The Stack Archive Article

Cutting through the acronym: what cloud platforms can do for you

Tue 6 Mar 2018

Dain Hansen, Director, Cloud Platform, Product Business Group @Dainsworld

Business Leaders can only appreciate how cloud platforms will transform their businesses if they have an accurate definition.

The downside of the blistering pace of modern technology innovation is that it gives rise to a bewildering array of acronyms and jargon. This challenge is nowhere more evident than in the world of cloud computing, where it seems barely a week goes by without a new technology being made available ‘as a service’; from SaaS and IaaS and, of course, PaaS (Platform as a Service). A recent Oracle study revealed that only 32 percent of businesses fully understand what PaaS (otherwise known as cloud platform technology) is, while 29 percent admit that they do not understand it at all.

In the past, this was not a problem, because the IT department ‘owned’ the enterprise infrastructure. Back then, Line of Business (LoB) managers, or business leaders, if we’re to avoid jargon, didn’t need to be ‘up-to-speed’ on the latest buzzwords: so long as IT had a handle on things, these business leaders could get on with their work in blissful ignorance of the underlying technology they used.

This is no longer the case. With cost-effective, flexible and – most importantly – user-friendly IT resources now available through the cloud, business leaders are taking a hands-on approach to their IT needs, and in many cases leading the procurement and project management tasks that were once the preserve of IT. In this new world, it’s fundamentally important that managers understand the likes of SaaS, PaaS, IaaS; what these terms cover and which technologies fall under their respective descriptive umbrellas. Of these, I think I’m right in saying that cloud platform has the potential to be the most confusing term for people who have not specialized in technology. In part, this is because the word ‘platform’ has become such a woolly one.

Misused for years by sales teams, marketers, journalists and many other culpable parties, the word ‘platform’ has turned into a fuzzy cover-all for any vague technology, device, system or software. Furthermore, while a great deal has been written about PaaS in the trade press, definitions of the technology have varied from article to article and brochure to brochure. Yet in many ways it’s the most important ‘as a service’ for business unit managers to come to grips with.

This is because cloud platform technology holds the key to business agility and competitive edge. It enables digital innovation; helping businesses to rapidly test and launch web applications that have the power to transform entire industries. Cloud platform technology can have an impact on every area of the business including Sales & Marketing, Customer Service, Finance, HR and IT; making these business units more efficient, effective, agile and productive while accelerating the creation of new products and services for customers, partners and employees. That’s why it’s so essential that LoB managers (sorry! I mean business leaders!) know exactly what falls under the term ‘cloud platform’: they need to understand all the technologies the phrase encompasses if they are to maximize the benefits from them.

Cloud platform in a nutshell

In essence, cloud platform delivers the tools businesses need to develop, deploy and run applications without the cost and complexity of building and managing the necessary platform and infrastructure. For those of you familiar with the ‘layers’ of enterprise IT, a cloud platform sits between Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). As such, it connects the ‘front-end’ business application (a timesheet for example, or a payroll application) with the back-end infrastructure needed to support it (i.e. compute, network and storage).

A complete cloud platform solution provides integrated, cloud‐based platform services that include preinstalled and configured database and middleware – components like application platforms, integration tools, process management, content management, or website management. It can also provide a platform for developing, testing, and deploying different kinds of enterprise applications, such as transactional and analytics applications. Other use cases for cloud platform technology include enabling the analysis of data from any source (big data analytics); extending SaaS applications to wherever they’re required in the business (both on-premises and in the cloud); and rapidly scaling new web services. At Oracle we offer a complete set of best-in-class platform services in every category, from Application Development, Data Management, IT Operations Management, Visual Analytics, Integration, Content and Process, Security, Big Data, and – last but not least – Mobile.

So, for business leaders who are uncertain about what cloud platform technology brings to them, it’s all about driving innovation faster. It’s about delivering new business solutions with simplicity, speed and control, it’s about putting business leaders in the driver seat to get better insights about their business, it’s about connecting to customers and it’s about improving operational efficiencies.

I believe cloud platform technology is going to be one of the major technology developments of the year ahead – and it’s already proving to be so. Those businesses that come to grips with it most quickly will enjoy a huge competitive advantage.

Oracle has a speaking stream at Cloud Expo where we find out more on emerging technologies.


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