Tuesday, 11 February 2014 16:07

Larger organisations weighing SaaS options

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The focus of attention for cloud computing at larger Australian organisations is shifting towards SaaS, according to a major consulting company.

While larger organisations have been looking to the cloud in terms of IaaS (infrastructure as a service), attention is shifting towards SaaS (software as a service) and even "everything as a service", Accenture Australia cloud computing lead Alison Cairns (pictured) told iTWire.

The existence of "pockets of really good adoption" of cloud services has been noted by Accenture's Australian clients, and they are consequently looking to broaden that adoption. In the last 12 months, most interest has been shown in SaaS, she said.

Regardless of whether an organisation is thinking about public, private or hybrid cloud, or IaaS, PaaS (platform as a service) or SaaS, a key part of the exercise is to validate the business case for making the proposed change.

One client was considering the future of 900 applications, Ms Cairns explained, with options including 'lift and shift' (moving applications from internal servers to those operated by a cloud provider with as few changes as possible - much like the 'your mess for less' offers made by providers in the early days of outsourcing), remediate (adjust configurations and settings to optimise the application for its new environment), replace (switch to a different application for the same functions) or consolidate (make more use of the capabilities of core applications in order to reduce the amount of software required).

While the client wanted to move as many of the existing applications as possible, she said it was important to consider whether replacement was a better option - and that largely depended on the extent to which each application had been customised.

The need - or desire - for customisation can be one reason why SaaS is not the right way to go in any particular situation. While in theory it requires the minimum effort (organisations are freed from managing the infrastructure, operating system and application), SaaS may not allow the degree of customisation expected or required by the organisation.

Similarly, the 'best practices' built into packaged software in its out-of-the-box state are not necessarily relevant to a particular organisation, and customisations can provide it with a significant advantage over competitors, Ms Cairns warned.

Another point is that in general, moving in-house systems to the cloud will increase the average cost of those that remain on premises. For example, the early termination fee on a data centre can be substantial, which works against downsizing to a smaller location.

Such issues must be taken into account when preparing the business case for change, she said, but they should not stop an organisation from starting to 'cloudify' its systems in preparation for a move to a cloud provider when the current lease expires or when the hardware needs to be replaced.

"It's all about the business case," Ms Cairns observed. "It's different for every client."

The underlying issue Accenture's clients often face is that they want to 'procure differently' but they are not sure how to make the transition.

They are typically obtaining benefits from some sort of as-a-service offering, and want more of those benefits.

"More and more of our clients are electing to do it," she said.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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