It’s Time for Enterprise Cloud to Enable “The Amazing”

By now, it’s obvious that investing in a cloud strategy can put companies in a different competitive space. Today, the transformative power of cloud has been realized by many — it offers a cost effective, flexible, scalable, and reliable alternative for infrastructure. We know cloud helps companies improve customer satisfaction and maintain happier employees who can work efficiently from any location with an internet connection. However, what enterprise companies are not yet considering is the potential posed by cloud to create amazing new architectures and totally new use cases they previously would have only dreamed possible. In the past for enterprise, upfront costs would have made certain ventures prohibitive – or at least too risky, especially considering internal battles for budget.

With cloud, new businesses are not only forming but also disrupting the status quo across all industries. Netflix is the go-to example of this phenomenon. Netflix completely disrupted Blockbuster’s business, not to mention the entire video rental industry. Other examples are Mailbox, Instagram, Foursquare, and Tumblr – these companies grew on the top of cloud platforms and are now worth millions or billions of dollars. The question becomes: why are these new companies achieving such great success using cloud while large enterprise companies remain reticent to adopt and use cloud to transform their business?

For the enterprise world, cloud computing can create differentiation and promote innovation inside your company. There comes a time for enterprise companies to move beyond their previous success and develop future growth from new lines of business.  How can you focus on innovation and build amazing things if you spend all our focus and energy just keeping the lights on? Using cloud, enterprise companies can immediately focus on innovation and not worry about headaches like buying thousands of servers, setting them up, configuring security, etc.  Let’s explore the key advantages of cloud and what it can enable enterprise companies to do as never before, especially in the content management and sharing arena:

Right content to the right people

Nowadays, it’s quite common to hear the challenge: “how can we deliver the right content to the right people.”  In fact, everybody knows that data is increasing, and exponentially, outgrowing our ability to process and understand all the information out there. This is making a huge impact on businesses like marketing and publishing. To stay competitive, several companies understand that they need to put in place a user-centric approach, truly understanding who is their target and being able to laser-focus messages to this audience. In order to understand the user journey, you have to consider gathering data from several different datasources (internal, external, public, private, social etc), then immediately crunch and analyze all this data and be able to answer real-time questions in a few seconds. For example: which specific content makes your potential customer buy more of your products based on what you know from him and from other people with a similar profile? What can you do automatically to accelerate a deal or to prevent churn? What is the best approach to use an e-Detailing mobile app to close more deals when visiting customers, based on previous feedback? Does cloud computing ring a bell to you here? Well, it does for innovative companies who are deploying predictive and prescriptive analytics to improve their brand awareness and content services so they can deliver what their customers really want.

Globalization

When you use cloud, you have access to many data centers around the world, from California to Japan. For example, Amazon has two data centers on the West Coast, one on the East Coast, one in Europe, one in Japan, and one in Australia. An enterprise company using Google or Amazon Cloud Services can easily deliver content worldwide using all data centers without any expectation of delays.  Let’s consider a user in Australia.  The nearest data center will host the content for him, offering optimal performance and response time, as compared to the potential for lag if the data center were in another part of the world.

The Content Ecosystem

Cloud platforms are creating a new ecosystem of information that can be easily shared among all the channels and social networks using ready-to-use services and APIs. Those who can work effectively inside this ecosystem and figure out how to optimize these channels, will definitely prevail against their competitors. And it’s not only about posting content on social networks to be relevant, up-to-date, and reliable. It’s about understanding how your customer consumes this information to then provide them a great user experience taking into consideration several variables such as devices, subjects, sources, on-line vs off-line reading, sharing, etc. Again, enterprise companies are just scratching the surface here. Startups and companies such as Google and Facebook are dictating the rules in this game.

Bottom-line: you can create really amazing new things using all those services that are available in the cloud, just putting them together, creating an API-based architecture and taking advantage of this content ecosystem.

Now, more and more startups are using cloud to create entirely new business models. If they weren’t perceived as competition to enterprise before they are now simply because they are able to take risks. Netflix disrupted Blockbuster. Spotify is putting the iTunes store in jeopardy. Not all risks pay off but new start ups are there and can can quickly interrupt an enterprise business model. If smaller start ups couldn’t pose a threat to enterprise businesses, large companies could just stay in their comfort zone without taking risks. Now everyone has to take risks just to stay competitive.

