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The Trouble With SaaS and Hybrid Cloud

Mar 15, 2017

Posted By: tim

At this week’s Cloud Expo Europe event at London’s Excel Centre, I’ll be taking part in the conference programme on Wednesday 15th March, joining Barrie Canning of Novosco on stage in the Multi-Cloud Strategy & Management/Services and Applications theatre.

Our topic is “The Trouble with SaaS and Hybrid Cloud” – perhaps a somewhat controversial title given the relentless pace of adoption of SaaS-based applications across enterprises of all sizes. We chose it deliberately though, to draw attention to the fact that whilst SaaS and Cloud-hosted applications undoubtedly have significant benefits in terms of agility, flexibility and cost, they come with certain challenges that the Enterprise needs to be aware of and fully prepared for.

Application ecosystems are growing in size, scope and complexity. It’s estimated that a typical enterprise today has somewhere between 100 and 1500 applications in current use, and about half of these are deemed critical to the functioning of the business. Meanwhile, the number of SaaS applications is growing by around 30% per year, driving a global SaaS market worth around $50bn annually.

This large-scale shift in how business applications are delivered presents Enterprise IT managers with a number of key decisions they will have to make. Should they try to maintain the status quo and insist upon the majority of applications, particularly those that are mission-critical, staying on-premise? If they do decide to go down the cloud-hosted route, should they attempt to “lift and shift” existing apps to the cloud, or re-architect the applications to optimise them to take full advantage of the agility and commercial flexibility of today’s hyperscale cloud offerings? Or should they take the more radical approach of migrating their key business functions away from traditional on-premise applications to “born in the cloud”, native SaaS applications?

Clearly these are significant decisions that are critical to the successful functioning of the business over the long term. The right answers to the questions above will vary depending on the nature of the business, how applications are being used today and how this will evolve in the future, as well as many other factors.

To compound the decision making process, Enterprise IT managers are finding it increasingly difficult to retain control of cloud/SaaS application adoption across their businesses. Similar to the “Bring Your Own Device” trend that has gathered pace across enterprise employees over the past 10 years, Enterprise IT is becoming increasingly “consumerised”, with end users increasingly able to self-select and use a wide variety of SaaS applications within their specific job functions. Indeed, they are increasingly being marketed to directly by SaaS providers, who are taking advantage of a growing trend towards decentralization of IT decision making.

This loss of control extends beyond how SaaS applications are being adopted within the enterprise, to the application delivery infrastructure itself. Instead of enterprise IT personnel specifying, selecting, operating and managing on-premise computing infrastructure, those tasks are now being performed by hyperscale cloud providers. And the application architecture and deployment models are defined and controlled by the SaaS vendors, with virtually no input from enterprise IT. In fact, the only aspect of the application delivery infrastructure left that directly touches the enterprise is the local and wide area network that connect applications hosted in the cloud to the browser on the end-users’ devices.

The major challenge for today’s enterprise IT manager, then, is the significant loss of control that comes with SaaS adoption, but not loss of accountability. The business will still depend on critical applications performing as they always have, whether they are on-premise or in the cloud, and senior management will continue to look to enterprise IT to ensure this performance.

To resolve this conundrum, enterprise IT managers must take steps to regain control of SaaS adoption within their businesses. They need to gain better insights into how SaaS is being used today, and how it will be used in the future. To do this effectively, they need to be able answer 5 key questions:

  • Which SaaS applications are being used across the business?
  • Who are the departments, people and locations using the applications?
  • Where and how are the applications hosted and delivered?
  • What policy should the business adopt for the application, and what actions are needed?
  • Why is the application being used, and is it part of a critical business process?

Answering these questions comprehensively and continuously will allow the Enterprise to re-assert control over SaaS and Cloud adoption, and take the necessary steps to ensure that mission-critical applications are delivered securely to end users with at least the same levels of performance they have been accustomed to with on-premises applications.

We’ll explore this topic further during our session at Cloud Expo Europe, and propose new ways in which enterprises can gain the insights they need to answer these 5 key questions. Also, on stand 322 alongside our partners Novosco, we’ll be demonstrating how Ampliphae uses advanced network analytics and machine learning techniques to provide deep insights into the current and predicted use of cloud applications across the enterprise.