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I had many discussions recently about composite applications, process management and integration. A couple of years ago it looked like It would all be subsumed into a big BPM cloud. Well, it had not.
BPM Suites reinforced substantially the “high-end”, intelligent layer of their stack (process optimization, complex event processing, process performance …). But they did little about integration and composition of information assets that were not designed to be integrated (about 80% or more of enterprise assets). It reminds me of a chicken – big payload on a rather slim base. That explains, at least partially, why BPM has not yet made it to the IT Mainstream.
What went somewhat unnoticed was the brief mushrooming of Mashup technology – which was targeted at power users, enabling them to recompose those existing information assets into new applications. That did not work because it still required skills that were beyond those possessed by the target audience (see A reality check on “citizen development”). Yet Mashup platforms (such as Convertigo) offer a very cost effective and compelling way to enhance BPM suites by extending their information base. The ability to interact with a key application without having to re-engineer it can make the difference in deciding upon the implementation of a BPM initiative.
Application Integration has also regained in importance, in particular when it comes to integration between Cloud and On-Premise applications. That is yet another facet of the orchestration of business processes, which is championed by BPM. Here I also see an increasing number of productive alliances, such as the recent partnership between Pallas-Athena and Magic Software.
All this leads me to expect that the next wave of consolidation in the BPM space would happen at the lower level of the stack, adding a rich set of easy integration and composition technologies to really enable the incredible potential of a full-fledged BPM system.
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A recent discussion at the ebizQ forum is “How Should Companies Prepare for When the Cloud Goes Down?”. It triggered this post.
What do companies do when the electricity goes down or the phone is out? I am not familiar with outage statistics of the Internet at large or specific Cloud Services providers, but I venture to guess that their track record is not worse than that of the major utilities – probably even better. What is often missing is feedback from those service providers when they experience problems. I rarely saw providers that acknowledged a service interruption while that interruption took place. This is the most frustrating part – you do not know if the fault is within your sphere or if it is external.
A very recent example is Orange in Switzerland – following the announcement of iPhone 4, their web site became overloaded and registered users could not access their account – unrelated to their interest in the iPhone offering. Yet, the only message you got when trying to log on was that it cannot present you a personal iPhone offer due to the high demand – and no word about the general login problem. It took about a week until you could log-in again. I expect providers to follow the example of Salesforce.com and be transparent about their on-going service level.
Then comes the contingency aspect. Those who need constant electrical power install UPS systems. Those who need constant communications use multiple alternative networks. And those who need constant computing have DRP and facilities and processes in relation to their service tolerance. Why should using the Cloud be different?
Now let me get back to the popular apprehension about the Cloud going down – and while we’re at it what about the risk of your Cloud Provider going under? One of the most popular SaaS integration applications at Magic Software is the replication of Cloud based data – simply providing an integration link between a Cloud application (such as Salesforce.com) and a local DBMS hosted on the company premises. I consider this as some kind of life insurance policy – not too expensive, not a perfect solution, but something that would help you survive in case of the ultimate disaster.
And putting things in proportion, data is probably safer and more available at Salesforce.com systems than in most companies’ data centres…
My recommendation? Do your due diligence when choosing a Cloud service, require transparency from your Cloud provider in particular on the service state, and set up a contingency to cover your disaster tolerance.