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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Mal Postings, CTO, IT Advisory Services, Ernst & Young (Part 4)

Posted on Saturday, Nov 5th 2011

SM: Yes. I think the complexity arises because in some cases, there are these alliances, existing alliances or evolving, emerging alliances, but then there are also competitive dynamics emerging. If you look at Salesforce.com’s platform as a service strategy, Force.com, technically, you would want the IT environment that is operating in this CRM with Salesforce.com, collaboration and email with Google scenario. Who then is the platform as a service provider? Whose engine are you building your Intranet applications on then? Is it Force.com or is it Google App Engine?

MP: Hm. Yes. Essential Intranet is going to be either Google or Microsoft, the usual providers. The problem is when you look at the lower level CRM or supply chain or ERP – and we’re not talking detailed technology issues – some of these high level cloud providers don’t understand the complexities. I look at the world as almost a polarization. On one side there’s commodity, which companies need to just think, I’ve got to go buy this, because I shouldn’t be running this myself. I can go buy it cheaper. On the other hand, where technology is leaking into the business differentiation, it’s more around, yes, I’m going to invest even more in these areas because these areas are key to our company. I think the world of IT is going to split more in this polarization from commodity in one sense to differentiation in the other.

SM: Yes, but in the areas where there are very significant systems available, there is this largely generic system that, whether it’s talent management – a good example – there are some very, very strong players out there who are doing great work in talent management, whether it’s Success Factors, Taleo, Workday, whatever. These are good, solid cloud providers. There’s no point in reinventing that wheel inside of the enterprise. So, quite likely, these are companies that are going to be selling their products into the enterprises. But then there are things that are specific to a particular business, a particular business process, particular business function, the way that specific business runs, which has to be developed in a custom mode. These kinds of applications have always been developed in the custom mode for the enterprises themselves.

I guess, the question I was asking you is what do you see as the platform strategy for those kinds of applications, whether it’s small, long-tail applications or relatively large applications that are specific to that particular enterprise, what do you see as happening in the cloud around those applications.

MP: I think there’s a three layer approach here. If there’s any company at the edge, there’s going to be some differentiation that you want that is going to lead back to an ROI or whatever. I think the middle ground is what really is commodity for a certain geography, it could be ERP; it could be HR systems, whatever, that is unique to the rules and regulations of that particular geography. The third layer is, one of the overarching company policies, in terms of what’s driving all three layers. Companies aren’t think that way at the moment, because traditionally, everything is in-house and completely level three. I think there are new ways of thinking around what are the company policies? What are the new directions? But seriously, I think, yes, there is always going to be 200 applications every day appearing on Apple or whatever. That isn’t ever going to go away. That’s the entrepreneur outside world looking in.

Where we need to change our thinking is from an enterprise, be it HSBC or whatever, is who is the person — or the team — who’s looking at how do we endorse some of these pretty cool applications to link into? My thinking is completely loose coupled architecture. In a loose couple architecture, I would say, yes, somebody has to just come up with one of the greatest things on an Apple iApp type application that everybody’s got. But I want to integrate that into my back office. So, this loose coupled architecture is absolutely key. It’s almost like do you view the world from a company top down point of view or from a consumer bottom up point of view? We’re moving from a top down to bottom up.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Mal Postings, CTO, IT Advisory Services, Ernst & Young
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