Business applications cloud computing mega-guide

Business applications cloud computing mega-guide

In this guide collection, find answers to commonly asked questions about SAP, Oracle, CRM and manufacturing/ERP cloud computing.

Table of contents:

SearchCRM Cloud Guide

CRM systems running in the cloud, or on-demand or Software as a Service (SaaS), as it’s known, are becoming more popular as more companies consider these alternatives to full on-premises systems.

Typically available through subscription fees, cloud CRM leaves much of the overhead (such as servers and data maintenance) to the company hosting the infrastructure. Companies are more likely to consider a SaaS or cloud CRM system, thanks to the potential for lower costs in areas such as the contact center.

The relatively quick implementation time (as little as a few weeks), is another reason companies consider SaaS CRM software.

That said, not every company will realize cost and time savings with SaaS. For example, companies may find that comparing on-premises and on-demand CRM applications is a bit tricky.

"[Some SaaS vendors] do not allow you to dial down the number of users," said Rob Desisto, an analyst with Gartner. "Not only are you committed, in many cases you've paid up from the anniversary of year one."

View SearchCRM Cloud Guide

Guide to cloud computing for manufacturing

Manufacturers aren't known for going overboard investing in advanced IT, so it's ironic that leading-edge cloud computing technology seems tailor-made for them. Indeed, despite tight budgets, manufacturers have been deploying cloud computing for manufacturing precisely because it can reduce capital expenditures and IT labor costs.

The attraction of using cloud computing services is obvious. Cloud computing for manufacturing transfers the responsibility for running on-premises hardware and software out to the Internet, where cloud computing providers handle the hassles that would otherwise burden IT departments, such as software upgrades and hardware maintenance.

Besides cost savings, cloud computing benefits typically include quicker deployment and superior ease of use. "Many SaaS ERP vendors grew up in a thin client, browser-based model with a strong focus on selling to the business and leveraging an easy-to-use look and feel," said Liz Herbert, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Another key advantage of cloud computing for manufactruring is operational flexibility. Cloud computing software lets IT managers click a few menu selections to free up computing power from the cloud whenever manufacturing operations need additional resources or to accommodate new software modules.

But cloud maturity issues prevent some manufacturers from running mission-critical applications in a cloud computing environment. "On a scale of 1 to 5, the maturity model of cloud computing right now is about 2," said Nitin Khorana, vice president and head of manufacturing for Mahindra Satyam, an IT outsourcing firm.

The disadvantages of cloud computing technology center on security, reliability and customization. Experts advise manufacturers to make sure that cloud computing companies meet industry standards for security and provide adequate service-level agreements. "If Salesforce.com goes down for two hours, your salespeople will be inconvenienced, but it is not necessarily going to bring your company to its knees," said Bob Parker, group vice president of research for IDC Manufacturing Insights. "But if you can't send invoices or process orders for half a day, you’ve got a different issue."

Because users typically share the same instance of cloud computing software, the application may not be as customizable as on-premises software or traditional hosted ERP. But that can be an advantage, according to Warren Wilson, research director for Ovum Summit. "[SaaS ERP] needs to be considered in the context of whether it’s better to customize to your business processes or whether the built-in best practices of the SaaS are better for your business to adopt," he said.

View Guide to cloud computing for manufacturing

Oracle cloud computing guide

When it comes to Oracle’s cloud strategy, the company may be one of the most inclusive in the industry.

To Oracle, the cloud is more than a Salesforce.com application delivered as Software as a Service (SaaS), and it’s more than the hardware and software that Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) customers use to spin up computing power. For Oracle, a key component is the private cloud -- the hardware and software that enterprise customers can buy to launch their own clouds in their own data centers.

Yet, it’s important to note that Oracle isn’t trying to carve out a definition of a particular kind of cloud. Oracle’s cloud meets the needs of corporations evolving their virtualization of internal resources into private clouds -- like Exalogic – as well as collaborating with Amazon to certify the use of Oracle Database, Fusion Middleware and various applications to run on Amazon EC2.

Oracle has delivered a cornucopia of applications as on-demand services, most of which the company seems quite happy to associate with cloud computing. Customers can get CRM, procurement, and human resources applications on demand from Oracle, just to name a few. It also offers various cloud-related tools that don’t need to touch Exadata or Exalogic. Oracle Enterprise Manager can help customers with their initial cloud set-up and the management of physical and virtual resources from a single console.

Another example is Oracle Optimized Solution for Enterprise Cloud. It is an integrated package that includes everything Oracle and Sun: blade servers, Solaris or Linux operating systems, Oracle VM, Oracle ZFS storage, Oracle Database, Oracle Fusion Middleware and Oracle applications. The company likes to call this the cloud. Detractors might say it’s just a big bundle of hardware and software that creates vendor lock-in.

- Chris Maxcer, contributor

View Oracle cloud computing guide

SAP OnDemand and SaaS guide

SAP’s early forays into cloud computing technology, such as the first version of SAP CRM on-demand and the original SAP Business ByDesign, did not meet with much success. SAP was unable to turn a profit from these early on-demand applications and for a while did not do much with them.

In fact, Jon Reed, SAP Mentor and analyst, noted that the initial selection of cloud applications for SAP was very limited. “They don’t have enough options yet. I think they’d be the first to admit that,” he said.

