There is a great deal of information to understand if you are just beginning your journey to cloud-based software solutions. One of the first things to understand is that there are varying levels of services within the “cloud.” Cloud deployment strategies are often categorized either as:
- Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
- Platform as-a-Service (PaaS)
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)
Breakdown of Cloud Services
Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service (BICS) is truly software-as-a-service (SaaS) and is comprised of infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) components that Oracle manages as part of the entire infrastructure. The key takeaway here is that these differing levels of service can be used separately, or in any number of combinations and levels of sophistication that culminate at the SaaS tier of service.
Demand Drivers for Cloud Services
Before we discuss BICS, I would like to review, especially for those new to cloud services, the reasons why there is such a large drive to the cloud in the marketplace. Is cloud better, or is it just different than traditional on-site computing?
In a way, “cloud” harkens back to the days of large mainframe processing, where users shared time on a terminal and shared a set of applications that were part of a central IT service. But the levels of sophistication and personalization really give the user a sense that they are in control of their slice of that processing power.
I believe there are several key factors involved in this migration to the cloud at an organizational level, the first of which is application deployment speed and agility that the cloud provides. Cloud software offers the immediate availability of an environment without any having to wait for environment procurement, installation, and application deployment. This removes not only the up-front installation time, but also future downtime due to maintenance and upgrades.
Second is the concept of “elasticity.” Cloud software can scale on-demand based on workload at any given time.
Specialization is another key factor. Cloud solution providers are focused on the delivery and maintenance of a product or set of products within a key business area. Organizations can rely on industry experts to provide a higher-value deliverable in a shorter amount of time.
The idea of getting enterprise processing power at a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) is very appealing as well. Subscription-based pricing and the ability to pick applications (the Apple model) allows organizations to garner substantial savings over traditional IT contracts. This also falls in line with the expectations of the next generation of the business workforce: that IT should be something that you can buy in a modular fashion without committing to features and functions that are not part of what you are doing.
Last is the notion of “availability.” Availability here means application “uptime” from the perspective of distributing information on a massive scale to anyone having an internet connection and a web browser. Once again, the next generation of the workforce expects that applications should just work and be available. When Google, Twitter, or Facebook experience latency or even downtime, this causes major distress in the new and upcoming end user communities.
Common Cloud-Related Concerns
Long before the marketing term “cloud” existed, the IT community would regard this practice as “remote hosting”. The word “remote” has an entirely different connotation, and is a more accurate term in describing where your personal and corporate information is being transmitted and stored.
Data security was – and is – the single largest concern with organizations considering embracing the cloud in some capacity, especially considering the frequent news headlines of large corporations getting breached. Security concerns include confidentiality, integrity, availability, transmission, storage, and retrieval of information. The second largest concern after security is on-site integration, where a quick movement to the cloud is not feasible. Often, this is due to the incompatibility of large enterprise systems with proprietary cloud solutions.
General lack of control of data is another concern. This can be mitigated to the degree that organizations maintain data governance and controls.
Lastly, the maturity of cloud vendors is another consideration. Many solutions are not robust enough to support an entire enterprise. Many are departmental or “point” solutions. However this will not deter department within organizations from embracing cloud solutions. In fact, we usually see the opposite.
Corporate versus Departmental Concerns
A typical complaint we hear from line of business users is that large IT business intelligence (BI) is not meeting the agility needs of the line of business. Some of these complaints include: the need for self-service; BI is inflexible and slow; there is too much reliance on IT for new content; the information doesn’t support business decisions; and that enterprise tools are overly complex.
From the IT team’s perspective, software licenses and infrastructure need to be managed in relation to enterprise IT standards. Often, the parameters that central IT is forced to work within are due to IT budget constraints and the constant need to consolidate infrastructure onto one-size-fits-all enterprise system standards.
Cloud systems bring agility and control through rapid deployment. Allowing business flexibility while maintaining compliance, IT can maintain a curated metadata layer and a single version of the truth; leverage existing IT skills, and mitigate security concerns through integrating on-site and cloud data and information. The lines of business can get the agility they need to run the business through self-service, allowing rapid analytics prototyping and collaboration and sharing between IT and lines of business.