On the road to recovery, cloud provides relief (part 3) Let’s get Techy!
Don’t worry, I’m not a technical guy. So this blog won’t be too technical. But I think it’s inevitable to adress some essential elements that made cloud computing possible. The evolution of technology changed the business profoundly. And although it’s not necessary to have a deep understanding of this technology it helps if you know what’s “under the hood”. Compare it with driving your car: you don’t have to be a mechanic to move from A to B, but it helps if you understand the technique roughly when you end up the emergence lane with a broken down car…
So it’s time to have a short crash course “for dummies” on cloud computing. And to keep it simple:
I will only quote the technologies that in my opinion where decisive for the rise of the cloud.
IAAS/PAAS/SAAS: not only you but also your hardware- and software provider being unburdened
If you google the word “cloud” you undoubtedly find this trio and I’m pretty sure you’re already familiar with SAAS (software as a service), PAAS and IAAS are less known. Many cloud vendors offer their software as SAAS: a total package delivered via the internet and charged based on usage. There are numerous examples like Gmail, salesforce.com (CRM) and Workday (HR). PAAS (platform as a service) offers the possibility to design, develop and distribute applications via the internet. IAAS (infrastructure as a service) is a pay per use service that give system administrators access to scalable processsing power (formely known as “hosting”).
But on a deeper level there’s much more to learn. Don’t be afraid, I won’t go deeper than that…
Virtualisation and Java: freedom of choice
Today it’s fairly common that a program runs on a mobile phone, PC or any other device. Not so long ago this was unthinkable. Java is not specific to any one processor, but runs on various hardware and operating systems so that the program can run identically on all of them. One of the drivers of cloud computing was the ability to work with applications by means of a tablet or smartphone. With virtualisation one can simulate a hardware platform and operating system, for instance run Window on your Apple iMac. This and many other things would have been impossible without these innovation and without a…
Multi-tier architecture: separate data, application and presentation
Not so long ago the data and the user interface were entangled in the application itself. This gave numerous problems because you could for example not use new tool combined with the same application. To be flexible the program must be able to co-operate with different databases and more important: different user interfaces. A three (or more) tier architecture makes this possible.
XML: not only exchanging data but also the meaning
The connection between applications and the exchange of information/data is so essential for working in the cloud, without XML there would be a huge obstacle for integration, collaboration etc. XML is a language that is both human-readable and machine-readable. And more important: it makes it possible to interpret the data being exchanged. To stay close with our domain: you don’t get a mash of data but the description of the data of an employee which can be processed by any HR system that is prepared for importing XML.
Web-services/WSDL: the yellow pages of the internet
In 2000 I attended a seminar about webservices, organized by the Butler group in London. What I saw there was the very early beginning of web services, applications working together based on standards that are described with WSDL (Web Service Description Language). And it was laughable how slow everything worked at that time. But it worked and had so much potential!
Webservices effectuate that applications can be provided in self-contained packets with a clear function. This motivated sofware vendors to develop all kind of smart applications.
This overview is a drastic simplification of the history of cloud computing. But I just wanted to address some important development and standards. And maybe the word “standard” is most important and the bridge to my last blog about processes. The rise of new technology would have been meaningless without the preparedness of companies to apply it consistently. The World Wide Consortium (W3C) played an important role in leading web standards to it’s full potential. Without this it would have been impossible to compare prices so easy when you want to by your ticket, TV or whatever online. And from a business point of view your ICT department would still be in the lead when you ask for a quick solution for your business case…
Technology, the embrace of web-standards and the willingness of peope to use the new applications have determined what cloud computing is nowadays: on demand services and pay per use, ubiquitous network access, flexibility, agility and ease of use.
To come back to the comparison with the car-industry: it’s mainly due to the standardization that car manufacturers can built so many variants and bring out new models on a regular basis. Engines, navigation systems, airbags and electronic tools are standardized and interchangeable and are built in different cars of different brands. The added value lies not in the building of those components but in the assembly of the component to a unique car with it’s own characteristics and experience for the customer.
And what about your HR processes? Are they that unique that you can’t use the standards offered by your provider? Maybe you can for talent but not for your payroll proces. It’s not a good or bad I think. It totally depends on your specific situation.
In my last blog in this series of 4 I will give some concrete examples of HR processes and the impact of cloud computing on those (standard) business processes (BPAAS).