Head in the Clouds: SaaS, PaaS, and Cloud Strategy

March 15, 2012  1:49 PM

Web desktop facilitates BYOD

Adam Riglian Profile: Adam Riglian

The BYOD movement is in full force and vendors picking up on the trend are beginning to offer specialized applications to make content accessible from any device and to keep that content secure.

Stepping into the fold is Glide, a browser-based cross-platform integration software from TransMedia. Glide works as an online desktop that can run on nearly any operating system, desktop or mobile, and on all major Web browsers. It converts content of all types so that they are compatible, allowing Quicktime videos to play in Windows Media Player, for example.

TransMedia Chairman and CEO Donald Leka says Glide solves a problem he believes most people have – how to link their work computer (Windows XP), home computer (Apple or Windows Vista/7), phone (Android) and tablet (Apple).

“You have this built-in incompatibility and a lot of users have all three products,” Leka said. “The whole point of cloud computing is to have quick-sharing efficiencies.”

While individual vendors have made it easier to share between their own products, Leka said that none of them want to make integration easier between what they offer and what a competitor does.

“iCloud is designed to create integration between the iPhone, the iPad and the Macintosh computer, they’re cross-selling platform,” Leka said. “If someone buys an iPad, they don’t want to make it easy for that user to buy a Google Android phone.”

While Glide may sound consumer-oriented, its focus is actually on the healthcare industry, with a million patient records processed with Glide so far. Leka said that Glide has focused specifically on developing a rule-based system with heavy emphasis on access rights to make it attractive to healthcare professionals.

“Anonymity with HIPPA is very important in the sharing of patient records and information, and those rules are applied at a core level,” Leka said. “It’s pretty granular.  Different organizations have different ideas about what to do, so it’s important to keep it flexible.”

While the HIPPA rules act as a top layer in the rule system, practices can apply more rules on top as they see fit, down to a specific file. For example, patients can be allowed to see their medical records, but not the physician’s notes, but other physicians would have access rights to the notes.

Leka said he hopes to find even more traction in healthcare, because he doesn’t think the enterprise market is ready for primetime.

“I don’t think it’s rational,” Leka said of enterprise thinking. “Even though it makes sense, it takes a lot longer for organizations to move and change.  That’s why we steer clear of the enterprise market for now.”

— Adam Riglian

February 20, 2012  1:46 PM

SaaS app puts spotlight on corporate tickets

Adam Riglian Profile: Adam Riglian

Three former employees of ticket-reseller StubHub have come together to create a Software as a Service (SaaS) application that helps enterprises track the use of corporate tickets and apply analytics to determine their business value for driving sales.

Calabasas, Calif.-based SpotlightTMS (or ticket management solution) CEO and co-founder Tony Knopp said the application is similar to the American Express travel portal in that it is a one-stop shop to manage all of a company’s corporate sports and entertainment tickets. He said he and his co-founders, Joe Greiner and Aric Haut, came up with the idea after realizing how many corporate tickets go unused every year because employees simply don’t know about them.

The application has the look of a Salesforce dashboard, with more than 200 reports for usage rates, such the return on investment per ticket as well as who uses what tickets. While the application stands on its own, it can also be integrated with Salesforce to gain additional analytic insight. Knopp expects that sort of backend integration to continue, mentioning Microsoft Outlook as a possible next step.

Knopp said that while many people are using the application to help drive business or to check on top sales performers and how they are using corporate tickets, others are using the technology to make sure they are compliant with government regulations and to prevent fraud.

“We had one person who was responsible for their [company’s] NBA suite, and they had a suite with 20 tickets per game,” Knopp said. “He would take the suite every year, take 20 games out of it and go to the BMW dealership and trade them for a car.”

That employee committed fraud for eight years and wasn’t caught until there was an audit.

“The majority use the compliant reports so they know exactly who is in what seat at all times, so if [they] get audited, [they] know,” he said.

SpotlightTMS is available to try for free for two months, but its pay structure is a departure from a traditional SaaS vendor.

“We don’t charge per user, because we feel like that disincentives the company,” he said.

