The cloud as data-center extension

By Sandra Gittlen, Computerworld |  Cloud Computing

Missing something? Don't be afraid to ask: Cloud providers are eager to please and want your business. Inform your cloud providers when a feature or functionality is absent from your service or platform. If you need load balancing, a provider probably will support that for you without much additional cost.

Seek support: You can offload cloud management to a third party if it is too onerous for your in-house team. For instance, some cloud providers will handle round-the-clock technical support of environments hosted in the Amazon cloud.

-- Sandra Gittlen

But Dave Woods, senior process manager at business intelligence service SNL Financial, disagrees. SNL Financial aggregates and analyzes publicly available data from around the world for its clients. Despite having a sizeable internal data center, the company's homegrown legacy workflow management application was testing its limits.

"Our data center was full" with both internal and customer-facing applications and databases, Woods says. The company didn't do a full-on analysis to find out whether it was server space or cooling or other limitations -- or all of the above -- but at some point it became clear that they were running out of capacity, and cloud software became attractive.

Though he briefly considered rebuilding the application and building out the data center, the costs, timeframe and instability of the code dissuaded him. "The legacy application lacked the design and flexibility we needed to improve our processes," