March 2009 Archives

Technical challenges of software as a service

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Technical challenges of software as a service

 

One of the interesting things about the challenges of Software as a Service (SaaS) brings is not necessarily that new technology brings new problems, but that it offers new spins on the problems we already have.

 

Take the biggest challenges as examples: integration and data migration. If your SaaS solution needs to interact with systems outside of your SaaS provider's domain, you need to spend some time figuring out how to do that. It is in a SaaS provider's best interest to provide you with multiple options to get data in and out of the system. There are also Integration as a Service options where, as long as both ends of your system can be reached over the Internet, you can extend your integration options further (for a price). There are many options available, but allocate reasonable time and budget to figure out how your SaaS solution is going to fit in with the rest of your application landscape.

 

Similarly, it's in the best interest of SaaS providers to make it as easy as possible to get your data into their domain. But unless you're starting afresh, don't underestimate data migration (I'd be interested in any stories of your experiences). One of the speakers at the recent Cloudcamp told of their experience of a customer who moved to a SaaS solution as it was the cheaper option, but didn't migrate any data; they just set people up on the new system who presumably were then left to migrate what they needed manually! People are looking at SaaS and other related technology to save money on developing the applications they need; the savings are there to be made but there's no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

 

As with any new technology, whichever SaaS provider you work with, your application developers are going to spend some time adapting to their new environment. Once again, the SaaS provider should do its utmost to make developers feel at home. But multi-tenant environments place limits on what you can do and try and force you into their "best" way of do something. Salesforce.com application developers are probably familiar with forum threads such as this one; and when Google App Engine was first released, not everyone was prepared for the change in mindset required. Understand the limits imposed by your SaaS provider and make sure you're able to do what you need to within those constraints. Otherwise, at best, you'll end up paying more for it.

 

On that same point, when developing with SaaS or Platform as a Service (PaaS), you're playing in someone else's garden and you need to play by their rules. Give your developers the space to figure out and learn these rules, don't just look at the syntax and assume that because it looks like something else your team already knows, there won't be any overhead.

 

One thing to keep in mind is what requirements your SaaS provider can and cannot meet. Of the SaaS offerings out there, is there one that is going to meet all of your requirements? What are you options when your SaaS provider doesn't offer something that you need to have? Partner applications can help fill in these gaps, but will usually add to the cost and add another point of integration for your solution.

 

Finally, there are plain old, boring infrastructure issues. When delivering applications over the Internet, obviously a network connection that is able to cope is essential. It sounds easy, but how many people do you know that have complained about the Internet connection at work? Are you deploying a SaaS solution to increase the mobility of your workforce? If so, are they going to have the necessary connectivity when they need it?

 

Those are just a few of the technical challenges SaaS can pose, but this post is by no means comprehensive, nor is it meant to be. There are topics I intended to cover, but I'm sure they'll come up over the coming months on this blog anyway. There are also some topics I've avoided altogether, as they'll take up series of postings on their own! More importantly though, I'd like to hear about what challenges you've faced when implementing SaaS solutions - feel free to comment.

 

 

Is SaaS the ultimate solution during the current economic downturn?

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In this economic crisis - I believe we are already past downturn - CIOs' budgets are under increasing pressure; yet, ironically, the pressure on CIOs and their IT departments to deliver solutions which enable more business benefit is at its greatest. Could this predicament turn out to be the best thing that has happened to the industry in recent times?

Forced to look for alternatives to the traditional lengthy and costly implementations involving over-complex, inflexible on-premise systems, some CIOs have turned to the Cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS).  Possibly as a quick fix in some areas, but there is a growing realisation that SaaS offerings are approaching a level of functional maturity to compete head-on with many traditional offerings at an enterprise level

 

When you include Platform as a Service (PaaS)and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) along with the myriad of SaaS solutions now available, the ability of CIOs to adopt cloud solutions to respond to the business's demands, while working with decreasing budgets, is limited only by the imagination.

 

CIOs with a slashed budget will be pleasantly surprised to see the SaaS world of stable applications and smaller project teams delivering increased measurable business benefits in shorter timelines. And although there are question marks over the actual costs benefits of SaaS solutions the fact remains that solutions can be delivered without the traditional investment risk and distraction of buying lots of metal boxes, wires and software licences.  With the ability to rapidly change, scale up, scale down, switch vendors, is SaaS and Cloud computing not an obvious choice for CIO's when faced with an uncertain economic climate?

IE8: How to make Active X work under DEP/NX

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Internet Explrer 8.0 uses the DEP/NX setting to stop ActiveX from running.If you have a problem running ActiveX you will need to tweak the Windows Registry.

