“It’s an interesting time to be a medium-sized software company with a history of some years,” says James Smith, director of idu Software. If a company is a startup these days, they are in the cloud from day one. If they are a heavyweight player with market clout, companies can push their customers into the cloud whether they want to go or not. But if they’re somewhere in the middle, things are more complicated.
There must be hundreds of companies in the same position as idu Software: a relatively large installed base including both large enterprises and medium-sized businesses, running many different versions of the underlying Windows and SQL Server platforms on which most business systems are built.
As mentioned before, this diversity already makes it challenging to keep developing new features while at the same time maintaining and supporting older versions. The inexorable movement towards cloud-based solutions only adds to the complexity.
There are many reasons why supplying software as a cloud-based service is a good idea for both vendors and clients. It removes the pain of upgrades and incompatible versions, it makes possible much more flexible billing models, it supports mobility and it allows the development of software which will run on any device.
But migrating functionality from the desktop to the cloud is a challenge; doing the same with data is, to be brutally frank, a nightmare.
In the case of idu, they develop software for better budgeting and forecasting. The data they are working with is invariably the client’s core financial data – and the idea of moving that into the cloud is, understandably, something most people are very nervous of.
The incident earlier this year in which Sony’s Playstation Network was hacked, apparently by someone using Amazon’s cloud servers as a base, didn’t help. The personal details of up to 100-million network users were potentially exposed, highlighting the fact that it’s not just the company’s own data that needs to be protected – it’s that of their customers as well.
As idu plans their own migration, it’s already clear that the public cloud – on-demand, publically available infrastructure, software and services that can be rented practically by the hour, from anywhere in the world – is not an option.
idu is considering private cloud solutions that enable their clients to maintain control over their own servers, whether on-premise or off-premise, while still leveraging the benefits of the public cloud.
In setting up a secure private cloud, the location of servers does matter. The political situation of the host country, the quality of its infrastructure, the credentials of the vendor – these and a host of other factors affect the reliability of an offsite solution. Every private cloud solution, Smith believes, should include multiple locations for high availability and redundancy.
These are just some of the issues idu is currently grappling with; fortunately, nobody in the IT industry has ever been able to lapse into complacency. And Smith knows idu Software is not alone.