BY BALA SUBRAMANIAN
ECM solution providers are keen to jump into the bandwagon and take advantage of what the cloud technologies can offer.
There are three options available for ECM solution providers in the cloud namely Software-as-a-Service (Saas), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) models. Each of these models has distinct advantages and disadvantages that ECM solution providers should be aware.
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model has lower investment costs and typically based on usage based payment. The challenges for ECM solution providers can vary from doing heavy customisation, data security, integration issues, data portability and vendor lock-in.
The agreement between Google and SalesForce.com to sell Google Apps to SalesForce.com’s customers has highlighted the benefits of Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud computing approach to the delivery of enterprise applications.
Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) model can provide virtual computing power on-demand. This would mean leveraging the cloud technology to provide ability for the infrastructure to scale on-demand and an option to externally host the infrastructure. In Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) model, the provider delivers end-to-end service including the customisation that the ECM solution provider needs. The limitations are that customisations standards have to adhere by the ECM solution provider in line with the demands by the PaaS provider. The best part of this model is that a complete solution can be acquired without bothering about any of the infrastructure.
The real life adoption of cloud technology by ECM service providers will pave way for a huge opportunity in the new US$84 Billion cloud market place (by 2013). A number of point solution providers can tap this opportunity to provide plumbing within and around the cloud. Solutions can be developed around shared services, infrastructure, process etc. and at the same time make headway into the untapped small- and medium-business segment.
Private Cloud vs Public Cloud
ECM solutions have now become a more integral part of key enterprise processes and choices are now emerging to implement Private or Public cloud models based on number of factors. Two key decision points while considering cloud models are data security and managing unstructured content. Data security issues are concerned with security breach and those that are governed by government regulations in the European Union as an example. The unstructured content that which makes up the majority of an organization’s Information assets are documents, images, photographs, video clips, podcasts, e-mail messages etc. Hence data security and management of unstructured data will determine the choice for either a Saas or a private cloud model to deploy customised applications that will require mix of applications that will satisfy enterprise and third-party integration needs.
In this scenario, private cloud model can offer higher level of security, availability, and flexibility for organisations such as government, aerospace, etc. while taking advantage of SaaS for ECM in a cloud environment. Physically segregated servers and dedicated storage can allow the service provider to physically remove or destroy content at the request of the organization, without the restrictions of and security risks. public cloud model can be adopted if ECM providers consider data security and unstructured content as not a major issue. The main advantage that a public cloud solution can offer are zero setup costs, capitalising the service providers applications and infrastructure and a payment model based in usage.
The Hybrid Approach
A hybrid approach can also be considered by having a combination of public and private models. Critical organisation data or private data that has to reside within the organisation premises can reside behind the firewall in a private cloud infrastructure. However standard applications, workflows and other features that are not mission critical can reside in a public cloud infrastructure. The hybrid deployment can potentially provide an optimal model of leveraging both cloud options and commercial benefits.
Management and Governance needs of cloud services are different for both user and service provider community. Providers host cloud services in either the public cloud or in a private cloud and users are charged only for what they use. At an operating level, the Governance model should follow the organisations internal Governance process. However, there are certain elements of the governance process that are unique to the cloud computing model. The service provider should ensure that there is enough transparency in the services that are offered, which include actual computing power that is being used based on demand, the service level commitments that will be offered for the recipient, services that are not under the scope and commitment to scaling the infrastructure based on demand. The responsibility of service recipients include ensuring that applications that are very critical to the organisation are supported without down times and data security breach. Every service recipient has his own governance process and cloud governance shouldn’t create a major impact that will require an organisation change.
The cloud governance should complement the existing governance model and ensure seamless integration with the management process.
There is also an emergence of cloud governance tools and processes from organisations like IBM and VMware that can be deployed. These tools can aid in ensuring that polices are adhered, enforcement of specific organisational workflows, measurement of services levels, audit of capacity unitisation based on demand and providing better experience for users in managing the deployment. Smaller players and open source tools are also emerging in the market today with point solutions to better govern the cloud deployment model.
The final point that has to be considered in cloud governance is the role of the finance and legal teams within the organisation. Cloud outsourcing is not a typical outsourcing model and processing are just evolving and some way to go before a trusted relationship can be created. The legal attorneys have to be aware of the gaps and typical contractual clauses may not have the applicability. The financial teams would like to take the advantage of pricing models and at the same time clearly understand the constraints involved in satisfying the business case and the legal constraints involved.
Bala Subramanian, Vice President – Europe, ITC Infotech