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Category: Cloud

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Do Small Businesses Have A Need For ERP?

Enterprise Resource Planning, or ERP as it is commonly called, has been an enterprise-level product for several years. This is not very surprising considering that an average ERP deployment costs anywhere between $100,000 to $750,000 – not accounting for the under 50% deployment success rate and the several months it takes to get there.

Given the costs and uncertainties involved, small and medium businesses have traditionally stayed out of ERP adoption. But is that a good idea? Not any more. A recent study conducted by CompTIA found that nearly 75% of businesses with less than 100 employees today have successfully deployed business optimization tools at their workplace.

Given the rapid proliferation of such technology among small businesses, you could be seriously losing your competitive edge by not adopting ERP yourself. But is it really worth spending $100,000 on a tool that may not be offering ROI in the immediate future? A Gartner study conducted last year showed that most of the small and medium businesses adopting ERP are doing it on the cloud.

Unlike traditional ERP systems that are deployed on the client’s servers, cloud ERP is operated over a third party server through an Internet connection. Also, unlike the awfully high capital costs needed for deploying traditional ERP systems, cloud ERP tools may be accessed through extremely nominal monthly subscription costs. These are factors that make cloud ERP extremely attractive. No surprise then that hosted cloud ERP solutions like Oracle JD Edwards or one from Netsuite or its partners have seen terrific proliferation in recent times.

So how exactly does an ERP system help a small business? As the name suggests, ERP helps businesses in the planning and optimization of their resources. This resource could be inventory, manpower, money, or even customer relationship. With an ERP system, it is possible to maintain data consistency within an organization. This way, every time your purchasing manager makes an additional order of supplies, the ERP dashboard immediately reflects the changes in inventory and budget so that other teams such as Finance, Sales, and Manufacturing may immediately be appraised of the updated finance and inventory status.

Another major advantage with ERP is automation of crucial resource replenishment tasks. In a traditional setup, the inventory manager is responsible for keeping track of the various inventory levels and he/she is responsible for sending new purchase orders when the inventory levels fall below a threshold. An ERP system may be configured to integrate your business processes with that of your suppliers so that decisions to send new purchase orders may be automated. This eliminates human error and reduces the turnover time; thus improving operational efficiency.

Given the growing popularity of cloud ERP, small businesses may no longer have the luxury of avoiding its deployment. If you are a bootstrapped business owner, it is highly recommended that you implement cloud ERP systems to not only ensure higher optimization of your resources, but also to bring about better efficiency in your business processes. What are your thoughts on this? Tell us in the comments below.



5 Trends Driving Business Communications

The intersection of mobility, cloud, and increasingly fast network speeds will continue to shape communications this year. As businesses seek to better compete, integrate decentralized workforces, and enhance client satisfaction, advanced cloud technologies will become a key enabler of business development.

The following is a list of the top trends in business communications that will shape the year ahead, in no particular order:


  1. The demand for managed Internet will increase significantly: As cloud-based phone service becomes the norm and usurps traditional landlines, the intersection between voice and data traffic becomes of critical importance. Businesses will come to demand managed Internet service to truly separate the two streams and deliver optimal performance. Private Internet will also see a sharp spike in demand as companies move to tighten security and protect data.


  1. BYOD will shift to JOC – Join Our Cloud: Despite devices growing ever more powerful, the world is becoming less device-centric. Companies will focus primarily on application, network, and content environments that drive and enable a truly connected workforce, and less on asserting control over specific device choices. Workers will find it increasingly simple to understand and follow expected company procedures, get up to speed on internal systems, and access shared resources.


  1. Working entirely via smartphone or tablet will become a viable option: Smartphones are capable of incredible feats, but depending on one as a primary workstation hasn’t been a real possibility for most workers. That may be changing. As LTE networks cover more of the globe, traditional barriers such as handling large files, quickly accessing needed resources, and tying into CRM systems are breaking down. For smartphone users making and receiving calls via hosted PBX apps, voice quality, and service availability are improving dramatically as 4G data networks spread. Even business software suites such as OpenOffice, traditionally the realm of desktop or laptop computers, are now available in mobile versions.


