needs more scrutiny than content, of course, for reasons including security, functionality, and licensing terms -- and that won't change -- but the degree to which standards will lower that barrier means that the music-store or app-store model is one for CIOs to watch," said Heneveld.
A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker's published credits include numerous articles in leading publications including, but not limited to: Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers. She has also authored several analytical studies on technology and eight books. Baker also wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making. She is a member of the National Press Club (NPC), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and the Internet Press Guild (IPG).