Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Google chrome - The Application Browser

So the news is out and google has released it's first browser.  After seeing some of my colleagues comments about chrome I thought I should weigh in on the latest from google.

Have you used it yet? I downloaded it today and it took about 2 minutes to download and it works! So is this just another browser or is there a future in google browsing?  As many of you might remember in some of my early posts on linkedin, the real next waves in computing will be the browser or the evolution of the browser.  The notion of a desktop or operating system is changing or evolving into a browser, an application browser.  As SaaS applications begin to build a larger footprint, users will want more functionality and they will want that functionality richness to enhance their user experience without system degragation.  Just like the SaaS apps that work in a multitenant hosted enviroment, leaving the heavy lifting to the hosted environement, application browsers will forge the way in new computing methods.

The real challenge today is to see what developers can do with this new application browser and see how they can enhance their current apps with google chrome.  What if you could turn your computer on and connect to google without ever loading windows...  

So what do I already miss, spell check! Firefox was great at spell checking and I already miss that basic functionality. Next on my list is my google toolbar, with the new tab feature, I guess I may not need a traditional bookmark / favorites / toolbar because google chrome incorporates some of that basic functionality out of the box.  My home page is google, now I can just type what I am looking for in the browser line and if its a website, it will go to it and if its something I am seraching for, it will search and send me my results. Nice.

Interesting side note, my sound stopped working with flash when I did a Microsoft update several weeks ago and now it works again after installing google chrome.  I have spent the last several weeks going to blogs about this flash sound issue and tried several things including a hack to registry with no avail... Now, after a 2 min download/installation, flash sound works again!

As a friend often says, Life isnt about waiting for the storm to pass; It's about learning how to dance in the rain.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

HIgher Education - Life Cycle of the Student

Over the past few years I have had the pleasure of working with some of the brightest people in the CRM industry and one of the questions many have asked me is regarding CRM for Higher Education. Many institutions today struggle with the management of their current student body as well as maintaining a relationship with alumni. It's a real challenge for many colleges and universities to the extent that many have spent significant funds building applications to address the needs of their student body with less than desirable results.

I recently read an article from destinationCRM and felt compelled to start another blog dedicated to higher education. In the article, "Market Focus: Education -- Making CRM Mandatory for University Administration", written by Christopher Musico he describes the current state of the Higher Education dilemma regarding siloed applications/data and how enterprise CRM applications can change they way Higher Ed manages recruitment, retention and development. To this extent in the article by Christoper Musico, I am in complete agreement with the assessment made by Nicole Engelbert, author of the study "CRM in the Higher Education Market." Her assessment of the market place suggests that currently Higher Education is spending 184.9 million and will spend roughly 324.5 million by 2012 to either bolster existing CRM solutions or purchase completely new CRM solutions.

The challenge that I had in the remainder of the article was a quote by Keith Hontz from SAP who described SaaS solutions as incomplete and "at the end of the day, what they are not getting is complete integration." ? SaaS solutions are more open with web 2.0 and SOA architecture then their predecessor. Integration is the issue with legacy apps, not SaaS and to infer that SaaS solutions are not complete because you cant fully integrate is completely off base.

As many of you know I have been working in this space for several years and have a deep understanding of integration, SaaS and Cloud Computing. The power of SaaS is applications like Studentforce.com that are complete CRM solutions built to meed the needs of higher education. Integration with existing legacy apps can be handled at the API level or through proven integration tools like Pervasive. The real challenge is understanding the current environment and how to blueprint a solution to solve the integration issues with siloed applications and the disparate data.

If you haven't heard much about Studentforce, I would take a look at what was developed for higher education leveraging the Salesforce.com platform. It is another example of CRM made easy for large complex challenges in the Higher Education Market place. We are seeing more and more universities developing CRM strategies and incorporating SaaS solutions to improve visibility to the Student Life Cycle. It's my goal to help readers understand the technology available today and continue to create solutions for customers to support their business needs as technology and business evolves around them.

For more information on the Blueprint process, go to http://www.bluewolf.com.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cloud Computing - What does it really mean for your Business?


Over the past three months I have been meeting with customers and getting some really interesting questions, like what is this new buzz word, "PaaS"? Someone told me at a board meeting that their company was going to start leveraging cloud computing, is that SaaS? As the CIO should I be considering a SaaS strategy? SaaS Department? Cloud? Have you heard of adlizard, they are the next SaaS application for advertising companies? SAP will Host their CRM product too, isnt that the same thing as SaaS and multi-tenant architecture?

What is the real problem:

Interesting question that has several derivatives. Cost, Cost of data centers, bandwidth, power, people, etc.