The time has come for enterprise to use cloud to really transform how we work and live. Geoffrey Moore’s book Escape Velocity explored large companies’ gravitational power compared to smaller companies without this pull. Without this force working against them, the smaller companies could fly. Similarly, it’s time for enterprise to start thinking about how to use cloud as an escape velocity towards their own innovation.

PaaS ou IaaS?

Olá,

Não sei se é claro para todos a diferença entre IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) e PaaS (Platform as a Service) e quando cada um deve ser utilizado. Acho que uma boa maneira de ilustrar os conceitos é utilizar dois dos principais representantes de cada serviço como exemplo: AWS – Amazon Web Services (IaaS) e Google App Engine (PaaS).

O AWS oferece uma série de serviços na nuvem, sendo um dos mais básicos dele o EC2. Esse serviço nada mais é do que a disponibilização de um servidor na nuvem. Escolhe-se o sistema operacional (Windows ou Linux, por exemplo), o tamanho da máquina (Small, Large etc) e pronto… em poucos minutos o servidor está disponível para ser acessado (terminal services, ssh, …) e utilizado. Cabe a você decidir o que irá colocar lá dentro (Sharepoint, Drupal, Tomcat, WebLogic etc), não existem restrições. O RDS, outro serviço deles, é um servidor mas que já vem com um banco de dados relacional instalado (MySQL ou Oracle). Temos ainda o S3 (storage na nuvem), o ELB (balanceador de carga), VPC (criação de uma VPN da sua empresa com a Amazon) etc. Os pontos-chaves aqui são: flexibilidade e controle.

É um serviço essencialmente de data center, com as vantagens da nuvem: escalabilidade infinita e automática, agilidade (servidores em poucos minutos) e com pagamento proporcional ao uso. Se você deseja utilizar uma arquitetura muito própria para sua aplicação, com produtos de terceiros, usando a linguagem de programação que você preferir, quer ter total visibilidade e controle do banco de dados, essa é linha a ser seguida. E a desvantagem? É necessário ainda tomar uma série de decisões de arquitetura e planejamento para de fato conseguir uma alta disponibilidade, escalabilidade e achar o melhor modelo de custos. Precisa decidir sistema operacional, tamanho de máquina, configurar balanceador de carga, projetar estratégias de redundância para cada nó da arquitetura etc. Ou seja, existe um esforço para projetar tudo que será utilizado. Além disso, ele não oferece nada pronto para você utilizar e construir sua aplicação, apenas a infraestrutura.

A Plataforma como Serviço (PaaS) é uma camada de middleware ou aplicação criada em cima da infraestrutura de cloud (ou seja, todos os benefícios da infraestrutura continuam valendo) para dar produtividade e abstração ao processo de desenvolvimento. Esqueça sistema operacional, máquinas físicas e balanceadores de carga. Esqueça até o banco de dados e a modelagem física de tabelas. Nada disso é acessado diretamente. O Google App Engine, por exemplo, permite que você desenvolva uma aplicação de missão crítica, que demande altíssimos volumes de acesso, sem se preocupar com absolutamente nada relacionado à infraestrutura. O sistema é desenvolvido normalmente e com um clique na IDE ele é implantado na nuvem da Google. A partir daí, toda a parte de replicação e alta disponibilidade fica a cargo da própria Google, feito de maneira nativa na plataforma. Além disso, a plataforma oferece uma série de componentes prontos para uso como cache, URL Fetch, XMPP, channel, tasks queues, crons etc. Fora as APIs Premium que foram lançadas recentemente como a Prediction API e a Big Query. Qual o lado negativo? Ao utilizar uma plataforma como serviço você é obrigado a adotar os padrões da plataforma. No caso do Google App Engine, a linguagem deve ser Java, Phyton ou Go!, não é possível instalar nenhum produto pronto dentro da Google (Sharepoint, Magento etc) e sua aplicação fica presa aos padrões da plataforma (lock-in).

Enfim, é preciso colocar na balança o que funciona melhor para sua empresa. Flexibilide e controle vs. Produtividade e abstração. Eu imagino que em breve os benefícios da plataforma superem de longe as restrições. Acho que o grande ganho do cloud computing está justamente em deixar 100% do desenvolvimento enfocado no negócio, e são as plataformas quem oferecem isso.

Abraços!