  1. Outsourcing will shift to decentralizing: More businesses will embrace geographically remote staffing solutions. However, a distinction will occur between the traditional concepts of “outsourcing” versus integrating staff that just happen to be physically distant. Remote workers, even those on different continents, will become truly and tightly integrated into company staff and empowered to deliver an identical customer experience. Talent knows no borders in this decentralized work environment.


  1. The cloud will make SMBs global and drive greater customer satisfaction: Related to #4, time zones will become nearly irrelevant. Cloud technologies will enable SMBs to become truly global operations, able to service clients 24/7 and offer a local presence in numerous countries with minimal capital expenditure.


Cloud technology has driven the idea of a more connected world for years, but it hasn’t yet been able to fully deliver on that exciting premise. The necessary supporting technologies are just around the corner, and the cloud, rather than being a vaguely understood concept, will become a core business process across nearly all industries. The results will be transformative for both businesses and the customers they serve.



The Cloud has Precipitated a Sea-Change in Enterprise Data Management

As a recent article on Wikibon notes, the changes wrought by the cloud, Big Data, and the advent of technologies like MongoDB and Hadoop are hitting traditional database vendors hard.


While Oracle and its competitors are still forces to be reckoned with in the IT world, cloud storage and data processing technologies, with their open APIs, open source development models, and non-existent licensing costs, are a better fit with modern business operations, particularly when it comes to handling the data loads and processing requirements of companies that do most of their business online.


Big Data is big, obviously, but volume is far from the only concern of companies that want to efficiently leverage the data goldmine. For business intelligence and analytics to live up to their potential, data velocity, scalability, and the costs associated with data storage and movement are of equal importance. There’s very little point in storing huge amounts of data if its use isn’t timely and the costs of managing it cut deeply into profit margins, both of which hinder business agility.


It’s hardly surprising that the dinosaurs of the data management industry are taking a hit; they value correctness over velocity and contractual and technological lock-in over openness and portability. There will always be applications where a data management model optimized for predictable structured data is absolutely necessary. The businesses with the expertise and technology meet those requirements aren’t going anywhere.


However, at least 80 percent of a modern corporation’s data assets are unstructured. Much of that data is ephemeral, and its major usefulness lies in the insights that can be gleaned from it in the short, and medium, term rather than for its long-term record keeping potential.


Cloud platforms and Big Data are intimately connected. The cloud empowers modern businesses to store vast amounts of data at relatively low costs, scale their storage in response to requirements, process and analyze data for actionable insights. They also integrate the results of analyses with ongoing business operations through SaaS applications that can tie Big Data insights into collaborative tools for handling logistics, enterprise resource management, customer relationship management, human resources, sales and marketing, and most other areas of modern business.


All of that would be difficult and expensive if companies were limited to fixed infrastructure costs, slow scaling cycles, long-term lock-in with vendors, a lack of vertical integration, and an inability to extract value from unstructured data.


The giants of old IT have not been slain and they will continue to grow, but as businesses accelerate their exploitation of Big Data’s benefits, cloud platforms will continue to dominate the landscape.


Consider the Clouds in 2014

As the dust settles into 2014 and we’re in the midst of our Q1 roadmap, we thought we’d share some thoughts of where we think cloud and mobile are heading, as they may influence how you think about your product, customer needs, or simply the future of the industry.


Smartphone penetration plateaus


2014 is the year smartphone growth will plateau, as we start to see saturation in the market. Apple recently released a more affordable Apple 5C that’s meant for the mass market and Google’s open Android OS has been making it easy for manufacturers to build cheap smartphones for years. The result: feature phone extinction.


Saturation should create opportunities in mobile device peripherals, including wearables. These devices will drive engagement with mobile devices as well as provide a way for companies to differentiate themselves. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch enables users to pick up notifications, control music playback, take pictures, or shoot short 720p movies with its 1.9-megapixel camera. With the smartphone and tablet as the feeders of information (the watch grabs information from Galaxy mobile devices via Bluetooth), Samsung has a hub on which to build useful peripherals.


Other wearables like the Pebble watch or Google Glass are rapidly gaining popularity in Silicon Valley. How quickly they can adapt to gain broad acceptance will determine the difference between being a long term success or the next Segway. Since wearables have been mostly familiar day-to-day accessories (glasses, watches, etc.), we think they’ll have greater success than something that requires greater change of behavior like the Segway.


Cloud and mobile become increasingly integrated


Mobile users need the cloud. You remember that when you lost your LTE connection and how frustrated you were as you waved your phone around looking for better signal? Yeah, that’s why the cloud is important. While apps have become smarter to support some off-line usage, they need that internet connection to be useful to you.


So why not just build apps that can run on the phone without internet? The cloud provides the convenience of off-device data processing and storage. While smartphones and other mobile devices have come a long way in terms of battery life, processing power, and storage space, the cloud does a lot of heavy lifting that makes apps work like magic.


Mobile and cloud means we’re connected wherever, whenever. Mobile empowers the cloud, and in return, the cloud powers mobile. For example, location data gathered from your phone is sent to the cloud where it’s processed and returned to your device in the form of useful contextual information about your surroundings. Big data will finally become useful to consumers as mobile and cloud work more closely together.


Enterprise fills the Black(Berry) hole


BlackBerry will be an interesting vendor to watch. 2013 was a rough year for them and with consumer favorites, iOS and Android, flying high from the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, companies will hedge their bets and consider sunsetting support for BlackBerry in favor of other solutions. The question becomes - who will fill the void left by BlackBerry?


More conservative clients who may be in highly regulated industries, like finance, may be hesitant to move to the cloud, though consumer adoption is influencing IT policy. If BlackBerry goes away, that opens up an opportunity for another big player to fill in the enterprise mobile gap.


Part of what’s driving this shift is the consumerization of IT. Consumer influence on IT is a trend that is here to stay. People want to use the same tools at work, that they also use at home. Mobility enables the lines between work life and home life to blur more than ever before. The pressure on IT to adopt more end-user friendly technologies will continue to mount.


Enterprises move to the cloud despite security concerns


Security in 2014 is not just for IT. Popular internet services like Snapchat and large companies like Target are just the latest in a long list of brand name organizations getting hacked. Consumers are going to think twice about the information they share and this habit will spill over into the workplace as well.


Cloud service adoption within enterprises is going to continue to grow and perhaps hit an inflection point, as companies realize that the benefits of the cloud outweigh the negatives. With privacy and security conversations hitting mainstream media, workers are being educated at home and in the workplace.


We’re seeing a lot of companies adopting Google Apps, Box, Dropbox, Salesforce, and many other cloud services. Some are even deploying multiple solutions that solve similar problems (e.g. Dropbox and Box) to meet the wants and needs of various functional groups. With all these services being adopted, IT will need to find a way to integrate them and fully manage everything within its security policies and parameters.


As a result, API platforms and cross-platform services are going to be huge this year. Secure management of this infrastructure will be a big question that will influence adoption.


Cloud Operations Analytics Improve IT Efficiency

We hear a lot about the benefits that big data and cloud platforms can bring to businesses.


The ability to collect and process vast amounts of information gives enterprises the power to engage with the real world in ways that have historically been extremely difficult, providing insights that can lead to new business opportunities and a deeper understanding of market conditions. But, one area where cloud-based analytics does not tend to get the attention and investment it deserves is IT operations.


The agility and responsiveness of IT deployment is crucial for modern businesses. Technology infrastructure is a significant cost for all large-scale businesses. Any savings that can be made on the overall cost of that infrastructure can be a big win for IT departments, but figuring out exactly where the inefficiencies lie can be a tricky proposition.


In fixed physical infrastructure deployments, it is only ever possible to proactively manage infrastructure deployments in fairly coarse iterations, such as predicting growth trends and mesh deployments with foreseeable shifts in requirements signaled by other business operations. However, reactive shifts in line with hourly, daily, or weekly trends are well beyond the capabilities of physical hardware deployments. This leads to inefficiencies, because either too little or too much money is being invested, resulting in wasted capacity or lost business opportunities.


In a world that combines cloud platforms and big data analytics, the situation is much different, offering a felicitous combination of data, analytics, and programmatic control that gives IT operations departments the ability to proactively shape their deployments to meet real-time and historical use patterns.


More Data


We’ve always been able to make use of server logs and other data to plot traffic and demand for processing and storage, but cloud platforms enable a much increased flow of data. We can see, in real time, the waxing and waning of resource demand across cloud deployments, which gives businesses powerful insights into usage patterns that can be used to inform operational planning.


Cloud Platforms Empower Analytics


As we’ve discussed before, the cloud is a powerful enabler of big data analytics, providing the perfect platform for the filtration and analysis of the large volumes of data that sizable cloud deployments can generate.


Reactive And Programmable Platforms


All of this data, analytics, and insight are largely useless if we can’t act on them. Fortunately, that’s exactly what the cloud enables. With physical hardware, it is not possible to fluidly modify deployments in line with data-derived insights. The cloud, on the contrary, provides effortless expansion and contraction of resources, avoiding the problems of idle resources or missed business opportunities, both of which can cost serious money. The ability to programmatically manage cloud deployments via their APIs offers the potential for automated operations management where deployments reactively respond to data provided by cloud analytics systems.


Cloud hosting platforms and cloud-based operations analytics offer a powerful synergy that can help businesses more efficiently manage their infrastructure deployment and resource expenditure.


Requirements of Big Data in the Cloud Uprising

The inevitable Big Data may only emerge if it meets the qualitative criteria of Cloud. A requirement level has trouble reaching for some Cloud players. This opens the way for the consolidation of this market.

In recent years, the issue of Cloud occupies the headlines, leaving a little space for other IT trends. But recently, the Big Data has supplanted the cloud in discussions and mobilizes more professional attention. This is a positive effect that the capabilities and potential of Big Data are now better known: it could never exist without the Cloud, and because of him, the Cloud will never be the same. We, as service providers and users of Cloud technologies, must ask ourselves about the changes coming to the industry. Are we prepared to handle the flood of Big Data? Is that all Cloud providers will assume the new demands generated?


If Big Data appears complicated at first glance, a large percentage of the population is exposed to use every day without realizing necessarily account. For example, thanks to Big Data, the major search engines suggest words in their search bar even before the user has finished typing a word. How is this possible? This is actually a complex operation, but to put in simply, saying that search engines store large amounts of search terms, they sort and classify users to be able to suggest the most popular and relevant words.


The disruptive nature of Big Data


In the context of the Cloud, complex and disruptive nature of Big Data makes sense. The disruptive nature is linked to various factors that come into play to successfully exploit these huge volumes of data, but also for the additional stresses to which the cloud service providers face.


For Example:


1)      All data must be stored in the same place: In fact, we need to analyze and process data in the same place, otherwise the data movement between different locations significantly prolong the analysis time. Cloud providers must therefore have at least one data center which can store all data. Is this is the case with all cloud providers?


2)      System reliability account: In order to effectively analyze large amounts of data, cloud service providers must be able to provide a reliable and ultra-powerful network; otherwise it may well await the outcome of an analysis yet supposed to be instant. Is that all providers can offer a powerful network?


3)      Strict compliance with service level agreements (SLA) under analysis, failure of virtual machine (VM) is enough to stop the operation and the client will need to run all his operations on another platform. In other words, with Big Data, the service level agreements cease to be a simple preference to become mandatory. Is that all cloud service providers are capable to meet this requirement?


4)      Custom configuration, in each case: Since the stability, power and network capacity storage gaining importance with Big Data, levels of performance and quality of service must be configured for each client. Is that all suppliers can meet this requirement, and especially do they accept?


