I had very interesting conversations and strategy sessions with my clients lately, and noticed peculiar things in the market as well — all of them around the same issue: Platforms.
No, I am not talking about the shoes of the 1970s we loved so much, I am talking about the intermediate layer of the cloud model – Platforms used to deploy applications.
I wrote about Chatter back in November, and Genesys couple of weeks ago — and in both I expressed my firm belief that Platforms are going to be the issue that defines the cloud in the next few years. I also wrote about the cloud as being more than simply SaaS (Software as a Service) applications in my 2010 “predictions”. I truly believe this is going to be the issue that will define the next generation of enterprise applications (this whole SCRM v CRM v Enterprise 2.0 v Social Business has limited future — and even If I am wrong, they still need a platform to run on, right?).
Here is where I stand on this, an unedited version of my brain right now (careful, may scare you).
There are three layers to the cloud: IaaS (infrastructure), PaaS (platform), and SaaS (applications). They all ride on a universally known and publicly available network — they need it to exist (note: thus the impossibility of the “private cloud” — sorry, pet peeve). This network is controlled by — well, let’s face it Cisco and a couple of others that have some products here and there. OK, mostly Cisco. This “Mostly Cisco Network” supports the infrastructure layer which essentially handles the communications between the network and the platform, while providing some services (authentication, security, encryption, integration and links to database and legacy systems, and common protocols among others).
Right on top of the infrastructure is where the platforms live also interacting with the layer above: the applications. The platform is the management layer that connects the infrastructure with the logic and presentation layers provided by the applications. Here is where something like a community, a knowledge-base, and a rules engine (as examples) would exist in a cloud environment. Platforms provide an answer to the application on whatever information they needed, with the infrastructure and network supporting them.
Finally, the applications – the stuff that truly, honestly is the easiest of the three (complexity decreases as you climb the three layers of the cloud – or the seven layers of the OSI model in which it is modeled). As I used to say about survey software, anyone with a garage and a couple of weekends can build a cloud applications (as long as they have the platform and the infrastructure in place — otherwise is not a “cloud application”). Maybe more than a couple of weekends, but you get the idea..
This brings me back to my original point that platform solutions seem are emerging. A platform is what would make a call center (OK, contact center and we can accommodate several channels) flexible, dynamic, and able to add a new channel (say, like Social Channels) with relative ease. The social networks we talk about so much are all platforms (yes, Twitter, Facebook, Communities, etc.).
Why am I bringing this up?
I am sensing a rising problem: interconnecting the platforms. While ideally and in theory this would be handled by the cloud as long as the platforms support an underlying infrastructure, this is not the driving force for the design of new platforms. I am seeing platforms that MAY be open and easy to leverage and integrate, but with zero effort spent in trying to figure out how these platforms can and should work with each other. I am seeing half-baked efforts at platforms that don’t consider integration with infrastructure and other platforms as vital. This is not only bad, it makes the platforms not cloud-compliant and thus not very useful in the long-run.
I am trying to make sure that the new platforms are indeed open, integration-ready, and cloud-compliant. I want to raise the flag early on so we can actually leverage them, and make application development easier while making the problems they solve more complex. I want to make sure that this time around the cloud actually has staying power since my poor heart cannot take another CORBA-style disappointment.
What do you think? Am I asking too much? Is the cloud even possible? Are platforms going to be the big thing for 2010? Would love to hear your thoughts on this…