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Nine Things Cloud ISVs Should Do Next

ISVs are in different business situations with respect to exploiting the cloud benefits fully; and one size seldom fits all

The proliferation of cloud technologies can be seen through the increasing number of cloud ISVs that are leveraging cloud either by changing the underlying computing model or by completely redoing their product offerings. This number is already bordering on hundreds and quickly headed for thousands as the cloud opens new avenues for businesses and consumers alike. Many business domains are already neatly served through cloud ISVs, sometimes very innovatively. Predominantly, areas like HR, marketing, CRM, collaboration, business intelligence, accounting, financial practices, ecommerce and content management have many options already.

ISVs are using cloud models differently and are at different stages of enablement. Some have reused existing tools and features to re-platform products, some are using cloud services to complement the product while others have built products ground up afresh or are using cloud to host and manage service delivery better. Some are testing the waters by embracing cloud partially and some are neck deep betting on it completely. Different ISVs are in different business situations with respect to fully exploiting the cloud benefits. Based on observations so far, here are nine things ISVs can look at doing next. A few of these may be obvious for some, but these steps could be critical for future business. One size seldom fits all. ISVs need to map their current situation and decide what fits them well and in what order.

The first one is a no-brainer, and especially for cloud ISVs - expand your delivery through web-enabled SaaS applications through public platforms. This step is for those ISVs that still have web-based traditional products. Lack of scale and elasticity drives the need to use public cloud platforms to remodel the product to provide a multi-tenant environment. There are efforts and challenges involved to doing this and in some cases it may not even make sense, which is where an ISV needs market as well as technology insight and judgement. Technology challenges include choosing the right cloud platform that will add value to product offerings, understanding the caveats of cloud platform architectures, services and best practices; delivering true multi-tenant architecture across layers, ensuring that cloud interoperability and portability is taken care of; plugging in business support services and plumbing them together. At the same time there are very appealing business propositions for taking this step - such as opening new opportunities, addressing new customer segments, creating new revenue models and providing scale to the business.

Two - enable thick-client desktop products for agility and to maximize delivery - similar to the cloud service model. One approach to doing this is to redesign the product and then build the product to be a web-enabled SaaS architecture. However, efforts to rebuild the product with a new stack and architecture could be significant, and this may not fly in some cases. The promising alternative is to package a thick-client desktop product, creating virtual bundles and then deliver these virtual bundles using VDI-like technologies that exist in the market today. VDI solutions can add cost and complexity for ISVs to deliver desktop products in a service-oriented manner - but there are very interesting options in the client-side virtualization space that can complement VDI and simplify the agile delivery of desktop products. Another key benefit to this is that it enables control of the delivery of thick-client applications for usage and maintenance.

Three - enhance the engineering productivity for building and testing your product with multiple services and environments. Cost and go-to-market deadlines puts constant pressure on ISVs to improve engineering productivity that warrants delivering and managing services and environments to developers effectively. Here some of the existing frameworks come in handy when creating a Platform as a Service-like private environment to meet both ends. Engineering teams can then better utilize available resources to develop, deploy and test applications nearly on-demand; and also leverage public, private and hybrid cloud environments to optimize the cost and resources.

Four - optimize the product to be able to deliver via a ‘custom workspace' approach. Enterprise customers are demanding a mechanism for products and applications to be able to give identical product experience to users across devices and locations. This means a user should able to pretty much carry his/her workspace of customized apps, configurations and data anywhere s/he goes and also should able to access his/her own workspace using any device s/he has access to. This is very different from virtual desktop delivery though as the device being used for accessing the workspace lends out the computing power here.

Five - broaden the ISV market through multiple clouds or hosting providers. For accelerated sales ISVs need multiple product delivery channels exposed through multiple catalogues - so this becomes an interesting option. However, ISV products traditionally are not cloud aware and hence optimization can turn into real overhead at times. Every new cloud or hosting platform complicates deployment, configurations and automation support for a given ISV product. This compels ISVs to do standardized packaging that will generate reusable preconfigured cloud installers that will also simplify integration, automation and provisioning in various hosting environments. This can also ease out IT management for enterprises that are using ISV products in heterogeneous scenarios.

Six - invest in consistent and repeatable product engineering best practices tailored for cloud products. The business environment is getting too competitive for ISVs and is leading to the stressful situation of managing trade-offs between three inevitable dimensions - time, quality and cost. Managing product environments like development, quality assurance, staging and production across multiple product releases means teams are neck deep into release cycles all the time. Surely, cloud becomes a viable option to optimize on resources and cost, saving time; but managing a variety of hosting providers and tools nullifies the benefits to some extent and is challenging as well. To avoid getting into this trap ISVs should invest in tailoring cloud product engineering best practices that maintain real-time visibility and also help leverage public, private and hybrid cloud platforms to optimize the cost and scale. These specialized best practices should also help reduce efforts on operations and improve quality of service.

Seven - identify and develop integrations with cloud ecosystem partners. Enterprise customers today aren't satisfied with products and features alone. They are looking for solutions that can solve their business or process problems fully or at least sizeably. That means for ISVs to be able to go the distance, they need to either build solutions themselves or become part of potential solutions. Integration with other cloud ecosystem partners is the way to go. ISVs can map the customer problems to the right ecosystem players with compelling products; evaluate joint synergies and integrate features and tools; and then test the market to evolve the right solution. This road is certainly not without challenges. You need the right team with diverse cloud platform and product engineering backgrounds that can manage the trade-offs between security and product integrations, enhancements, APIs exposure, connectors and mediation tools, beyond the ability to visualize the broader use cases.

Eight - carve out your space. Customers expect ISVs to own the problems they have, keep the product and/or solution working, and manage and support it for varying environments and needs. Support for multiple clouds and virtual environments, or making complex consolidations to support different integration scenarios through the disparate set of tools for management and monitoring are just some of the demands that can surface. These expectations can impinge on and ISV's capabilities and negatively affect bandwidth, focus and cost. ISVs need to create a space to focus on what they are best at - innovating and experimenting with their products while strategically leveraging platform and operations specialists who can help share the load and help the ISV maintain a competitive edge. However, ISVs need to select their partners carefully - it's not just about professional services anymore - partners needs to increase an ISV's reach and respect within and outside the cloud ecosystem.

Nine - don't just stop at having a great cloud product, build on your offering. Look beyond cloud to integration, device enablement, analytics and social collaboration to develop solutions that not only address today's customer, but also target future customers and help build the business through connections, feedback and technology. ISVs need to develop strong and, more important, working strategies like device enablement of products, platforms for near real-time visibility and enhancing techno-social-awareness ahead of time if they are to generate mass adoption.

What else do you think cloud ISVs should do?

More Stories By Jiten Patil

Jiten Patil is Principal Technology Consultant & Cloud Expert, CTO Office, at Persistent Systems Limited, a global leader in software product development and services. He has 15 years of industry experience and has spent the past 6 years working with cloud service providers, ISVs and enterprises in the field of SaaS, IaaS, PaaS and hybrid cloud computing solutions. His key expertise is in guiding organizations for cloud strategy and roadmap, solution architecting for public & private application services, platform services, multi-tenancy methodologies, application enablement and migration, devising new cloud solutions, tools and IP products, and doing competitive assessment across cloud technologies. He can be reached at [email protected] / Twitter @jiten_patil

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