Saturday, May 18, 2013

Elastic Integration Will Deliver the Boundless Business

Every once in a while I read a blog or article that is so on target that I feel like it was something I would write.  I just read a blog post by Gaurav Dhilonli titled Elastic Integration Will Deliver the Boundless Business that is just one of those.  I will excerpt some key points but you can read the full post at the link above.

He starts with "The Web is the defacto foundation for the enterprise. That’s why business applications used in the enterprises today should come from the same standards-based infrastructure as todays web, an environment that is truly elastic. Yet that’s not what’s currently happening. Many SaaS-based business applications and intelligent decision support systems, for example, don’t necessarily communicate with one another using the most agile and elastic technology, therefore these SaaS applications are missing the last mile of elasticity and they remain isolated and largely untapped within the enterprise. Siloed systems create inconsistency, inaccuracy, and inefficiency across the business."

That's exactly right and as you will see below we at O4BO.COM not only agree but we have built our entire technology and application stack around addressing that problem.

"Only a handful of people are thinking about this next step in true enterprise integration -- this necessary evolution demands that each part of the business is integrated into a single cohesive unit. And the solutions that exist don’t bridge the gap well enough, often adding bloated, “cloud-washed” versions of legacy enterprise applications."

I guess we are in the handful.  We start with Open Source applications that are easily customized and extended, but we don't stop there, we have a Context Aware Rules Engine that is part of our platform and all the applications that run on it have it as their Event Handler.  It is a dynamic event handling technology that is sensitive to the application, user context, tenant context and data and can route events and the associated data to our Mule ESB that can integrate any of our application or any external application for custom process and business processes.

"A new need is being born from this evolution of enterprise applications in the form of SaaS -- businesses need to seamlessly and quickly share data across the enterprise regardless of where the data resides. Elastic integration is what the cloud truly needs to facilitate this demand."

To address this elasticity, we also include Platform and Infrastructure as a Service that uses the Cloud to provide fast access from anywhere in the world. With partnerships with IBM SmartCloud and Profitbricks we give our subscribers the very best scalable and high performance infrastructure.  With partnership with WorkXpress we give our subscribers tools to build situational applications that are fully integrated with not only out chosen applications, but Bring Your Own Licenses for any application you currently have, and integrate that as well.

"Integration solutions have been available for some time. But these tools were built for structured data within the confines of a firewall. In the long term, maintaining integration between modern, SaaS-based apps and traditional ERP systems using legacy integration tools is impossible. IT will always be at least one step behind business needs. These new SaaS apps need the power to quickly connect to data (and enterprise security and access control models) and to morph as the business environment changes."

Using a Service Oriented Architecture, with Data Driven event processing, Business Process orchestration and an Enterprise Service Bus is THE way to connect to our subscriber's data while maintaining enterprise security and access control.  Each subscriber controls their own event handling and business processes through tools that require little to no programming in low level languages.

"How will IT achieve this? The truth is that enterprises will always have data that sits both on-premises and in the cloud. The trick is to integrate data across these two planes in a way that is fast, flexible, and scalable, so that a variety of data types can be processed – big, relational, semi-structured, or unstructured -- and delivered in a variety of ways including batch, event-based or streaming, by intelligently shipping functions or data of any volume -- no matter where the data resides, in a flexibly controlled and distributed manner. This is what we call elastic integration."

We at O4BO.COM simply couldn't agree more and our entire technology and application stack is designed with one purpose in mind, to give our subscribers the best value using the most current technologies and techniques.  To give you just one example, we have a subscriber using an Open Source ERP system on our platform.  They had an existing account with and they wanted to build processes that allowed the change in status of a prospect to a customer to at the new customer to the ERP and keep the data in in synch with the ERP system.  Since our ERP system is Open Source with an Event API and an SDK that allowed us to integrate it with our Context Aware Rules Engine and Enterprise Service bus, we needed NO CUSTOM PROGRAMMING, to register a rule that processed events from either side to synchronize data between the two systems, almost immediately.