Meet all requirements


It is clear that the qualities of network service level agreements on service performance and availability, as well as API are critical aspects for the proper functioning of the analytical tools of Big Data. For this reason, any vendor of Cloud must satisfy each of these requirements in order to perform the analysis correctly and claim to provide services around the Big Data.


However, most cloud providers are not ready. Consequently, and in the context of future exponential growth of services around Big Data, there is likely to industry consolidation, which will tighten around a handful of vendors which continue their development, which others specialize in nice and solve IT problems secondary customers. Make no mistakes: the Big Data revolution has already begun, and while each DSI feels compelled to find new ways to stimulate economic growth, Big Data will continue to fuel conversations and become a factor of the consolidation in the Cloud market.


How the Cloud is Changing Vehicle Management

Cloud technology is currently revolutionizing how a number of industries operate. The freedom and interconnectivity of these products is driving change in businesses of every size.


By nature, vehicle management lends itself well to cloud-based systems. Since a fleet is constantly in motion, the various tasks, employees and records incorporated can become complicated or fragmented for any size business. But it doesn’t have to be. Let’s take a look at how new online solutions are changing vehicle management.


In breaking down the basic responsibilities of vehicle ownership, it is easy to see how things can get complicated in a hurry. If your car doesn’t tell you to take it in for service, when should you put it on the schedule? Where do you store maintenance history? What about tracking fuel expenses? Finally, how do you make sure your tag, insurance and payments are all taken care of in a timely fashion?


Suddenly, the glovebox seems wholly inadequate. Sure, you might be able to get by waiting until the check engine light comes on, responding to your mail in a timely fashion and ignoring fuel or service receipts. But a little effort can save you money, as well as provide a little peace of mind. After all, who wants to be unexpectedly out a few thousand dollars and broken down on the side of the road?


When a business depends on a stable of vehicles and equipment to get the job done, the challenges compound quickly. Take the headaches associated with having one car and now multiply that by tens, hundreds or even thousands. And unless you are personally operating all of these assets, then employees need to be licensed (possibly DOT compliant) and involved in the process.


Traditionally, companies have approached fleet management tasks in a variety of ways. Some invest in an enterprise software system and pay a hefty amount for a custom solution. Training, installation, and regular maintenance would be required. Otherwise, those looking to proactively manage their fleet (many do nothing), rely on a scattered array of spreadsheets, file folders and shared calendars.


In the last few years, however, companies adopting products like Xero, Google Apps, Salesforce and other cloud-based software are seeing benefits that can also be applied to fleet management. A number of online solutions for fleet management have gained traction and are gaining momentum. With online storage, easy access, unlimited users and more, it is becoming increasingly easier to not only stay on top of vehicle-related responsibilities, but to also make informed decisions that can help a company’s bottom line.


A number of features and integration options are very much adding to the appeal of upgrading to fleet software. Email notifications bring maintenance reminders to the inbox of whoever should know. These can be set to deliver when activities are due soon, due and overdue. Essentially, once preventative services and their intervals are established for each vehicle, a comprehensive system allows you to take a set it and forget it approach. It will do the work for you.


The ability to store vehicle information, purchase documents, receipts, images and more online is a huge win for fleet management. DOT compliance is also made much easier when a driver can pull up service history, important documents or photos from anywhere or any internet-connected device. With nothing to download or “seats” to purchase, a few products also allow you to add as many users as you want at no additional charge. All totalled, this allows for fleet operations to be a much more collaborative activity.


For most companies, the best way to manage fuel purchases is through a fleet-specific credit card. These fuel card products have customizable settings to only be usable at the pump, service station or convenience store. Fuel cards have been around for a while, but when integrated with online software, records can be sent directly from the pump to the cloud. Fuel economy is calculated for each fill up and the ever-important cost per mile metric (also accounting for service costs) is updated accordingly. This actionable data can help a company quickly see which vehicles are operating inefficiently.


In addition to logging information, setting maintenance schedules and automating fuel reporting, the cloud also allows for tracking vehicles from anywhere. Online GPS solutions can show real time information or historical data. Alerts and geofences can also assist in regulating driver behavior. This is a great way to insure that expensive assets are being used appropriately.


Cloud-based software is changing the way individuals and companies manage their vehicles. As already proven for other business functions, online options provide a convenient and practical solution for what was previously a scattered array of tasks. Largely thanks to the cloud, the fleet technology space is projected to grow tremendously over the next decade.


How the Cloud is Changing the Bookkeeping and Accounting Industry

With a focus on technology, the world of bookkeeping and accounting has undergone a number of changes throughout the past decade, and is continuing to grow in new and interesting directions.


In the past five years, we have seen various cloud based accounting applications introduced into the market, which has helped to revolutionize the industry while creating awareness of online technologies. This new-found awareness has generated an opportunity for tech firms that are creating unique applications that address many of the problems currently in the industry, while helping to streamline the bookkeeping and accounting process.


In the past, bookkeepers and accountants would use accounting applications, such as QuickBooks, that offer a traditional financial package and leaves businesses feeling confident with their books. Throughout the past five years, there has been an influx of competition branching into the market with cloud-based applications, offering many of same financial functions as the traditional applications, but with added value such as anywhere or anytime access, multiple user admittance, and activity log audit trails. Competitors like Kashoo and Xero have made a name for themselves within the industry by offering an innovative product dedicated to make the financial process as simple as possible for bookkeepers, accountants, and businesses. This change in the industry has certainly stirred the pot, as QuickBooks released their brand new online application earlier this year.


It is clear that many of the bookkeeping and accounting functions we are used to are gradually moving to the cloud, especially with some of the most influential organizations in the industry now working with SaaS companies and products. As these online tools are starting to become a norm in the industry, many individuals who would, prehistorically, not understand the “cloud-movement” are beginning to look at tools that simplify the bookkeeping and accounting process.


One of the latest trends within the industry is the addition of cloud-based document management applications such as Smartvault and LedgerDocs. These firms offer innovative and time effective ways to receive, organize, and collaborate on documents, and have designed their applications specifically for the bookkeeping and accounting industry. Cloud-based tools such as these offer firms a competitive advantage as they have an opportunity to become virtual bookkeepers and accountants that are able to work with clients from around the world while never having to receive hard-copy documents. This also benefits businesses that are now able to make electronic copies of their accounting documents via smartphone or scanner, and upload them directly to their financial representative. These tools cut down on time spent couriering important documents, while offering a unique collaboration of tool bookkeepers, accountants, and their clients.


With such rapid change, it will be interesting to see where the bookkeeping and accounting industry goes in 2014. One thing is obvious; the move to the cloud is certainly coming and, although there will always be traditional methods being used, the wide-spread acceptance of cloud technologies within the industry is opening eyes to many tech firms looking for a niche.


How to Choose the Right Cloud Management Solution

The challenge:


A $500 million enterprise in India began adopting cloud a couple of years ago with the typical cloud journey: from virtualizing the hardware using VMware Hypervisors to setting up a private cloud with vCloud Director and, finally, signing up with AWS for a public cloud service. In addition to handling the typical workloads of development, testing, and production, there are software products that need to run on a SaaS model. This means that distribution of these enterprises’ products has to be moved from a dedicated installation process to a fully automated, on-demand creation of customer instances.


The IT managers in this enterprise then found themselves bogged down by the management and control requirements of these two clouds. After all, they had to manage about 500 VMs in their private cloud and little less in their AWS account! They have no means of knowing how many are really being used and effectively. VM sprawl and under-utilization remains the central challenge, but the customer installations of their SaaS enabled products also had to be continuously monitored, metered and billed! Realizing that they needed a management solution for their cloud services, they started evaluating different cloud management solutions. But how does one make the right choice?


The scenario:


The market today is filled with many multi-cloud solutions spanning from a “pure play management layer” to an “end-to-end cloud platform.” Adding to the complexity are solutions among them, offering variants that lean towards IaaS, SaaS or PaaS. Cloud brokerage solutions, and market place offerings do not make the choice any easier. The following infographic depicts the complexity of offerings available:



Every player in the infographic offers the basic tenets of a cloud management solution, like provisioning, self-service, governance, reports and automation, so there is no decision choice that would disqualify any of these players.


The choice:


Not only is it important, it is necessary to understand the strength and the focus of each player in the cloud landscape. For ease, they could be classified as cloud management solutions, end to end solutions and  brokerage solutions. This classification helps ease the choices in answering “Does the enterprise need all those features or only a few?”


  • Mature cloud management solutions like Rightscale, Kaavo & Scalr manage clouds well, but lean towards automation, migration and improving the efficiency & execution of IT development in enterprises.These solutions are application-centric.
  • New entrants in the same space, like Cognizant (Cloud 360) and Infosys (Cloud Hub), take an enterprise’s view into multi cloud management, governance being an important factor here.
  • VMware’s vCloud suite, Citrix cloud portal, Abiquo and vmUnify are typical end-to-end cloud platforms.These have a lot of inbuilt components like orchestrators & hypervisors. However, VMware & Citrix are centered on their own cloud components and vendor-neutral support is limited.
  • Cloud brokerage tools such as Jamcracker & Zimory are more suitable for a service provider with needs like reseller agreements & consolidated billing. These solutions have many “provider” features along with cloud management features which are needed by end-consumers.
  • Marketplaces are full of nothing but “cloud platform as a service,” where ISVs (re)package and price their products. Consumers “meet up” with them at the marketplaces and buy these products. The marketplace provider makes sure that provisioning, billing and availability of these products are satisfactory.
  • Pure play vendor neutral Cloud portals like MyCloudPortal and Enstratius are the ones which focus on enterprises’ need to control, monitor and manage their multiple clouds from a single dashboard. These lightweight portals combine product cataloguing, metering and billing features through which the same portal can be used as a sales portal for SaaS enablement.


Enterprise can customize and enhance the functionality of these pure play portals to include the organizations’ user realm, BPM engines, and communication systems so that the enterprises’ users will have the same governance, management and budget controls for their infrastructure needs regardless of whether or not they are on-premise hardware, private cloud or any public cloud.


This option seems to be even more attractive given the fact that all cloud platforms offer extensive APIs to communicate with them, aiding in rip-and-replace or plug-and-play functionality. Moreover, these portals are vendor neutral, which is an advantage to any enterprise trying to avoid lock-in.


CXOs have to think hard on what kind of self service solution is required for their specific cloud management needs. Here are few pointers for the decision makers:


  • If an enterprise is just beginning with the cloud journey, it is better to go with an end-to-end cloud solution.
  • If it is a big development house keen on developer productivity, a cloud management solution with lot of automation and migration features built-in would be a good choice.
  • Finally, if you know your way around cloud technologies, and need a lot of flexibility in the way you consume cloud services, you are better off sticking to a simple light weight cloud portal solution!

Cloud is the Platform for a Lean Digital World: How Do You Fit In?

The cloud is the new global engine for economic growth. It has transformed every industry, business model and job (see below). It displaced real consumer and business assets with digital information assets.


Digital assets are now valued higher than physical assets. It has allowed big and small companies to become lean and manage a global workforce like it was a local operation. As one continent of workers goes dark another one springs to life providing continuous product development and customer support operations. Millions of workers are now virtual employees using cloud-based applications to deliver services.


Change is accelerating. Major disruptions are announced every day, particularly from San Francisco Bay Area companies. Product cycles are measured in weeks, not months or years. The result of this explosive rate of creative destruction is a huge backlog of new, economical, virtual, skilled jobs. The good news is that not all jobs are for coders. There are 10-20 sales and service knowledge jobs for every coder. The new non-tech workers can overcome cloud industry, company and product knowledge curves. Companies need “skilled workers” that fit into their cloud industry and company “culture”. Thankfully, these skills can be taught quickly.


