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Inching towards ‘holistic’ cloud strategy: Hitting the right notes with PaaS is needed

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Despite research predicting that half of large enterprises will be running production workflows in the cloud by 2018, many companies still lack, a holistic cloud strategy.

By Sunil Mehra

Despite research firm Forrester predicting that half of large enterprises will be running production workflows in the cloud by 2018, it is obvious that many companies still lack, in my view, a holistic cloud strategy. This could have dire consequences as cloud is like an orchestra – you need the right cloud platform (to act like a conductor) and create perfect harmony in the cloud.

This is because it is becoming increasingly clear that the value of cloud services and infrastructure increases exponentially when delivered as an orchestrated whole. The sound of a lone saxophonist is in no way comparable to the power of a full orchestra; likewise, businesses that have a holistic cloud strategy are in a different league to those that run isolated elements of the cloud. While the latter might enjoy productivity and costs benefits in the short term, the former stand to deliver far greater benefits from the complete transformation of their businesses.

When I talk about a ‘holistic’ cloud strategy, I’m not – yet – talking about 100 percent cloud-based IT systems. Such systems are at least a few years away, and in the meantime there will be a period where cloud infrastructure will co-exist with on-premises based IT. This approach makes complete sense, as businesses have invested too much in their existing systems to do away with them before their full value has been realized. Instead, companies should be looking to marry the resources and technology they have in place with their cloud and hybrid equivalents.

This approach to the cloud will interest any organization serious about being a contender in the digital age, because it allows them to combine the best of their public and private clouds with their on-premises resources. But for such a system to work there needs to be a glue to bind the various elements together. Without a means to integrate public, private and on-premises applications, middleware and infrastructure, and to enrich each with data taken from across the enterprise, the cloud will not live up to its potential.

Therefore, choosing the right cloud platform is a prerequisite for cloud success. The best PaaS systems, for instance, enable integration between the various cloud services (such as SaaS and IaaS solutions). This allows businesses to virtualize processes, such as web application development, while still having access to the same standards and tools they are used to from their on-premises environments. Modern PaaS offerings also enable businesses to shift workloads between the public and private cloud, as well as on-premises, and hybrid environments, allowing them to easily migrate on-premises applications to the cloud and back as needed.

But PaaS has a far greater role to play in enabling the holistic cloud than just acting as a bridge between the cloud and on-premises worlds; it’s also an important means of ensuring cloud services deliver all they’re capable of. For example, an organization might find that their off-the-shelf SaaS application doesn’t fully meet the business requirements; at least not in the way an ‘old-world’ and (most-likely) highly-customized enterprise application did.  In fact, it is often these customizations that are attributed to delivering competitive differentiation.

ValueLabs is a good example. They wanted to develop a bespoke ecommerce, fulfilment and fraud management solution for the SMB segment. Oracle’s enterprise-grade cloud platform enabled them with the right scalability, elasticity and security, allowing ValueLabs to significantly reduce development time and increase speed to market.

In the new world of PaaS, businesses can use application development cloud services (database and middleware) to personalize their SaaS applications and tailor them to their needs. Businesses can also extend SaaS applications with platform services to provide additional capabilities such as document sharing or analytics. A good PaaS environment will enable this and bypass the pitfalls that traditionally plighted app customization, such as complicating the update process.

The author is Vice President-Cloud Platform, Oracle India.

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