do all roads lead to the cloud?

"No, cloud computing is not an end in itself!" Now that the “cloud washing” is over, we can seriously think about how companies can adopt this model and find some good, common-sense advice in the process.

The first piece of advice is to identify your personal strategy for approaching the cloud. Because:

• someone else’s model is not necessarily the best model for you,
• before heading out on a big trip, before you even plan your itinerary, you have to know exactly where you’re starting from.

SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, and other XaaS… an array of choices!

Major trends in the cloud market will help you find the quickest models to adopt: the software as a service (SaaS) market is currently the most dynamic, both in terms of supply and demand.

SaaS provides solutions that are particularly well adapted to certain functional fields. It will take a little longer and be more complicated when you try to use it for critical business applications and when you have to integrate these new environments with those of pre-existing traditional IT.

A major challenge of these hybrid models will be to coherently manage different cloud and non-cloud environments, without creating yet another silo in the company’s information system.

is cloud computing right for you?

Let’s just say it’s complicated. Here are a few of the fundamental questions a company has to answer before undertaking any cloud project:

  • what cloud benefits am I looking for (improving time-to-market, more flexibility in meeting business needs, help changing economic models, etc.)?
  • what portion of my IT can be moved over to cloud?
  • am I ready to move to this model, in terms of technology, organization, economics, change management, HR, etc.?
  • what data mapping is possible with current cloud services: infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), SaaS, private, public, semi-public, hybrid?

SaaS: an expanding market with successful solutions

Once you’ve finished your analysis, you may notice a few areas where you can optimize your IT in the short term by adopting SaaS solutions, which will help develop new projects despite a small initial investment.

Analysts agree that demand for software on the cloud is seeing strong growth and the selection is now huge in the following functional fields:

  • customer relationship management
  • enterprise resource management: finance/accounting, HR/payroll, purchasing, etc.
  • communication and collaboration solutions

Companies don’t necessarily look to replace their existing applications with cloud applications, but they are ready to test SaaS applications (since no commitment is necessary) on some user groups or some functions and processes, for example, online recruiting and HR skill management services.

managing a mix of environments: a concern for large companies

It’s a whole different scenario with business applications, especially for big organizations. Existing investments and organizations are such that it’s unrealistic to plan a 100% cloud model, even in the medium or long term.

Most likely, a mixed model will be more suitable for large companies:

  • SaaS applications for so-called commodity applications and customer services (websites)
  • traditional models and private cloud infrastructures for applications that internal IT teams must continue to manage
  • public or semi-public cloud services to absorb excess activity or for very specific uses (test and development environments, for example)

The main question you need to ask here is how to manage necessarily hybrid cloud environments. Solutions exist already, but we have yet to see any concrete large-scale feedback. In the meantime, let’s keep an eye on future advances in standardization and see which market players will provide the most efficient, open and unified service management suites.


photo: © James Thew -

This post was originally published in French here.

Marie-Christine Finas

I’m currently working on the cloud computing program at Orange Business, where we develop cloud support services for the business market.