This is a guest blog from Andrew Pryfogle, Chairman and Co-founder of Cloud Services Coalition.
The Cloud is a huge buzz word right now, but a tremendous source of confusion. Every carrier, service provider, and technology provider is promoting their new Cloud solution. But at the end of the day, what do customers care about? What can drive real business process improvement? What can drive costs down and revenues up? What can improve a company’s capacity to compete and win?
At Terrapin and Cloud Services Coalition, we believe it’s our job to help bring clarity to the Cloud. As a baseline, we see all Cloud Communications solutions fitting into one of these four “silos”.
IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service. When you hear about a service provider’s new Cloud offering, it is most likely in this silo. It is also the silo that is rapidly becoming the most commoditized. IaaS is characterized by services like virtualized servers, computing on demand, cloud storage and data backup. It seems like every provider and their dog has an IaaS offering, with new entrants jumping in every day. Amazon, Microsoft Azure and Google are the big players, but every tier-1 carrier has launched an offer through re-branding or acquisition. There are lesser known providers, like Server Central and Softlayer, that are actually providing the best levels of service in this silo.
Most businesses spending time in this silo have well-defined technology needs and have likely already decided on what they’re shopping for. IaaS provides a revolutionary way for independent software vendors to develop and deliver new software solutions. Although this is a rapidly growing segment of the Cloud, it’s not where most everyday businesses are playing. Those companies are looking for Cloud experts to help them determine where the Cloud can drive measurable business improvement.
SaaS – Software as a Service. This silo is what truly launched the Cloud and has the widest appeal and adoption to date. Nearly everybody is already a consumer of SaaS in some fashion. Online banking may be the most widely adopted consumer-SaaS, but in the commercial space, SaaS is defined by market leaders like Salesforce.com and GoToMeeting. Nearly every software vendor out there is adopting the SaaS model as a replacement to their antiquated software licensing model.
SaaS applications are typically delivered with a traditional web browser, which is incredibly flexible, but also presents significant technical challenges. Most software is far more processor and graphics intensive than in years past, which complicates the real-time delivery of that software over existing, relatively skinny, broadband connections. The solution for many vendors has been to strip out some capabilities and provide a trimmed-down version via SaaS.
Quickbooks Online is a great example of this as it is extremely affordable and accessible, but only presents about 70% of the capability of its full server version. Software developers that have purpose-built their software for SaaS delivery are really driving the most business process change. www.basecamphq.com is a fantastic example of a SaaS provider that is rapidly building a base of rabid fans with their project management and collaboration tools. Idea2 is driving true innovation in the CRM space and SafeView is changing document management forever. In the coming years, SaaS will become the defacto standard for delivering all software.
ITaaS – IT as a Service. Outsourcing IT support has been a growing trend for years. But with the adoption of Cloud Computing, ITaaS becomes a true reality. Helpdesk support is now only a small component of the entire ITaaS story. Streaming all applications from the Cloud and presenting a full “virtual desktop” to the user rounds out the user experience. Technology advancements from Citrix, VMWare, and Microsoft have enabled that user experience to be extremely fluid with minimal drop-off in performance.
The advantages to a business are huge. Thin clients can be deployed in place of expensive, high-maintenance desktop PCs. Employees can even bring their own computing device to the office and get secure access to the company Cloud apps. Anywhere access from any device is now a reality, without compromising security or speed.
The cost savings to a business can be significant, but the accessibility, mobility and scaleability can be the real game-changers. And, freeing up your IT resources to focus on strategic projects instead of menial IT maintenance can dramatically increase your ability to compete and win. nGenX is a true pioneer in the ITaaS space as the largest Hosted Citrix provider in the nation. Evolve IP is delivering a full VDI experience based on VMWare View. Their VDI solution is tightly integrated with their Hosted VoIP offer which can drive tremendous business efficiency.
CaaS – Communication as a Service. With the widespread adoption of Hosted VoIP across all business segments, it begs the question, why would any business ever buy another PBX again? CaaS was perhaps one of the earliest Cloud technologies introduced over 10 years ago. It certainly evolved through a lot of growing pains, but as more and more providers came on the scene, more and more businesses began trusting their critical telephony services to the Cloud.
Today, Hosted VoIP, or Cloud Telephony, has gone mainstream with IP handset sales far outpacing proprietary digital sets. And now that most quality and reliability issues are a thing of the distant past, businesses are enjoying the enormous benefits. Businesses are no longer limited by premise-based hardware or locked down into specific geographies. Re-routing of calls to any phone in the world in seconds or centrally queueing calls in the Cloud before sending them to the right destination at the right time, are just a couple of the features driving big process improvement for companies of all sizes.
There are many companies doing a great job in this space, but Evolve IP and SimpleSignal are driving tremendous innovation.
Ironically, rarely do we design a comprehensive Cloud solution that doesn’t touch each one of these silos. In fact, its typically a hybrid approach that solves the unique needs of each business.
However, before any business jumps headfirst into any or all of these Cloud silos, careful and thoughtful planning is required. Poorly engineered and any one of these silos can cause untold frustration and harm to any business. Cloud implementations poorly managed and poorly executed can wipe away any projected savings and kill any hoped for competitive gains.
So at Cloud Services Coalition, we’d encourage you to embrace the Cloud and all its promises, but to do so thoughtfully.
Carefully plan out how you get from here to there, because properly arriving at “there” is critical to a successful Cloud deployment.