"For example, a browser-based, visual configuration environment saves time and encourages wider adoption. With this sort of “dashboard” approach, project teams can get a huge head start with a shared portfolio of reusable and modular integration resources. And with systems like SnapLogic, which works with a visual designer, IT pros can quickly build integration pipelines that read and write data to and from any cloud or on-premise system -- without manual coding. Once complete, every integration pipeline is instantly available as a Web service and never needs versioning or updates, ever.
With truly modern, elastic technology, a limited team can have unlimited potential to dramatically increase their computing power; we’ve seen origins of this with EC2 and Amazon -- it’s possible. It’s the next step for the enterprise."

Gaurav Dhillon is CEO of SnapLogic.

At the current time SnapLogic is not affiliated with O4BO.COM but I will be contacting them to see if they want to partner with us as we seem to have almost an identical vision.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

SaaS - Opportunity and Problem

Software as a Service or SaaS is on the Radar of Gartner, Forrester and almost every eMag out there.  Its a huge wave and many are riding it or trying to.  The poor consumer, so much to choose from and with many little but the feature list to compare.  Several shrink wrapped software vendors are now offering SaaS versions, but their DNA is showing as the SaaS versions are often crippled subclasses of their real heart and soul product the shrink wrapped version.

*aaS - Its hard to keep up, and the lines are blurred between all the different "____ as a Service" acronyms. Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a mixed up mess.  To some it means you can develop and deploy your software using their tools.  To others is means you can deploy your application developed with your own tools and still others it means something else entirely.  The problem is that now there are SaaS applications developed on a PaaS or deployed by a PaaS, and the consumer may not know and with so many trying to catch the wave, how can the consumer choose and what if the vendor goes under.  That fear is real and it is justified.

So how can a consumer choose when the big names seem to offer better security, but even big names with lots of hype can go under.  Some will remember Coghead, the darling of 5gl and an early PaaS, it failed and not only did the consumers get burned but many partners that had invested their own money in applications on the platform, get burned as well.

IMHO, Open Source is the solution to the problem.  With Open Source if the vendor you choose to host it and support it goes under your code won't stop working and your data is portable.  With Open Source you can customize to meet your needs if it doesn't quite fit.  With Open Source you will probably find the subscription cost will be lower than the big names.  Lastly with Open Source there are many more developers working on bug fixes and new features than almost any of the proprietary systems, and you will automatically get new updates painlessly when on SaaS.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Top 5 Reasons people abandon Open Source applications

In my own research and in consultation with some of the Open Source application vendors that offer commercial versions, the somewhat less than scientific analysis is that 90% or so of Open Source applications that are downloaded, get abandoned and never go into production.

The following are some of the reasons cited by those contacted:

  1. It was too hard to install and setup.  If you have ever downloaded one of the larger Open Source applications like ERP or CRM, it is easy to see why someone without significant IT expertise might get frustrated and quit.  The "free lunch" of Open Source therefore gets more expensive by the amount of time spent or the cost of hiring someone to install it and maintain it.  Sometimes the hardware available isn't quite powerful enough, or needs to be on the network, etc.  
  2. It was too hard to learn.  If they happen to get it installed correctly and they start to use it, they find the training materials too hard to follow, or no support, again sometimes there are support resources available and some at a pretty prce, the "free lunch" paradigm.  
  3. It was too hard to use.  This most often comes from a mismatch in the features of the Open Source applications and the requirements of the users.  ERP can do accounting, but if all you need is an Accounting and Financials application, full up ERP is indeed too hard to use.  There also is a gap, the low end is even less well supported than the high end, so while there are many open source low end accounting applications, they tend to have less documentation and less support if any.
  4. It was too costly to run.  Many Open Source applications are web based, therefore require a web application server and a server class machine on the internet.  The "free lunch" isn't so free if you must have a server on the internet and someone to support it, do backups, monitor it, etc.
  5. It doesn't quite fit.  This comes after all the above and sometimes is there but not enough to quit.  It is all bout the features and methods of the Open Source application or its data formats, they may not exactly fit the needs of the companies they have them up and running.  Maybe its a desired field in an invoice, or a process step that must be done manually.  Open Source, does mean it can be changed, that's why this is last.  But the "free lunch" that requires expensive programmer, is not as attractive.
We didn't find any other reasons, but that's because our sample size was relatively small.

We at O4BO specialize in providing Open Source applications as Software as a Service, precisely because so many want it but have these reasons for abandoning it.  We address all of these for Small to Medium sized Businesses that may not have significant IT Expertise.