Instead, he said they charge by what he calls “ticket buckets.” Enterprises are charged between $12.99 and $10,000 per month, depending on the number of tickets the application will manage.

— By Adam Riglian

February 16, 2012  12:29 PM

CloudBees aims to solve public/private cloud dilemma with new PaaS

Adam Riglian Profile: Adam Riglian

Enterprises searching for the benefits of platform as a service but uncertain over what cloud models to pursue are being given a new option.

AnyCloud, a Java platform as a service released yesterday by CloudBees, can be deployed in any cloud environment, public or private, as well as in on-premise data centers. Enterprises with regulatory and compliance concerns, especially in the European market, are now allowed greater control over what data goes into the public cloud, what stays on-premise and what geographic region an application runs in.

“We’ve talked to a lot of customers and we have enterprises using our stuff and there are some barriers of adoption to PaaS in the enterprise – people can’t get all their apps into the cloud, they can’t get their data out there,” said Steve Harris, senior vice president of products at CloudBees. Harris said that people are forced into a “false dilemma” between having to go all in on public or private cloud.

AnyCloud does not need to be installed in a data center like other PaaS models. Instead of installed PaaS software managed in one data center, AnyCloud’s stack is managed remotely across any environments – cloud or on-premise — that are being used. Applications can be deployed in any environment, with the technical issues of integration handled on the back end.

“When you deploy an application, you bind the services you are going to use and those services have resources and so on,” Harris said. “That communication is done under the covers through a service bus approach.”

Harris stresses that CloudBees is avoiding overusing the term “hybrid cloud,” instead focusing on delivering the platform as a service

“There are solutions for private cloud infrastructure so you can more easily use resources in an elastic manner at an infrastructure level,” Harris said, adding that in many cases all private cloud amounts to is virtualization with a better user interface.

Harris emphasized that part of the goal of AnyCloud is to eliminate the thinking that enterprises have to take an all or nothing approach when it comes to cloud. He uses security as an example.

“I think it helps to address [security] in the sense that your existing resources, your existing policies that you have in terms of security can be more easily meshed with a cloud-based approach, a PaaS approach, rather than it sort of being all or nothing,” he said.

— By Adam Riglian

February 10, 2012  4:35 PM

Are ballots in the cloud the first step to online voting?

Adam Riglian Profile: Adam Riglian

In a society driven by technology, one aspect of American life has elected to stay in the past – voting.

DemocracyLive, an Issaquah, Wash.-based technology firm, is using cloud computing to change that by making ballots more accessible – especially for disabled and military voters.

DemocracyLive offers an online service called LiveBallot that gives voters access to an interactive ballot that allows them to hear directly from candidates. Users rolling over a candidate’s name on the online ballot will be able to see and hear messages, delivered by the candidates, and view other information about them.

“The content is typically drawn from the candidates themselves,” DemocracyLive CEO Bryan Finney said.  “The candidate is speaking directly to the voter about why they’re running and what they’ll do.”

Finney is quick to note that LiveBallot is just information, not tabulation. No voting is done online, but the ballot can be printed out and mailed in as an absentee in some states.

LiveBallot was recently used in the Florida primary, enabling 1,200 votes to come in from disabled, military and overseas populations. It is also being used in California and Virginia among others, and it is available to all states that choose to use it.

Two years ago, Finney led a migration of DemocracyLive into the cloud, choosing Windows Azure.

“The value of that has really been a combination of both technological and from a business development perspective,” Finney said. “The Microsoft cloud has the ability to scale and the proven stability and security that are so important in this environment of elections.”

Finney said scalability was critical in elections. He said his servers will often go months with no activity and then see an immediate spike around elections. He said he went with Microsoft over competitors because they are more proven in the government space and because they have representatives in every state capital.

He added that the move to the cloud saved DemocracyLive an estimated 50% on its IT budget, crucial because it is funded by taxpayer dollars through a grant with the Department of Defense and the Department of Health and Human Services.

While he believes that America is not currently ready, “politically or technologically,” for online voting, Finney hopes that DemocracyLive will grow to fill that role over time.

“I think over time, the Facebook generation of voters will demand another paradigm when it comes to accessing their ballot,” he said.

— By Adam Riglian

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