The availability and accessibility of cloud applications remains at the forefront of concerns with IT managers, as more end users, rather than IT departments, buy applications and request them to be integrated into the general line of business.
IT managers -- who solve problems around business divisions, such as sales, human resources or payroll, and have to improve business processes -- are on the scout for a set of cloud-ready functions instead of separate applications.
Andrew Peddie, managing director of cloud services firm First Hosted, said the role of IT managers has changed, requiring them to facilitate functionality and production within the business rather than the technology overhead that they were previously viewed as.
"In the past, IT managers were there to make sure the applications were running correctly and all technology was working for their end users," Peddie said. "Now they need to work on how different divisions of the business can work better together to improve production for the company, for example finance and payroll.
"This means they are looking towards cloud services to free up their time for this. They want the functionality to improve the business but without the expertise, so buying a skill set based on improving business functions makes more sense than individual applications."
Clive Keyte, applications strategy director at Fujitsu, said the wide range of services on offer has advantages and disadvantages. "Competition drives prices down; however, multiple suppliers have to be managed, and this can be costly. One solution is to buy all of your cloud services from a single application provider."
Keyte said Microsoft is heading in this direction with its Office on Demand suite and CRM products. Regardless of the clear advantages for integration, this may not offer best solutions in all areas.
"Microsoft CRM, for instance, is a good product, but it does not stand up to Siebel or Salesforce.com," added Keyte.
Oracle is also beginning to offer on-demand services for its products, which is a good solution if you are happy to stick with a single applications vendor.
A single provider for cloud apps
Keyte also suggested that IT managers buy all their cloud services from a service integrator. An integrator will have a more independent view of cloud applications and can recommend, implement and manage the software as well as manage the application provider on behalf of the customer.
There is a lot of talk about shared resources and the cloud, but IT managers do not care. They care about the risks and how to access to their data.
vice president of EMEAVizioncore
"This way the customers can benefit from multiple best-in-class applications and have only one throat to choke," he said.
Darren Roberts, account manager at virtualisation reseller Intercept, said with the emergence of Software as a Service (SaaS), IT managers do not have to worry about multiple hosting and service providers but can opt for a monthly desktop subscription.
Roberts explained that companies can adopt the online desktop service, which comes with Microsoft Office. Any other existing line of business-critical applications -- for example, Sage Line 50, CRM and SQL database applications -- can be hosted for an extra fee.
"This is a much smarter approach compared to the local-burdensome approach of on-premise IT and retains the 'one throat to choke' scenario that IT managers seem to enjoy," he said. "By outsourcing the non-core hosting and maintenance of these applications, it frees up the IT manager to focus on strategic projects, improving processes, internal software training, etc, making a much better contribution to the bottom line of the organisation."
In contrast, Simon Abrahams, head of EMEA products at Rackspace Hosting, said the company's cloud customers have found that sourcing separate applications from multiple vendors is a much more popular approach.
"In the past there have not been a lot of applications that are cloud ready," Abrahams said. "As a result, some end users have been willing to make a compromise on functionality in return for simplicity of procurement and management."
"More applications are now being designed specifically for use in the cloud, with the ability to connect with other applications built in from the ground up. These technical developments mean that single sourcing is really a redundant approach that will not provide the best benefits to end users," Abrahams added.
Cloud adoption is slow
Roger Baskerville, the vice president of EMEA at virtualisation vendor Vizioncore, said that adoption is slow despite the hype surrounding cloud computing, as IT managers need to be sure of the risks before they invest.
"There is a lot of talk about shared resources and the cloud, but IT managers do not care. They care about the risks and how to access to their data and their applications," said Baskerville. "For example if you do not physically possess your data, what happens if you go bust? What if your data is stored across different borders, outside of the European Union, and there are different regulations to consider -- gambling companies may have issues here."
According to Julian Dobbins, director of product management at enterprise applications vendor Micro Focus, "The key step for any company looking to move multiple applications to the cloud is separating the assets that are adding a competitive advantage from those that are not.
"Whilst mainstream adoption of cloud computing may yet be some years away, the benefits of preparing for the cloud are tangible and accessible to all organisations today. Assessing where value lies within your existing application portfolio and pursuing a modernisation strategy will lay the foundations for future moves towards the cloud."
Kayleigh Bateman is the site editor for SearchVirtualDataCentre.co.uk.