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Knocking down cloud myths and FUD

As the evidence continues to demonstrate that cloud computing is real, incumbent vendors find increasingly wrong headed ways of spreading Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). Security is still the staple drip fed poison despite numerous reports clearly pointing to how cloud providers offer superior security to on-premise deployments. For example, in a Microsoft report entitled: Economics of the Cloud says:

“public clouds are in a relatively early stage of development, so naturally critical areas like reliability and security will continue to improve. Data already suggests that public cloud email is more reliable than most on-premises implementations”

The latest FUD targets center around ease of upgrading and the myth that organizations cannot benefit from custom development. The nub of the upgrade argument goes something like this: since all customers of a cloud application vendor get the same upgrade then what does this mean for organizations that may not need all the new features that are on offer.

The new breed of cloud vendors do not behave in the same way as on premise vendors. Daniel Debow, co-CEO Rypple explains where the on-premise argument has its genesis:

Enterprise [on -premise] software companies have no choice but to keep adding features in order to keep the revenues flowing. Upgrade fees are what keep them afloat, so their businesses are highly optimized to add new features, build next year’s monolithic release, and then force their trapped users to ante up.

Cloud vendors do not have that same issue. They offer a subscription model which includes upgrades. Cloud vendors are dependent upon satisfying the whole customer experience. That means vendors need to carefully assess what will likely be added in the product roadmap and will satisfy users. There is for example no point in adding something that only 2% of customers want. How does this translate to ‘ease of upgrade?’

Cloud players make up to four releases available each year. That can be a lot to consume but best in class vendors ensure that upgrades are relevant to as many of their users as possible. That encourages early adoption for things that users want rather than what IT departments think those same users need. By concentrating on delivering to the customer experience, cloud vendors avoid the problem of delivering features that users have not requested.

It is doubtful whether customization holds many, if any, benefits for the very small business. However, there is no avoiding the fact that many industries have specific business process requirements that reflect the way in which those industries operate. At one end of the spectrum, it could be industry specific taxonomies. At the other end of the scale it could be something like billing systems for subscription based media. While cloud vendors will try and avoid customizations, we are increasingly seeing the early verticalization of solutions. Debits and credits will always be required in the same way for all organizations but the value add processes that lead towards the accounting system of record will not.

The only way to overcome the limitations of deliberately keeping mass customization to a minimum is to use a platform that allows developers to plug in to the underlying technology base without touching the core code. Cloud vendors have recognized that providing a platform that can accomplish fast track development avoids the lengthy development cycle that is typical in on-premise custom deployments. Instead of taking years to deploy, customers get benefit much earlier, often within 3-6 months. At the same time, developers in a cloud vendor’s ecosystem are free to satisfy the needs of sub-verticals where they have expertise.

That’s two more myths knocked down. Any more?

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