Touching the future

Cloud and virtualisation technology are drastically changing the way that business approach enterprise software.

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Touching the future Is the Cloud the right platform for business intelligence solutions that munch through corporate and customer data?
By  ITP.net Staff Writer Published  October 10, 2011

Cloud and virtualisation technology are drastically changing the way that business approach enterprise software. But exactly how are they shaping the software itself, and what impact are they having on business intelligence’s ability to collect data from them?

As businesses in the Middle East begin to implement virtualisation and look forward to the impact that cloud computing will have on their business’ IT infrastructure, there is a need for those in charge of IT strategy to begin considering the changes that these technologies will have on enterprise software.

The enterprise software market has found itself at the forefront of a movement that seeks to bring enterprise technology more in line with what businesses need. One of the reasons it has found itself in this position, some experts argue, is because of the relative ease with which changes can be made in contrast to larger capital investments such as infrastructure and networks.

The cost element in particular is an important focus point for CIOs. Recent months have seen a growth in the number of CIOs focusing on measuring cost and value, with the intention of eradicating IT’s perception as a cost centre and nothing else. Vendors have, in the past, been accused of exacerbating this problem, with their drive for higher profits. However, there is a gradual shift in their thinking as well.

“Software is a key component in any IT infrastructure and it is a critical aspect of any business,” states Zaher Haydar, regional pre-sales manager at EMC Middle East. “We clearly see the need to improve the flexibility of enterprise software to bringing it closer to the business and to reduce the cost of implementing software.”

It’s a point echoed by Vivek Subramanyam, chief executive of business analytics vendor iCreate. “It is our belief that the enterprise software environment is in a transition phase from a focus on cost, to a focus on value creation for the enterprise.”

Software-as-a-service is one of the concepts that have been heralded in the past by vendors as the way enterprises will save money on their software deployments in the future. However, while enterprises in the West have been much more receptive to the concept, its adoption in the Middle East has so far been limited.

According to Paul Hammond, general manager of Infor Middle East, Arab culture and the desire to own assets has played a large role in the concept’s slow adoption. He also cited the region’s poor telecoms structure – both in terms of technology and regulations, as well as a lack of competiveness and cooperation – as key stumbling blocks standing in the way of enterprises in the region adopting software-as-a-service. “Because of this, hosted applications are mainly around infrastructure at this stage,” he says.

However, software-as-a-service is only the tip of the iceberg as far as technological change is concerned. Virtualisation – which is seeing increased adoption in the Middle East, and especially in the GCC, after years of posturing by vendors – is putting pressure on those in charge of IT strategy to change how they think about enterprise software. The management of software in the virtualised cloud [see Death of the Disc on page 46] is also having ramifications on the way that vendors design and structure software; especially in areas like business intelligence.

“In the long term, all enterprise software will be affected,” states Haydar. “The journey started with the low hanging fruit; software like business productivity. It is the easiest software to virtualise and to put on a cloud platform. This is why there is a lot of office productivity software available as software-as-a-service.”

However, while productivity may have been the first area in enterprise software to be adapted for the new realities of IT infrastructures, it is far from the only area. “We are seeing many lines of business solutions such as learning, recruiting, CRM and BI being delivered on the cloud,” explains Melvina Tarazi, head of industry at SAP MENA. “These applications’ customers are not as sensitive to where the data resides.”

Subramanyam agrees, adding that: “The areas where CIOs would start experimenting with the new concepts are around the technology surrounding their non-core business processes and ones where the data security implications are to an extent lower.”

However, he warns that despite an increasing push toward virtualised environments and cloud computing, issues around the security of the applications themselves, and most importantly, the data created by them would prevent some industries like banking and finance from adopting the technology, at least until confidence rose.

What all of the industry experts agree on is that once businesses see how cloud computing and associated technologies can help them align IT with the business’ needs, there will be an increase in adoption. They also recognise that the key to achieving this will be the CIO.

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