Since then, SAP has been adding to its on-demand offerings. For example, it released the SAP Business ByDesign software development kit (SDK) to make development easier for the platform. SAP also rolled out SAP Business ByDesign to more countries in an effort to increase interest in cloud technology.

“I’m actually pleased to see SAP kind of really start to take the gloves off of this product, and open it up for more markets, more people to sell it and implement it,” said Brian Sommer, an analyst and founder of TechVentive.

View SAP OnDemand and SaaS guide

Cloud business intelligence: A guide to cloud BI technology and trends

For many years, cloud business intelligence was primarily the domain of startup vendors offering Software as a Service (SaaS) BI tools as alternatives to the traditional on-premises software sold by the BI market leaders. But cloud BI is becoming more mainstream as increasing numbers of corporate users embrace the cloud computing and SaaS models as part of their business intelligence strategies: About 25% of organizations surveyed by consulting firm Enterprise Management Associates Inc. in 2011 said they were using BI applications in the cloud, and only 2% said they weren’t considering or interested in cloud BI technology. Top BI vendors are responding to the increasing interest among users by focusing more attention, and development resources, on SaaS BI and cloud analytics.

Cloud BI’s potential benefits are similar to those offered by cloud computing technology in general: reduced data center and IT management costs, faster deployment times, increased flexibility as business needs change. In many cases, though, cloud BI deployments are still relatively low-end in nature – for example, departmental applications or Salesforce.com users looking to do analysis on sales data. Other organizations are using the cloud for proof-of-concept projects that later lead to in-house deployments of BI software, according to analysts and BI vendors. Among the issues that are holding companies back from adopting or expanding cloud-based approaches to BI are data integration complexities and security concerns about sending sensitive business data beyond the corporate firewall for storage.

This cloud BI guide is designed to provide readers with comprehensive and up-to-date information on SaaS BI technology, trends and issues. It also covers cloud analytics and SaaS corporate performance management (CPM) technologies. If your organization is considering an investment in cloud BI tools, or looking at broadening an initial deployment, use the information resources below to make sure you have a full understanding of the benefits and challenges of BI in the cloud.

View Cloud business intelligence: A guide to cloud BI technology and trends

A guide to cloud data management technology and trends

As the use of cloud computing services and applications increases, cloud data management technologies are emerging as alternatives to traditional on-premises software. At the database level, cloud databases and Database as a Service (DaaS) platforms have become viable options for organizations looking to augment or replace in-house databases – the same goes for cloud data warehouse technology for business intelligence (BI) and analytics uses. In addition, data integration and quality vendors are offering cloud-based versions of their tools and building up their capabilities for supporting mixed installations of in-house and Software as a Service (SaaS) applications.

But is data management in the cloud a good fit for your organization, and vice versa? Cloud data management offers potential benefits such as speeding up technology deployments and reducing both capital expenditures and system maintenance costs; it can also provide increased flexibility to help meet changing business requirements. But like other cloud computing technologies, cloud-based database systems and the other available data management options introduce potential drawbacks and challenges that can make some organizations cautious about adopting them – for example, data security concerns over the need to send sensitive business data outside the corporate firewall for storage.

This cloud data management guide is designed to provide readers with practical information and advice on trends, issues and technology developments involving cloud database software, cloud data warehousing and cloud data integration technology. If your organization is considering an investment in cloud-based data management, or looking at broadening an initial deployment, use the information resources below to help ensure that you fully understand the pros and cons of the cloud approach.

View A guide to cloud data management technology and trends

Content in the cloud

Managing content in the cloud can mean many things. Cloud computing holds promise in multiple segments from cloud products for Web content management to using cloud-based applications for natural language search and analytics. There are cloud-based social collaboration tools available for enterprise use and document imaging and management processes that can take place in the cloud. A company’s enterprise content management (ECM) system can exist on a cloud infrastructure as well.

Content management in the cloud offers greater flexibility for changing business needs, reduced IT costs and faster deployment speeds. Yet few organizations are currently using cloud technology for document and records management, according to AIIM’s State of the ECM Industry 2011 survey of 650 of its individual members. While 4% are using SaaS or cloud technology for ECM or document management, the numbers are expected to double in the next year. Among those groups who use cloud computing for content management, 6% are using internal corporate clouds and fewer than 3% are using external public clouds, but IT professionals have indicated that their use of outsourced corporate clouds is set to triple.

While those numbers seem slight, half of government organizations surveyed by AIIM would consider using a government-organized cloud, but only 28% would use a brand-name cloud like Google, Amazon or Microsoft, even if storage was located in the U.S. While adoption of cloud technology for content management and related needs seems to be thwarted by questions of security and integration, the numbers point to a shift in attitudes toward cloud technology.

This cloud content management guide will examine these and related issues on a continuing basis. The guide is designed to provide readers with comprehensive and up-to-date information on SaaS and cloud technology as it applies to the management of unstructured content, enterprise collaboration, analytics and other related ECM matters. The information resources below to can ensure an organization considering an investment in cloud tools, or looking at broadening an initial deployment, has a full understanding of the benefits and challenges of content management in the cloud.

View Content in the cloud