A little bit of cloud computing goes a long way

For a stable, scalable, manageable applications portfolio, use no more than one or two SaaS packages for optimum control

Dear Bob ...

Am I an old fogey, or just old enough to know better?

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I've been hired as CIO for a company that's past the startup phase but not yet beyond entrepreneurship. It's big enough to be international, both for suppliers and customers -- we pretty much do business in all time zones. It's a great place to be after too many years buried deep in a behemoth IT organization.

Off the Record submissions

I say "CIO," but I'm pretty sure I'm here to provide adult supervision. My team is young (from my advanced age, I'd swear many of them are truants from the local high school), enthusiastic, and smart. They're terrific.

From my perspective, they haven't yet scored the scars that lead to good judgment. From their perspective, I'm way behind the times.

What I'm referring to is the decision, made by this team with my predecessor, to build most of the company's application portfolio from SaaS (software as a service) vendors. They tout all the reasons listed in the brochures: OpEx instead of CapEx, on-demand scalability, universal access via any device with a browser -- you know the drill.

I don't want to squash their enthusiasm or suggest I don't respect their opinions. On the other hand, the thought of relying on this architecture scares the hell out of me.

What do you think? Am I just too old to learn new tricks? Or are they too young to have learned enough of them?

- Geezing

Dear Geezing ...

You might be too old to learn new tricks, but this isn't a symptom. The SaaS marketplace is just fine for providing one or two point solutions, and even for providing a complete ERP suite if NetSuite will do the job for you.

Go much beyond this, though, and you're looking at just enough sources of trouble that you'll probably want to limit your exposure. They are:

  • Manageability
  • Change control
  • Root cause analysis

One at a time: Assuming you want to know about problems before your users do -- one of my criteria for professional IT operations -- you'll need a third-party management application to keep an eye on availability and performance. This one isn't a show-stopper. It is an added expense, and if your management software does report a problem your ability to resolve it will be limited by your SaaS vendor's responsiveness -- which isn't a given. Many SaaS vendors figure that if their server is up, then they've lived up to their side of the contract.

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