Let’s review the major disruptive cloud-based forces creating a lean digital world. We are just touching some highlights.


Cloud Logistics 2.0: Robotics and Home Delivery


Product inventory is now moving at high velocity from manufacturing to delivery to your home or office by Amazon’s local robotized warehouses and cloud services. Forklift drivers have been replaced by machines. Amazon has become the #11 top retailer in the world without a single retail store. They are now threatening the grocery industry by offering local delivery of goods in large urban markets. The future is home delivery of anything from online stores like Amazon’s “Everything Store.” I envision a world where small, driverless vehicles will ultimately make frequent deliveries. The concept is being tested in Brazil where congestion in cities is being reduced by the use of small delivery vehicles. DHL, a global express delivery service, and others have been using small, daily delivery vehicles for years. Google, eBay and others are testing this form of local delivery of retail goods to replace the need for the consumers to go out to shop.


Cloud Manufacturing 2.0: Sofware-Defined Products


Manufacturing was the first U.S. industry to automate using the cloud. It first started with design collaborations between U.S. and Asian operations in the context of outsourcing. Recently, they brought some manufacturing back but use advanced lean inventory systems and robotics to reduce assets and laborers. I invented a patented process for automating supply chain network physical inventory and assets with information that are still in use today. We saved companies hundreds of millions by 2004. Defense logistics has employed similar techniques to save more than $2B. Information is quickly replacing assets and inventory.


The next step of the lean world involves software-defined products. Mobile applications have replaced untold physical things, including music players and cameras. 3D printers using cloud-based content and services are replacing the design and manufacture of toys and other goods.


Cloud Retail 2.0: Sears Roebuck Catalog Model Redux


Sears invented the catalog sales model back in the 1800s. They set up local showrooms along rail lines for consumers to browse and order products from their catalog for shipment. Amazon created online catalogs along the digital rail line. They ship directly to homes. History repeats itself — Sears is now going back to their roots in a digital manner and expanding digital catalog sales with shipments to home.


These changes are also disrupting local tax revenues and retail business models. Retailers and local communities must adapt to the new digital consumer and provide personalized services. Sadly, many local retailers are not digital and will be replaced by a new breed of hybrid, local, digital retailers by 2020.


Cloud Industry 2.0: From Lean Enterprise and Lean Startup to a Lean World


By 2020, all businesses will be digital, according to Gartner Group. The lean world was created by the cloud industry. It is forcing everyone to adapt their careers and businesses. The big cloud (Google, Amazon, Microsoft) companies provide the infrastructure for both big and small companies. They have achieved cloud computing utility economies of scale. Assets, including web servers, computer rooms and software licenses, are now owned by them; not you as a consumer or business. That changed all businesses to a lean business model. Companies do not need to own assets or labor. Workers could work from anywhere – home, coffee shops and virtual workspace locations anywhere in the world. Teams could collaborate with webinars, Google Apps/Hangouts and Skype, among many other tools. Teams would frequently include temporary virtual workers engaged to work on tasks or projects.


The next wave of the internet is 1000 times bigger than it already is, according to the CTO of Ericsson. It is creating another wave of disruption for the current generation of cloud companies and industries. New companies are emerging to create personal household and on-premise business hybrids, using the cloud as the mediator.


Lean World: Millions of Cloud Tech Jobs Available. Where do you Fit In?


The real brake on our economy is the severe shortage of social, creative, skilled workers (see chart below). Our cloud-based economy needs 10-20 other knowledge worker roles that are as equally important as coders. These knowledge workers need to know how to collaborate with developers, customers, partners and investors — some examples include creative UX designers, product managers, program managers and sales/customer service professionals. They need to speak the same language and conform to the digital lean world culture.


We have the talent pool of creative individuals who have the potential to overcome the industry, company and product learning curves. What we need to do is to accelerate their training, especially in San Francisco and Silicon Valley where there are thousands of unfilled jobs and lots of underdeveloped talent. Everyone fits in with the right preparation. Everyone fits in.