This explanation of how to do this was kindly provided by Greg Lambert, technical director at ChangeBase:

Here is a sample registry keys that need to be configured to enable IE8 to download, install and configure ActiveX controls;

1)      To over-ride download blocking in IE, you need to set the following registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE (or HKEY_CURRENT_USER)\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\FeatureControl\FEATURE_RESTRICT_FILEDOWNLOAD\iexplore.exe= 0x00000001

 

2)      To over-ride download blocking in IE, you need to set the following registry key:

3)      HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE (or HKEY_CURRENT_USER)\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\FeatureControl\FEATURE_RESTRICT_FILEDOWNLOAD\explorer.exe= 0x00000001

 

4)      To over-ride ActiveX Installations in IE8, you need to set the following registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE (or HKEY_CURRENT_USER)\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\Main\FeatureControl\FEATURE_RESTRICT_ACTIVEXINSTALL\iexplore.exe= 0x00000001

 

ie8 registry setting

IBM/Sun: what it could mean?

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What will IBM gain by buying Sun? Today, under Jonathan Schwartz's leadership, I think Sun's more of a software company than a Unix server and workstation firm.IBM could benefit from taking over Java and OpenOffice. I'm not too sure where the hardware fits. OK, IBM will increase its market lead by about  9%. But it already has the Power family of risc processors. It doesn't need Sparc, nor does it need another family of Unix servers and workstations.

Sun's customers could benefit from the massive global support and stability IBM can offer, but I fear Sun's innovative culture may drown in Big Blue culture.

Microsoft Patch Tuesday March compatibility report

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Good news, yesterday's Microsoft Patch Tuesday should not cause any major comaptibility problems. ChangeBase has created a report about the update:

ChangeBase_AOK_-_March_2009.pdf

Mobile contracts suck

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How difficult can it be to upgrade your mobile phone contract? It seems, it's near impossible to get the deal that works for you. I spent most of last weekend trying to find a contract that provides voice, text and would allow me both  to surf the web on a laptop while on the road and access mobile internet using 3G.

 

Many mobile phones include a 3G modem that allow you to connect your laptop to the internet. But the operators want to sell you a 3G dongle with a separate contract. Years ago, I used to connect to the Cix dial-up bulletin board service using a old Nokia, with an HP Jornada laptop via an infrared link. Things have moved on -  3G is pretty fast but I can['t help but feel that the contract is now far less usable that in the old days.

 

Why can't I use my existing voice and data contract to access the internet both on my mobile phone and when I choose to use the phone as a modem? No one I spoke to this weekend could give me a proper answer.

 

Instead I need to buy a separate 3G usb dongle contract. This defies logic - because there is absolutely no reason for me to stick with the same provider as the one I use for voice - I can  go to any of the operators to acquire 3G data.

 

Rather than offer too-good-to-be-true deals for people switching contracts, I think the mobile operators need to crack this problem, and value existing customers by providing cost-effective contracts that fit in with their usage patterns.

Internet Explorer 8.0: compatibility test results...

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Enterprise apps that use a web browser user interfaces may not work on Internet Explorer 8.0, if they need downloadable components like ActiveX controls. Salesforce.com, I have spoken to RightNow and NetSuite arnd I've been told they are still running compatibility tests, Oracle has found issues which will impact eBusiness Suite 11i and 12i. SAP is recommending users continue to run IE6 or 7 until it can certify IE8.

I asked ChangeBase, a company that produces Aok, a Windows app compatibility checker, to look at which IE features are no longer supported in IE8. Greg Kambert, the company's technical director has just emailed me a list of the affected components:

·         Cross-Site Scripting Filter

 

·         DEP/NX Crash Recovery

 

·         File Name Restriction

 

·         Codepage Sniffing

 

·         AJAX Navigation

 

·         Application Protocol Detection

 

·         MIME Type Detection Restrictions

 

·         Web Proxy Error Handling Changes

 

·         Signed Certificate Filtering

 

Greg has also given me details of the problems in the IE8.pdf document.

It's also worth noting that anyone running really old PCs (before the 2004 Intel Pentium Prescott process or family) will find their hardware can't support Microsoft's DEF/NX secuirty feature.

The true cost of Windows Vista

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Microsoft could be losing billions of dollars in terms of lost earnings because Vista is not backwards compatible with Windows XP. As a result, businesses are not risking upgrading from Windows XP. Mainstream support for XP ends on April 14, yet most businesses are likely to carry on using it because they cannot be certain mission applications will run in the more secure Vista environment.

 

Last April when Allan Krans, an analyst at Technology Business Research, looked at the Q4 2007 revenues in the Microsoft client division, he noted that it fell 24%. This compares to 2002, when XP was shipping where the fall for the same period was only 1%.

 

Microsoft may well have shipped many copies of Vista, but I think few corporates are buying it, and fewer believe it will run their enterprise apps. This is the true cost of its trustworthy computing initiative, to develop secure software.

 

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This page is an archive of entries from March 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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