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Cloud 2.0 Applications

Software development in a Cloud world

Although Cloud Computing represents a shift from fixed cost, on-premise software model to a utility, online pricing alternative, it’s also the nature of software engineering itself and how that is delivered that is changing, and it’s this combination that offers the biggest value to IT consumers.

The Cloud Application Platform

Central to this strategy is the concept of the Cloud Application Platform, like the VMware offering among others.

‘DevOps’ represents the merging of the two worlds, enabling a more agile, modular approach to building software solutions for clients.

For example the principle difference is that in the traditional IT world you purchase a software-centric package, like an ERP system from SAP, whereas the emphasis in the Cloud is process-centric and modular. And that doesn’t just mean SaaS, ie. you don’t simply rent the entire package with the only difference being it is hosted online.

Instead it means that rather than sourcing an entire category of software, like ‘CRM’, you ‘assemble’ a particular workflow sub-set and by reusing existing modular components. For example if you’re building a new online community for your clients, with forum features, you don’t want to be writing that piece of code again, it’s easily available elsewhere.

This principle can (and should) be combined with some degree of software customization, but only to fine-tune the important 20%. Open source software and other methods can do much of the ground work for you.

Modular solutions
The reason this is powerful because it shortens the time it takes to deliver software of value to end-user clients, by keeping a process-centric and minimalist approach to solution design.

For example the Employee Services Division may need a platform to better support how they handle resumes. Currently they just receive resumes as Word documents sent via email, which results in lots of uncontrolled document proliferation, as is common for many office workers. They want to streamline this for better efficiencies, and have other related business goals like being more appealing to potential candidates etc.

Rather than an entire PeopleSoft implementation, all they need is a better ‘Receive and Organize Resumes’ process, however most traditional enterprise IT models are built on the logic associated with the first part, always buying in a big COTS solution, so they automatically march through an RFP purchase process which can take up to 12, 24, … months.

In contrast Cloud is better suited to the latter, and as such can deliver more Business Value quicker. It can deliver a specific configuration of code to achieve only the ‘Receive and Organize Resumes’ workflow, and then be integrated into their existing web site for rapidly deployment.

Social media
Furthermore in this modern day and age there is also an ongoing and universal need to be better connected via social media. Indeed it’s such the norm now that the best way to treat it is like a common component to all software projects now. The user interface has evolved from green screen to desktop PC to now the 2.0 web and mobile devices.

The Cloud is often discussed as both, ie. both the underlying infrastructure and also the universality of interface, application and common data, so for our design services for building solutions for “integration into the Cloud”, there are essentially two main dimensions to this:

  1. Cloud Aware Applications - Awareness of the underlying applications
  2. Socializing Applications - Awareness of the social web aspects of the environment

Cloud Aware Applications – Integration into the Cloud
This means adapting the software to reflect the Cloud hosting environment it will run in:

  • Virtualization – Virtualizing the application to be run in a VM environment, like VMware et al.
  • VM Aware – Re-engineering the application to be more aware of this environment and autonomous within it, so that it can better automate it’s own operations for purposes of scaling and reliability.
  • Identity SSO – Reuse existing software components within the Cloud environment, like Identity authentication.
  • …etc.

All of these effects go towards making the application more utility, in terms of how it makes use of the infrastructure to runs on. This also encompasses aspects like being smarter for purposes of increased resilience as well as the commercial mechanics, like billing for the IaaS you consume.

Socializing Applications – Integration into a social media world
‘Socializing Applications’ means updating them to reflect the aspect of “the Cloud” that represents all the other web applications it will likely interact with, like Facebook et al.

  • Use of expected social media communications: Blogs, Twitter, Facebook groups, … etc.
  • Publishing content to these sites via RSS syndication
  • OAuth integration for single sign-on and profile exchanges between sites
  • OpenID common identifiers
  • .. etc.

In short every modern enterprise needs a Cloud platform that not only provides virtualization, but also builds in a number of SaaS elements that can become part of the managed service delivered by the hosting provider, most notably:

  • Cloud CMS - Web 2.0 portal plaform with modular extension framework
  • Cloud BPM - A business process engine that can provide workflow routing, audit trails etc.

A modular Cloud platform with these capabilities ‘baked in’ will enable them to more rapidly engineer solutions to the specific needs of their audience groups, at a departmental or even individual level due to the granularity of the architecture and also the solutions process.

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