Monday, November 22, 2010

Business value from the cloud – Process Machines

Using the cloud as a Utility service has advantages. It enables computing on a pay-as-you-go-model. However, the advantages of Infrastructure/Platform are highly relevant to IT departments. From a business perspective this is still same old IT. The underlying delivery model may be different and the pricing may be attractive, but it does not bring any meaningful value to business operations, besides optimizing IT functions.

To make the Cloud relevant to the business, the pay-as-you go paradigm needs to be extended to business functionality. What if … business functionality could be enabled "on tap". A business function that currently needs to be designed and developed by the in-house IT team could instead be leveraged on-demand by a hosted provider of functionality.

In this scenario, the cloud becomes much more tangible to the business, as it provides the ability to enhance existing business processes, and use these enhancements on as as-needed basis. Of course, this concept applies equally to both private and public cloud environments. The granularity of the business function needs to be defined, but several industry examples are available:

  • Calculations based on federal standards that change regularly (Ex: FDA mandated formulae for calculating sugar content)
  • Widget functions that are regularly used (Ex: Geo mapping capability)
  • Complex but static business functions (Ex: Tax filing)
The ability to leverage functionality in a cloud based model is enabled by using a SOA based infrastructure in the cloud. The process/function is the utility that is made available. The infrastructure / platform are irrelevant from a functionality perspective. These pieces of functionality aka: PROCESS MACHINES are created as virtual images and are then deployed as one holistic unit. The diagram below lays out the concept and deployment model for these process machines:

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