Basically in 199x many companies invested in significant client server architecture that was the evolution of application development and moving from a mainframe based "glass house" to the future of computing. In moving to this model, many companies have invested Billions of dollars in Data Centers, IT resources, software development and application software. What they are left with is expensive, non-performing systems, processes and frustrated business users which impact the bottom line of every company.

Today, CIO's are looking back over the past two decades and realizing that the applications that were once created to solve business problems, created more problems then they really solved. They also realize that the soaring costs to support the monster they created is almost impossible to keep feeding while the demand from their end users grows exponentially. What they want it is a simple interface like Salesforce.com or facebook for those serious social networkers. Could you imagine coming to your virtual workspace in facebook everyday? It would be just like your cubicle in your office at work, only virtual with applications like SFDC, Clickability, or Xeequa displaying the latest metrics of your business.

Now CIO's are looking for ways to reduce cost, reduce complexity and they are looking at SaaS, PaaS, Utility Computing, etc.


What is this thing called Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is a set of web based services ranging from web 1.0 to web 2.0, from complete applications to storage services and spam filtering. Included in this definition is grid computing or utility-style computing from providers like Amazon, OpSource and SaaS providers such as Salesforce.com, Xactly, Clickability, and Eloqua.

What you get with web services:

Today, cloud computing can be one way
increase your computing capacity or add functionality or capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing is an extension of Web 2.0 Services reaching into the IT organization and extending IT's existing capabilities. Unfortunately, IT must plug into tnese web based services as silo's in the cloud, but SaaS/PaaS (platform as a Service) aggregators and integrators like Boomi and Pervasive are emerging to create one stop shopping for web services like the Opsource Service Bus has done for ISV's moving to a SaaS/PaaS model.

What you no longer need:

By extending web based services, IT organizations can begin to reduce the data center foot print by removing servers, applications, IT support resources, and minimize or reduce cost of power, internet bandwidth and telephony.

What are your options for adoption:

There are several options ranging from SaaS Platforms which would be considered application platforms like Salesforce.com, Xactly, Eloqua, Zuora (on-line Billing System), Sierena(mashups) to Utility based platforms like Ec2(elastic Cloud computing from Amazon), S3 for storage to aggregators like Opsource or integrators like Boomi and Pervasive.

The current Breakdown of the "Cloud" or Web Services:

1. SaaS
This type of "Web Services" or "Cloud Computing" delivers an application through a browser to customers around the world using a multitenant architecture. Customers can focus on business continuity while reducing upfront investments on servers or software licensing. One of the best examples of this SaaS architecture is Salesforce.com, they exemplify the capabilities of a SaaS based mutitenant architecture. Another emerging player in this space is Workday and Coda. Interestingly enough, Coda is rebuilding there entire app on Force.com, leveraging the salesforce.com platform. Another much needed player in this space is a true SaaS based architecture for billing and Zuora has come to the rescue with an innovative approach to managing your billing from A to Z. We also have the emergence of SaaS desktop applications, such as Google Apps and Zoho Office to create a new SaaS type model.

2. Platform as a service
Another SaaS variation, this form of cloud computing delivers development environments as a service. You build your own applications that run on the provider's infrastructure and are delivered to your users via the Internet from the provider's servers. Like building blocks, these services are constrained by the vendor's design and capabilities, so you don't get complete freedom, but you do get predictability and pre-integration. Prime examples include Salesforce.com's Force.com, Coghead and the new Google App Engine. For extremely lightweight development, cloud-based mashup platforms abound, such as Yahoo Pipes or Dapper.net.

3. The Grid or the "Cloud"
This form of "cloud computing" is getting new life from companies like Amazon.com, Sun, IBM, and others who now offer storage and virtual servers that IT can access on demand. Early enterprise adopters mainly use utility computing for supplemental, non-mission-critical needs, but one day, they may replace parts of the datacenter. Other providers offer solutions that help IT create virtual datacenters from commodity servers, such as 3Tera's AppLogic and Cohesive Flexible Technologies' Elastic Server on Demand. Liquid Computing's LiquidQ offers similar capabilities, enabling IT to stitch together memory, I/O, storage, and computational capacity as a virtualized resource pool available over the network.

4. API's Heaven... Somewhere in the clouds
API's allow SaaS providers to extend their applications as web services for use between applications via the web. It also allows web developers to extend their own applications functionality over the Internet as a web service. They range from providers offering discrete business services -- such as Strike Iron and Xignite -- to the full range of APIs offered by Google Maps, ADP payroll processing, the U.S. Postal Service, Bloomberg, and even conventional credit card processing services.

5. Integration in the Cloud
I remember talking to several of the integration players three years ago about the power of the cloud and needing to have integration capability in a SaaS based model. Today Pervasive and Boomi are taking this challenge head on. Pervasive is one of the oldest technology players in this space who continues to be innovative and delivering smart technology to solve complex integration problems. Another player in this space is Boomi, Bob Moul and his team have created a great multi-tenant architecture with smart "atoms" for those still lagging in the client server world. We also are seeing aggregator's emerging in this space as well with innovative companies like OpSource where Treb Ryan and John Rowell are leading the way in this space . If you are an ISV looking for a clear path to becoming the best of breed in SaaS, Opsource should be on your radar.

