Another day, and another software vendor—or two, or three—will announce some strategy around the cloud. As a CIO, I’ve benefitted hugely from cloud applications, and view it as a positive sign that more and more software companies are exploring alternative delivery models.
What concerns me, however, is when vendors tout cloud applications (also known as software as aservice, or SaaS) that aren’t real cloud applications. Real cloud applications deliver incredible benefits, but only if they were designed to be cloud applications, and are delivered in a true cloud model.
So we decided to document the many components that go into cloud applications in an important, educational paper we call the “10 Critical Requirements for Cloud Applications.” I believe CIOs, CFOs, and business managers will find this paper enlightening. Here’s a summary of the 10 requirements:
- True Multi-tenancy. Multi-tenancy is the only proven SaaS delivery architecture that eliminates many of the problems created by the traditional software licensing and upgrade model—period. Multi-tenancy ensures that every customer is on the same version of the software. That means no customer is left behind when the software is updated, and in my experience that fosters a fantastic community for sharing knowledge and resources with other CIOs, all of whom are using the same version of the software.
- Regularly Delivered, Vendor-Managed Updates. A cloud application is a single version of software that is regularly updated, often several times a year, for all customers, at no additional charge. Change every four years is not a sustainable model (and never really was) as our industries are constantly evolving and innovating, and business partners and customers won’t wait four years for us to change. We need partners that keep pace with us, not ones that require us to slow down in order to keep pace with them.
- Seamless Integration On Demand. Cloud applications should be built from the ground up to lower the cost, time, and risk of integrating them with existing on-premise and on-demand applications. As a customer you should expect your cloud provider to offer an integration platform and tools, a strong partner ecosystem, and generally whatever assistance you require for pain-free integrations.
- Business-Driven Configurability. Cloud apps should be configurable, so your IT organization is freed from costly customizations (the most over-rated virtue of traditional software, in my opinion), and businesspeople can configure processes that meet the specific needs of the organization. That said, you should be able to choose from among multiple types of configurations.
- World-Class Data Center and Security. A cloud application provider should be able to offer world-class security and data privacy better than its customers can do on their own, and at no additional cost. That includes physical, network, application, and data-level security, as well as full back-up and disaster recovery. The provider should be compliant with security-oriented laws and auditing programs, including Safe Harbor, ISO 27001, and SAS70 Type II.
- A High-Performance, Sustainable IT Infrastructure. The provider should maintain a high-performance IT infrastructure, which includes the data centers and databases, operating systems, networks, and storage systems used to run cloud applications and manage customer data.
- Predictable Total Cost of Ownership Model. There should be no surprise costs with cloud applications. Implementation costs should be predictable, subscription-based pricing should have no hidden fees, and no investments should be required for hardware and software license fees.
- Faster Deployment. Since cloud applications don’t require investments and installation of hardware and software, you should be able to get them running and productive in a fraction of the time compared with on-premise software.
- Control. Cloud applications should allow you complete control of your organization’s data, even though it is located off premise. Nothing should hinder your ability to import, export, purge, and archive data to and from the application without having to first contact the SaaS vendor.
- Liberation from Non-Strategic IT Issues. This is my personal favorite. Cloud applications should free CIOs and their teams from time and energy spent on non-strategic, back-office IT operations and software coding. Today and into the future, the most highly valued CIOs—the ones that become heroes to the business—are those who are closely aligned with strategic business initiatives and drive the IT projects that support those initiatives.
I hope you you’ll take the time to read this paper in its entirety. Have comments or thoughts about these requirements? Send them my way to [email protected].