Integrating CapabilitiesBy Guy Currier | Posted 2011-06-14 Email Print
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That brings us to another dimension of cloud versatility, one that’s of great interest to corporate application architects: feature selection. The cloud model allows you to integrate the best capabilities that are relevant to your needs.
Cloud computing schemes—built on standards such as TCP/IP, XML, CORBA and XBRL—are oriented from the ground up toward integration with existing architectures. So you can splice together multiple cloud and non-cloud offerings to create your own custom suites.
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Imperial Sugar, a Sugar Land, Texas, company that’s one of the nation’s largest processors and marketers of refined sugar, uses Sterling Commerce’s B2B integration suite, which runs on a cloud hosted by IBM, to consolidate electronic data interchange (EDI) purchase orders across the enterprise to multiple back-end systems. This enables the company to conduct more than a dozen different transactions—including purchase orders, invoicing and shipment notification—over the cloud with its business partners, says George Muller, vice president and CIO.
What about the choice of public or private cloud computing? Here, too, the landscape has changed. Private cloud options bring the model in-house to address security, compliance and management issues. Originally, this was envisioned as using the in-house infrastructure: hardware, supporting software and middleware.
WhitePages, a Seattle-based company that provides online contact information for people and businesses, uses numerous SaaS offerings. But it has also built its own private cloud, which the engineering staff and outside contractors use to develop applications for the WhitePages Website. This provides greater flexibility and enables developers to create new software releases more frequently, says Hernan Alvarez, senior director of IT and operations.
Nevertheless, private cloud computing services are increasingly available, enabling applications to remain within the corporate firewall, while the infrastructure is hosted by the vendor. This reduces capital requirements while maintaining the control private clouds represent.
That’s why private clouds are just as versatile as public clouds. Again, based on the particular application, your organization’s needs and your overarching business goals, you can almost custom-design your private cloud approach.
There are also so-called hybrid approaches, which use the flexibility of the cloud model to house sensitive features, functions or data privately, while putting the rest of an application in a cost-efficient public cloud. This approach remains uncommon, with only 19 percent of organizations unifying public and private clouds in a single application. While 35 percent of respondents are not at all interested, 11 percent expect to start hybrid cloud initiatives within the next 12 months—a 56 percent growth rate.
Suncorp, a financial services firm in Sydney, is planning to implement a hybrid cloud model. The company uses its internal private cloud for storage and computing delivered as services, as well as for on-demand PaaS provisioning. This strategy gives Suncorp “the ability to rapidly onboard and orchestrate new internal or external automated services in any environment, providing true hybrid cloud capability,” says Jeff Smith, CEO of Suncorp Business Services.