So everyone is asking the question, Why "Cloud" computing?

It's simple:

• Scalable
• Flexible
• Reliable
• Fast Setup
• Affordable Enterprise Solution
• Environmentally More Efficient

Cloud computing increases capacity or adds capabilities on the fly without investing in new infrastructure, training new personnel, or licensing new software. Cloud computing extends IT's existing capabilities while reducing cost of infrastructure, support, etc.

How do you get started or enhance your current SaaS strategy?

Call the Wolf! How do we enable cloud computing? Here at Bluewolf we start with a project charter and then blueprinting your business to define the criteria and SaaS strategy that needs to be developed for your organization. Based on those criteria, it will fall into one of the 5 cloud computing buckets or a combination of the cloud computing buckets. Once we understand the scope of the application then we can price the application, then design, and deploy using the Agile approach.

If you are looking for more information on SaaS and how companies are moving in this directions, take a look at this report by Aberdeen Research:


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

SaaS - The Evolution is Now

SaaS - The Evolution is Now - Where do you see SaaS in the future of your company?

A new twist or an old paradigm... Software as a Service(SaaS), once known as Application Service Providers or ASP's has revolutionized distributed computing. Salesforece.com, Amazon and Google are leading the way through Customer Relationship Management, Data Storage, Cloud Computing and Google Apps. As a prior CEO, CIO, VP of Global Services of three software/service companies and now as the managing director of the CIO at Bluewolf group, I have been able to watch SaaS evolve and pick up momentum in nearly every vertical market.

Companies are looking for business solutions that are easy to use and are cost conscious in assisting them with improving their bottom line. The power of Salesforce, as one example, is its ease of use, elegant user interface and reporting analytics "right out of the web", no longer out of the box. The true untapped power of Salesforce and genius thinking from Mark Benioff is the platform and the ability to build custom solutions in days that once took IT organizations months if not years to deploy to business users. Once there were entire applications running in independent silos with disparate data to connect between silos and many of these applications could never cross the data chasm to provide business leaders with the latest competitive analytics or business metrics to ensure profitability. Now as Salesforce.com launches yet another successful version of their software, Summer08, you begin to ponder how a company is able to build powerful functionality into a live ecosystem two or three times a year while traditional software companies are taking years to make the turn to the next upgrade.

Salesforce is not the only example of ingenuity, Google and Amazon are on a full-court press to deliver the latest webtop "formerly desktop" applications, data storage and cloud computing all from the web. Google docs is a great space for collaboration and as employees begin to use these tools for personal use, they have found how powerful they can be in the business world where the key to success and innovation is collaboration, not the font size or formatting required to publish a printed document. I wouldn't look at desktop applications as a comparison between Microsoft Office and Google docs as an example, Google Docs was created for the web, for collaboration and storage of documents on-line. The capability to work across functional business units in different locations around the world simultaneously is true collaboration, saving time and money. How many times do you send the same document to your peers to review and make updates while trying to complete the document for some given task? In an instance, google docs transforms the end users experience to create a collaboration for all members of a team in solving today's business challenges.

Amazon has created S3 and now with it's latest in platform computing, Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2), we can begin to actually go beyond conceptual models of cloud computing. For example, look at what Dreamfactory, www.dreamfactory.com, is doing with their platform and extending it not only to the Salesforce Platform, but now amazons platform. Powerful tools that can enable developers to build solutions quickly that can leverage bandwidth on demand as peak usage increases more computing power can come online in a matter of seconds to sustain peak loads. Many SaaS developers today are also leveraging S3 to enable storage capacity on the web to support media intense applications or provide on demand utility tasks like back up and recovery capability.

Lastly, as email changed our way of communicating around the world in the 90's, so has the evolution of chat and social networking. Social networking is reshaping the way that we communicate across our professional and personal lives. If you are a CIO or IT executive, do a quick search on facebook and find out how many people are using facebook to collaborate and share experiences with customers and co-workers. Perhaps you want to create an end user experience for your customers where they can share and collaborate around your technology or widget, create a private group or network for them in facebook(www.facebook.com) or Xeequa(www.Xeequa.com). If you are looking for ways to harness the power of social networks through sharing opportunities within your vendor network or partner network, take a look at Xeequa. Xeequa was designed for the partner network and the team at Xeequa has done a tremendous job in building a solid product to support business social networking. Many customers have asked me if SaaS is here to stay?

I express to each of them, “The evolution of SaaS is now” right before your very web fingers...