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Convergence of SaaS, Cloud and SOA - Use Case

Convergence of SaaS, Cloud and SOA - Use Case

January 13, 2009 0 Comments

Was at the HeadStart (innovation showcase) and Compute (ACM Bangalore chapter) co-event this weekend at Bangalore. Was chairing the panel discussion on "Delivering SaaS from the Clouds". The panel included the Founder/CEO of Computational research Labs (part of TATA goup), Head of Cisco/Webex in India (they have a large dev center and equally large India sales ops), Lead Architect at Honeywell, and the Head of the RIA tools development at Adobe. There were an interesting mix of perspectives ranging from the glue and access paradigms from the fringes of the cloud (as in the RIA & webex rich desktops), to hard core grid paradigms and application/service abstractions on the cloud (bright by CRL), to cloud backends (CRL and Webex) and the usage perspective brought on by Honeywell exploring cloud for many of its field initiatives. We also had great discussions ranging from the market opportunities that each one sees to their take on the solution architectures and to the cloud trends that we can expect in 2009.

In particular, I found two aspects very interesting:

  1. Build-on-desktop or Build-on-cloud? Unlike the more popular expectations of using the cloud to "host" applications that are built on desktops and 'uploaded' to the clouds to be accessed from browsers, there are also models (in industrial automation) where the application is built on the cloud and 'downloaded' to the devices. Essentially, they are engineered on cloud and downloaded to the devices in the enterprise - examples include energy audits and automation optimizations.
  2. The serious production use cases are still elusive. Most people dabbling in cloud are still experimenting and playing around with it. Serious use models are yet to evolve. I believe that this is probably a manifestation of the hype curve. Hopefully the dust will settle down and serious usage emerges in 2009.

Talking about use cases, I came across another interesting use case in the same week. This is in the Governance risk and Compliance (GRC) space. Here the value proposition seen from the cloud is unique—beyond just SaaS. In terms of the agility and the arms-length distance:

The GRC space is extremely regulation driven. And is bound to change often. Today the model for implementing GRC is to "build it in" the existing operational solutions, which we all know is cumbersome and extremely difficult to manage changes. Given this, the proposition from this  company was unique. This company that specializes in governance and consults in best practices, has evolved a "canned" GRC model, and is offering the same as SaaS on the cloud. The compelling case to the clients is that this implicitly allows an arms-length distance between operational systems, easy verifiability of the GRC rules in effect, and is also able to easily modify the GRC rules as they evolve and change. The nature of this scenario is implicitly that of convergence. The value prop is SaaS - the runtime is the cloud and the solution involves extensive access to data and services in the enterprise which is best done using an SOA infrastructure.

Come to think of it, cloud in the enterprise will be deeply entwined with SOA. We are not talking about simple utilities like rate calculators or converters. If serious enterprise solutions are made available on the cloud by 3rd parties, these will always involve access to other enterprise information and services running either in the Intranet or possibly elsewhere in the web-cloud as well. So far, any SaaS solution provides for custom APIs to enable this integration. As the more generic cloud platform evolves, it becomes a question of time and the standards and generic approaches to integrate the enterprise into the cloud will emerge.

This will be yet another space to watch in 2009, even as we already are tracking aspects such as cloud performance, and the cloud monitoring and management (an extension of the SOA Management problem that Progress Software already solves very well with Actional).

Ramesh Loganathan

View all posts from Ramesh Loganathan on the Progress blog. Connect with us about all things application development and deployment, data integration and digital business.

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