May 03, 2011

Two Factors Why Cloud Applications May Not Be Truly Cloud-Ready

Steven John, CIO from Workday recently posted what he calls the “10 Critical Requirements for Cloud Applications” which summarizes 10 characteristics that true cloud applications should have. I found Steven’s article to be an excellent summary of the core tenants of what makes an offering truly cloud-enabled.

As I read the article I couldn’t help but reflect on each of the numerous cloud vendors that we use at Enterasys and do a quick mental evaluation of the group. If I were to stack-rank all of the cloud vendors we work with (we’re closing in on 15) there are some who clearly execute on all 10 of Mr John’s requirements. The rest, however, have some work to do, and in some cases a lot of work to do. I couldn’t help but wonder why there is such a difference in offerings. I mean cloud computing isn’t new – not really. Salesforce has been leading the way for a while now, and while not perfect, they have the most mature offering, so newer companies should have a clear roadmap of what works and what doesn’t.

So why such a difference?

I think the answer is primarily a combination of two factors: solution complexity and solution maturity.

Considering maturity first, let’s face it, even the most basic software solution takes *some* time to build when you factor in everything involved: design, development, testing, deployment, rinse & repeat. When building for the cloud and striving to achieve true cloud nirvana the time to market increases. And while the appropriate development methodology can help, i.e. Waterfall, Spiral, RAD, managed by the best Six Sigma Blackbelt Scum Masters, things are still going to take some time.

When it comes to complexity, the more complex the business problem, the more customized the solution will need to be for each customer and the more difficult it will be for the vendor to be fully cloud viable. The solution will be a far cry from multi-tenant, updates will be difficult if not brutal, integrations will be closely coupled and inflexible and configurability quickly becomes unmanageable. You end up with a brittle, hosted solution more closely resembling a commercial application that has been heavily customized.

None of this means that emerging vendors attempting to solve complex issues can’t provide value. However the benefits promised by a shift to the cloud – the reasons companies are moving there so quickly – will not be realized by some vendors. Over time, I expect solutions to mature and more of them to more closely align to the 10 principles outlined by Steven John. In the meantime, carefully consider the importance of each of the 10 critical requirements and compare what is important for you to the ability of a given vendor’s solution to execute where needed. Lastly, here is a call to action for cloud vendors: drive toward support of the 10 Critical Requirements for Cloud Applications if you want to succeed in this competitive marketplace and make your customers happy.

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