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Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Laef Olson, CIO of RightNow (Part 3)

Posted on Wednesday, Feb 9th 2011

By Sramana Mitra and guest author Shaloo Shalini

SM: I see. So you use your own offering for CRM within RightNow?

LO: Yes. We use our own system out of the cloud and have our own dedicated team that manages it separately from how we do that for our clients. For our expense management, we do that out of the cloud with Concur. For business travel, we use a cloud-based solution from Orbitz. Our business compensation works out of a sales compensation using Xactly. We do a lot security work using cloud-based solutions like Qualys, and there are a variety of cloud-based corporate tools that we use. We have ticketing systems for some of our operational change management, for which we use Jira. So, we use most of the types of solutions that are available and are even used in many other corporate enterprises that don’t have an aggressive cloud computing strategy. You will find a bunch of those cloud-based applications; say even WebEx and other types of Web conferencing solutions. Those too are technically cloud-based solutions that people run on-premise.

SM: Collaboration is probably one of the biggest areas where we are seeing cloud adoption in a big way.

LO: Right.

SM: Everyone is talking about moving more and more of the collaborative function related to distributed rich media and collaboration to the cloud. I have seen many such solutions that are being adopted across different organizations. So, yes, I think that is probably number 1 in terms of adoption.

LO: I would agree.

SM: You earlier said that you have a philosophy of choosing what to put on the cloud. What is that philosophy, and what is driving it? Is it the cost, or is it operational expenses versus capital expenses?

LO: There are four buckets, and these are almost a decision process that I think you need to go through. One is what I call IT maturity. IT maturity is really about, Do you have the mechanism in your IT group to have more of a services consumption posture? Whether it is a cloud computing vendor, an application service provider, or a managed service provider: Do you have the ability to manage that via contract, via SLA, and have a different staffing philosophy on how to manage it?

I don’t say this is to denigrate IT shops that don’t have a cloud computing philosophy. The reality is that if an IT organization defines itself as providing the technical infrastructure that helps to run a business, then cloud computing may be a difficult innovation to swallow, right? That isn’t just because of a mindset, it is because of the capability. If you are moving up the services stack in terms of being inside more of business strategy and analysis tasks, future architecture integration, project management, and if you are doing a lot more engagement there, you would want give up some racking and stacking of boxes in operational management and lower-level items. Then it probably makes a lot of sense to adopt clouds.

SM: Where would it be otherwise? I mean, given where we are today in the evolution of technology, why would it make sense to run a data center as an internal organization?

LO: I think there are reasons and cases where you may want to run your own IT shop and not move to the cloud. Let me give you the extreme example I always use. I used to work for Travelport, which owns part of Orbitz Worldwide. That organization owns the online global distribution system (GDS) business that includes the Worldspan and Galileo brands. At the end of the day, whether it is online GDS systems like Polar, Galileo, or Sabre or an online booking engine, there are workloads that have a specific and sensitive-to-performance consideration. It is quite a huge advantage to tune that and optimize that within an IT infrastructure that you have control over and not a cloud-based one.

SM: Okay, but that is an online service?

LO: Well, it falls under the second category, though; those applications are highly customized applications that are specific to your business. For those, the question is, Can you really move to an infrastructure as a service model today? Maybe in the future you will be able to. But today, they really need all those resources from a computing standpoint. I would argue at today’s level of maturation, the answer is no. For some computing tasks, there are other I/O intensive tasks where it can be easier to have that scale yourself and run such applications yourself as opposed to putting in a cloud. There are other considerations as well. Even from a broader sort of compliance and government regulation perspectives, there are still issues with typical cloud computing solutions that need to be resolved over time before organizations will be fully comfortable with using these platforms and the clouds rather than running these applications themselves.

SM: Okay.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders In Cloud Computing: Laef Olson, CIO of RightNow
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