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COST SAVING TIPS: Cloud or Inter/Intranet Web or Mobile or Client Server or Host Centric?  From Green Screen to Web 2.0?

Today most companies are focusing on "Webefying"  their existing applications and possibly porting them to a cloud or installing mobile accessability.  Most new project requests specify that the user interface is to be accomplished via a mobile device or a web browser.  Until the late 90's the question was "To Serve or Not to Serve", the question asked by all too often aggressive vendors, coupled with the self interests of internal company technologists, to convince corporate management to undertake major projects which quite often resulted in less than desirable results.  Mainframes, rugged AS/400s (now called iSeries), and other similar "so called dinosaurs" were replaced by newer, more economical, client server technology.  This wonderful newer technology had many advantages, yet regretfully not all conversions resulted in the promised benefits, and the cost of ownership coupled with increased server management issues became an unpleasant surprise for many.  This led to the move toward "virtualization" and most recently toward the new trend of "SaaS" (Software as a Service) or "Cloud Computing".

During the last seven years much progress has been made in the area of web based systems, and we anticipate that this trend will prevail during the next five years.  Inter and intra net based systems offer a wonderful thin and easy to manage client model, however the real question is whether the change is required and whether it results in a positive cost benefit relationship.  Undergoing projects to "Webefy" an application, just for the purpose of making it accessible via the web, does not always make sense or "cents".  Similarly, updating existing web applications with newer "look & feel" or interactive features and video as described by Web 2.0, may not always be cost effective.  Lastly, porting applications to a "Cloud" may not be the most secure and most practical alternative.

Whether the desired technology is Windows based, or Unix, or other variants such as Linux, companies need to embark upon these platforms in order to take advantage of current software offerings.  Accordingly, companies need to examine their requirements on an application level basis to determine the best approach.  One should not blindly proceed on replacing all of the internal platforms with new and trendy technology paradigms being offered.  Additionally, the size and complexity of the business environment influences the technology decision.  Smaller companies in a stable environment can continue on with their mature technology and just acquire some new workstations for select applications or purposes.  Larger companies, which have cost justified a need for total seamless integration, may have to make a complete transition to the new technology platforms.  Again, each application area and company situation should be viewed independently.

In deciding whether or not to use new technology, five basic issues should be considered:

1) What is the driver to this new (i.e. "new" to my company) technology.  Is the driver a business need, is it a technical requirement, is it a personal preference, is it a "no choice" situation, or do we still need to do some more homework?  For example, if you need "Web 2.0" capabilities, do you need the new technology throughout your systems or only in some of your customer facing applications?  What difference does it make to your customers or users if the application is running "on the cloud" or on a "Box in the closet"?

2) What are the major functional needs of the applications being implemented, and do they mandate the use of new technology.  Could I support these needs with my company's current technology?  Could I prototype this application with an Application Service Provider (ASP) as an initial step?  Is my staffing capable of supporting this new paradigm?

3) How valid are the requirements.  Are the functional, graphical and communications needs truly real or are they wish list items desired by some?  If the needs are concrete and cost justifiable, are they required by all  users of the application, or just by a few?  For some  business systems a possible cost effective option is to use traditional technology for supporting the transaction oriented users, while replicating data to work stations for the few power users requiring analysis capabilities and current IT features.

4) What are the expected costs.  If the application is to be purchased, what are the total one time and recurring annual costs inclusive of all hardware, software, licenses, communications, maintenance agreements, and support.  What would be the cost of an alternative, possibly less feature rich, packaged solution not using this technology.  If the application is to be custom developed, does the company have experience in this new arena and does it have an adequate budget, resources and skill set for building and maintaining it.  If an ASP model is to be used, what is the projected cost over the contract term on a discounted cash flow basis?  If the application will be "Cloud Based", then what are the limitations on the possible future escalation of costs for operations, recovery and support?

5) What are the performance, security and control expectations.  If the application is to support a very large user base and/or access very large amounts of data, what considerations have been given to assuring performance.  What third party benchmarks have I seen?  What similar installations have I reviewed?  Should we employ components from Web Services or Software As A Service (SAS) providers, how will that impact performance?  Remember that some under estimate the required level of new hardware, software, and personnel by a factor of two or more.

Based upon the industry’s progress of the last few years, it is obvious that the industry is headed toward this direction; however, from a business perspective, one needs to ascertain whether the risk of being "contemporary" is cost justifiable and appropriate.  At times, lagging behind the technology curve by a bit can be a very cost effective and pleasantly unexciting way of life.

If you are facing some of these issues, and are troubled by your next steps, call us for an appointment.  As we do not sell any hardware or cloud services, we can give you an honest assessment of the current state of the industry along with its positives, negatives, and inherent risks.  We can review your architecture and provide a sanity check; additionally, if desired, we can further mitigate your risks by guiding and helping you implement the selected solution.

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Last modified: November 09, 2010