When the Open Cloud Manifesto was unveiled recently by IBM et al I wrote "The (Cloud) Bastards say, Welcome"
And I invited several cloud pioneers who have been at it - delivering cloud based products and services or helping evaluate and nurture them for several years - to discuss the manifesto and what they have learned in Cloud Computing over the last few years.
This time it is Jeremy Roche, CEO of Coda who writes about Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) - and the pioneering decision his team took to leverage salesforce.com's platform. Pioneering, as in in the clouds, and more importantly breaking the taboo in the software industry about "outsourcing" such a critical element of your product.
"I always read with interest the posturing of the vendors who sell big ERP and big maintenance as they debate whether they will, or won't, play in enterprise cloud computing. Or how they continue to attempt to redefine cloud computing to suit their business model, rather than seeking to deliver the products and services the market is increasingly demanding. They can try to alter the debate as much as they like, but they should see what many pioneers in the industry have seen for some time: enterprise cloud computing is here, customers of all sizes are buying into it and those customers are seeing real business benefits from it. From within this base of pioneers the next industry gorillas will emerge and companies that stick rigidly to their historic business models will increasingly become irrelevant. Perhaps that is why we have seen the recent about-turn by Oracle.
With my management team at CODA we tracked the emergence of cloud computing for some time. To me it represented huge opportunities for traditional software vendors, but also huge risks if we ignored it and the market moved against us. We decided in 2007 that the time was right for us to invest, but that we needed to have a strategy that addressed 5 key issues to give us the best chance to succeed:
- We didn't want to enter as a me-too player, we wanted to pioneer and to do something that evolved the cloud computing model.
- Simply recreating our enterprise applications on a SaaS platform was not the answer and we should take the opportunity to be creative, take our DNA and build an application that was cloud focused and built from the outset to integrate with other cloud applications as well as traditional applications.
- We are applications specialists, so really didn't want to have to deal with all the heavy lifting required in building the necessary technology platform to deploy cloud applications.
- Headquartered out of the UK, CODA needed to significantly expand its presence and awareness in the US to take advantage of the emerging cloud opportunity.
- Our history of building great financial apps for 30 years was a benefit, but could also be an inhibitor if we didn't allow our cloud business to have its own space.
And our vision was simple, but challenging: to do for finance and accounting what salesforce has done for CRM.
The first set of challenges was solved with one solution. Following extensive due diligence, we elected to build CODA 2go finance cloud solution on the Force.com platform from salesforce.com. It changed the game and make us a pioneer in utilizing someone else's platform - what is being referred to as PaaS - it also meant that we eliminated risk and cost from the project. Force.com gave us access to the platform and tools that salesforce use to service their 59,000+ customers and an infrastructure that have cost us millions of dollars to recreate. Why should I as an applications developer have to worry about the infrastructure, let alone all the other things we need like SAS 70 and ISO 27001 security certifications?
Perhaps even more importantly being a pioneer on Force.com gave us great exposure to salesforce's experience gained from building the leading company in enterprise cloud computing. Salesforce offered guidance on everything from development methodologies through to customer engagement models and that helped us to evolve at a lightening pace.
To address the cultural challenges and to allow a new business model to emerge alongside our traditional business, we established a start-up within CODA. We assigned key staff into the new unit and set out with the mentality to behave like a start-up tech company. Leading that initiative has been invigorating for me and the speed with which we have got to market is staggering thanks to the excellence of the CODA 2go team and the support salesforce and the Force.com Platform.
So just 18 months from announcement, we delivered a full cloud accounting solution, built on the world's most successful enterprise cloud computing platform. Now we are building and expanding our go to market and customer engagement teams as well as preparing for future product expansion.
From the experiences over the last two years, I believe it is not just about the delivery method of business applications. Anyone who views it as such is missing the point. Whilst the delivery method is important what makes cloud computing so attractive in my view is:
- A whole new approach to building agile and connected applications. Using online services and other vendors' applications as part of a solution rather than trying to build it all by ourselves.
- A new way to connect with and build relationships with customers. Just two weeks after release of our Spring '09 version we have live customers in 6 countries on 3 continents.
- A way to bring the benefits of enterprise class applications in a cost effective manner to midsize and smaller organizations. Cloud computing democratizes the applications market more than any previous technology change.
And finally, just as with all pioneers, there is the community spirit. Apart from partnering with Marc Benioff's team at salesforce, we are also working closely with other cloud pioneers, like Chris Barbin's team at Appirio and Adam Caplan's at Model Metrics, who are pioneering new paths in cloud based systems integration. Working together to broaden the applications footprint and connectivity and partnering to ensure our customers succeed changes the game even further.
The big ERP vendors can call it irrelevant all they want, but we are building the future. Only this week, Paul White, UK lead for Microsoft's Dynamics business referred to our parent company as "having mature but aging products and sees their large installed base as ripe for plundering". For a company with the resources of Microsoft, he should have better competitive information than that. Maybe it's better for us that he doesn't even see us coming, as we introduce his customers to innovative and cost effective applications and a relationship focused on the long term success of their businesses.
Like the other guests here, I have no real issues with the goals laid out in the Open Cloud Manifesto. But that is because I don't think the topic really needs highlighting. Since we are building on the Force.com platform we inherit all the investment that salesforce makes in interoperability with Google, Amazon, Facebook and others, but what is more we are working closely with other cloud "bastards" and building the cloud community. One of the reasons I believe we will succeed is because we designed interoperability in from the outset. We did that because we believed that it is the right way to build a world-class application and it is what our customers are asking for. I cannot think of a successful cloud application that is not designed for seamless interoperability so that means that the market is determining what it wants and making purchasing decisions based on it and successful vendors will react to it.
I am honored to be referred to as a cloud "bastard" and I'm sure there will be many more of us over the next few years."