Cloud computing has entered the mainstream of enterprise IT, unleashing an array of new opportunities and changing the way technology is used and business gets done. The first wave of cloud computing services built on basics which access to computing assets expands to meet demand. The primary issues to be addressed at that time were scale, speed, and cost. The focus today, however, has turned to more complex and robust cloud platforms that enable collaboration, creativity, and customer interaction.
The need for more agile and flexible IT frameworks drives a variety of cloud services. These in turn enable increasingly strategic uses of the technology by integrating networked resources more holistically into business operations. Yet a mix of ad hoc cloud efforts can increase complexity and create new problems. As a result, there is a growing need for organizations to adopt overarching cloud strategies and focus on building platforms that support broad development and are capable of delivering maximum return on investment.
This new wave of cloud platforms is driving a remarkable transformation within IT and across the enterprise. Indeed, platforms of various types, including technology platforms, are emerging as a key element of business strategy in the 21st Century.
Cloud solutions are allowing organizations and their business units to automate systems, processes, and interactions like never before. They also are helping companies roll out new services that connect all their data—and their partners’ data—seamlessly and efficiently. Business leaders are investing heavily in cloud platforms to achieve a wide range of strategic objectives. They want to accelerate IT and business cycles through a fast-track approach to development, spur customer development of applications, and ultimately lead to a strictly cloud-driven software strategy. Several options are available today to meet specific business needs like Success Factors for Human Resources and Ariba for Purchasing.
What is a cloud platform?
At its most basic, a cloud platform is a system that delivers over the internet the infrastructure and services needed to develop, prepare, and run applications, as well as other services, including application integration and portals. The pre-built infrastructure unlocks the key benefit of these platforms, which is to remove the considerable developer time and bandwidth traditionally required to make applications ready for use (e.g., server administration, managing OS patches, and managing upgrades) with on-premise alternatives. Instead, cloud platforms enable developers to focus solely on coding innovative applications. Cloud software typically works in “stacks,” with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) sitting at the bottom, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) in the middle, and Software as a Service (SaaS) positioned on top.
The impact of clouds across a broad range of business functions and relationships is significant, and growing. The technology helps businesses meet the challenges of a globalized economy by allowing them to build more agile business frameworks that can boost innovation.
This focus on value beyond software and services is changing the role of the IT department. By fostering innovation and collaboration, cloud platforms are helping IT departments up-level their focus. In other words, cloud platforms have turned IT into a more strategic business partner. The ability to focus on core business issues rather than the task of keeping all the various systems running—often referred to as “keeping the lights on”—can have a profound impact on how an enterprise operates.