Cloud SaaS has the Ability to Change the Way Businesses Leverage Technology

By Rahul Puri, Head IT, Ricoh India

A lot of CIOs would have faced a situation where they have been tasked with making the decision between choosing expert applications versus the general consolidated apps or all within the ERP. The advantage of a supposedly perfectly integrated system with a well-defined architecture, the luxury of no integration failures, no data inconsistencies, etc. generally, are good enough incentives to keep one from evaluating some state of the art software designed for a specific business purpose. Over and above this, the investment on a standard ERP is substantial enough to force one from experimenting other options. Same holds true for most other perpetually licensed software deployed at captive data centres. Innovation, for the cautious and the risk-averse is limited to finding ways to leverage the solution they are almost married to and finding ways to optimise the infrastructure costs beneath.

The concept of Software as a Service, initially was all about outsourcing the infrastructure worries to the Product Company. It also helped to have lesser debates on why too much customization is bad. It almost took away the struggle of building a business case for a patch deployment or an upgrade. But, the exit loads were still high. Apart from concerns related to security of business data, complex licensing and cost structures kept most people away from the older SaaS concept.

Then came the Cloud, which began from the concept of hardware infrastructure virtualisation and gradually evolved to large shared environments also called the Public Cloud. There were companies like Amazon who realised too early that infrastructure virtualisation could be a game changer. Once they reaped the benefit for themselves and they started building it for others too. While there were still a good number of people who were happy and contended calling dedicated virtualised environment as the Private Cloud, others took the leap of faith and went ahead with deploying their software into the public cloud. This is what I call the real cloud. The benefits were immense not only from a cost perspective but also from making the world amore innovative place. The entry load for experimentation was so low that it gave birth to a lot of entrepreneurial ideas. Companies got born on cloud and significantly disrupted the way we interacted with technology. Almost everyone from the common consumer to a research scientist had something to gain.

Ability to dynamically scale-up to unlimited proportions made Cloud an astounding success story. Concept of IaaS (Infrastructure as a service) got a new lease of life. It started making more sense than ever before to leverage IaaS. It was logical to avoid making huge capital investments and keeping buffer capacities based on forward calls.

Success of companies such as Salesforce.com offering Cloud SaaS, opened the doors for many others. Today almost all Software biggies from Microsoft to Oracle to SAP are offering cloud SaaS solutions for organisations to leverage. Going by the trends, it looks quite evident that sooner or later this is the way software will be consumed not only by individuals and SMEs but also by large enterprises.

Cloud SaaS allows companies to move from focussing on running to focussing on growing and transforming themselves. Using a SaaS solution that is Cloud-based, mobile-accessible, and eliminates budgetary constraints, has exponential benefits that save time and money. Concepts such as the mobile office or anywhere office can be enabled without too much effort. Business data and applications are available in a secure manner to the workforce wherever they are. Storage costs and concerns about capacity planning are greatly reduced with cloud SaaS. Utilizing a SaaS solution allows to free up storage on local devices by storing data in the cloud. CIOs have to worry less about planning for high availability and disaster recovery since a true Cloud SaaS vendor will almost essentially take care of these elements.

Today, there are SaaS applications for fundamental business technologies, such as email, document management, sales management, customer relationship management (CRM), financial management, human resource management, billing and collaboration. What earlier took months to plan and deploy; now takes minutes to be up and running. The instant gratification provided by cloud SaaS solutions allow business to be more agile. Businesses can now try and buy even the domain specific solutions such as Engineering simulation and Healthcare.

With a large number of vendors trying to deliver SaaS, we need to be cautious and choose carefully. Vendors need to focus on Security, deploy high standards of identity and access management, provide extensive parameterisation, provide seamless integration connectors and constantly keep improving the solution they offer, for cloud SaaS to make real sense. Apart from all this, the licensing and pricing model has to be dynamic too. Ideally the cost of cloud SaaS should get optimised as tenancy increases for the vendor. That is when it becomes a win-win for all.

With true cloud gaining momentum, Cloud SaaS does not seem far behind any more. The freedom that Cloud SaaS provides has the potential to further change the way business leverages technology.

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