Now in the middle of its second decade, cloud computing is growing more rapidly than ever. Some experts say that by 2023, the majority of ERP implementations will be in the cloud. That means businesses that have not yet explored cloud opportunities might want to give it a serious look, and technology providers without a competitive cloud offering should probably develop it -- or partner with a business that can complement them. This is a good moment to reassess cloud technology and the opportunities it presents.
Industry solutions come to the cloud
In the past, we have advocated a cautious, well thought-out approach to cloud adoption. However, there is no doubt that cloud-based deployment of ERP systems and industry-specific solutions is on the rise. For many business and IT managers, the promises of cloud ERP are compelling: reducing management overhead, controlling costs, accelerating deployments, and benefiting from a scalable business management solution without a simultaneous increase in expenses.
Many CIOs also feel that the cloud makes it easier for them to bring mobility solutions to their employees in field sales, service, and other roaming assignments. Security concerns, long seen as a valid counter-argument to embracing the cloud, are on the retreat—in 2013 for the first time, less than half of companies surveyed state that security considerations are slowing their move to the cloud.
More recently, smaller and more specialized companies have joined the global industry giants that initially spearheaded cloud adoption and technology development. Last year, To-Increase was the world’s first ISV to deploy one of its solutions, To-Increase Industrial Equipment Manufacturing, on Windows Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform.
Cloud fundamentals: layers and multi-tenancy
To understand what the cloud can help you achieve, it helps to quickly review the basics. Remember that the cloud comprises three main layers:
- Software-as-a-service (SaaS): The application layer with the user interface, workflows, business logic, databases, and other applications that technology users access.
- Platform-as-a-service (PaaS): Application servers, virtual machines, development tools, and services technologists use to test, maintain, deploy, and host applications.
- Infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS): Operating systems, servers, storage, network technology, and other fundamental resources any IT operation needs.
ERP systems (including Microsoft Dynamics), and the To-Increase solutions that extend them with industry-specific and cross-industry capabilities, both belong to the PaaS layer. Some conversations and magazine articles equate the cloud with just one of the three layers, most commonly SaaS, which is an unhelpful restriction.
In your planning and thinking, you also need to consider the concept of multi-tenancy. The term “tenant” refers to any application that requires its own, secure virtual computing environment. True multi-tenancy in clouds applies to all three layers for users of the tenants to have the full benefit of all cloud services, from server and storage hardware to the user interface, along with the desired scalability, flexibility, manageability, and cost control.
There are degrees to multi-tenancy, distinguished by the extent to which the SaaS layer is shared across tenants. While IaaS and PaaS will always be multi-tenant in private and public clouds, SaaS can be multi-tenant, can cluster tenants that share database schemas or other application components, or can simply be single-tenant. You need to consider multi-tenancy as you fit your cloud deployment to the workload your applications and services have to support. Without multi-tenancy, you might not be able to obtain the superior agility, scalability, and economy that the cloud can deliver compared to on-premise technology.
To-Increase business process management incorporates the cloud
In its cloud development and deployment strategies, To-Increase combines the PaaS and SaaS layers. We are developing partnerships and collaborations to enable customers to take full advantage of cloud technology in a Microsoft Dynamics ERP environment with vertical solutions.
Today our customers can make use of our Business Integration Solutions to act on the cloud opportunity. For example, they can work with To-Increase RapidValue, the business process management solution, to design and define strategies and business processes that incorporate the cloud, and map the right cloud-based application capabilities to these business drivers.
Basic cloud considerations for ERP
As you evaluate the potential of the cloud for ERP, you need to consider some of the same things you would with any major technology change:
- Document how your company and its requirements may likely grow and change over the next few years.
- Involve stakeholders from the executive team, the business groups, and IT to collaborate around the definition of goals and purposes, review possible solutions, evaluate deployment strategies, and ensure alignment of the new technology with the company’s objectives.
- Identify a solution that fits your company, processes, and industry, and that offers the manageability, flexibility, and scalability to support your business evolution.
- Find a technology provider with rich expertise in your industry and familiarity with your type of operation, and talk to that company’s satisfied customers.
- Ask the technology partner to help you compare the costs and capabilities needed for your complete ERP deployment and infrastructure—including the ERP system itself, industry-specific solutions, integrations, data migrations, change management, training, and support—both in the cloud and on-premise.
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