Cloud: 3. a dim or obscure area in something otherwise clear or transparent.
The entire information technology industry is moving to the cloud. What, if anything, have they done differently once they arrived? It can be hard to tell whether vendors do the same old thing or something new in the cloud. You can’t see what they are doing behind the cloud – the cloud obscures all behind the user interface, and that fact makes it a magical and happy place for vendors.
Vendors, enterprise transaction system vendors (e.g, ERP, HRIS, CRM) in particular, see huge risks and opportunities in moving to the cloud. Each vendor makes its own choices in how to avoid risks and reap opportunities. Each must decide how to respond to the difference between cloud infrastructure and the familiar on premises infrastructure then adapt their applications. The biggest changes are from branded infrastructure stacks frequently designed for client-server computing to the commodity managed services which run the consumer web. While it is possible to run a traditional on premises branded stack behind the cloud, it is desirable to run a web-centric commodity stack such as LAMP and adapt the internal application architecture to the web’s more freewheeling ways. The application could then be delivered on premises as well where appropriate, without the user paying brand premiums for raw processing power.
Does the cloud take the known problems of on premises deployment and obscure them? Or is better technology used to reduce or eliminate the problems? HarrisData lifts the curtain on AppsInHD design considerations so you can find out.
HarrisData is a provider of on premises ERP software for over 40 years. The first step to delivering a cloud option was to define what a cloud ERP should be. The cloud ERP should resemble successful products of the web – with a tablet ready interface navigated through bookmarks, links and searches. Any function in the ERP should readily mashup with anything else on the web including new possibilities from the Internet of Things. The enterprise customer should be able to adapt or modify the cloud ERP. All enterprise data should be secure and separate from others. The customer is free to focus on their business while HarrisData ensures the technology will not intrude upon or limit them.
Next define an application architecture to enable the capabilities of the vision. The temptation to wallpaper our traditional application (stick a mobile app in front of it) and hide it behind the cloud is great. It is a fast path to get the marketing cachet of cloud without spending too much on research and development. In effect this approach moves the complexity and cost of an on premises application behind the cloud. The result remains too rigid to take advantage of everything else the cloud has to offer.
Instead, HarrisData created a web services architecture that is as nimble as the web, with loosely coupled application services conversing through web APIs across private or public networks with complete elasticity. This requires rebuilding the applications using web standards (Json, Jquery, RESTful APIs) to deploy business capabilities. Expected cloud benefits such as capacity on demand and the ability to customize deployments via simple mashups are easily delivered.
Then select technology that best supports the vision, while retaining the ability to continue using the technology customers have in place today. HarrisData chose the LAMP stack, an open source infrastructure which runs on both Intel and IBM Power hardware (including a Turbo-LAMP version optimized for IBM Power). This choice frees HarrisData and its customers from vendor lock in while extending the value of current investments in IBM Power based servers. It is also the most common infrastructure on the web.
Behind the cloud, HarrisData reinvented the infrastructure of its ERP applications. It was not the most traveled path to the cloud, but it does offer the greatest value to our customers.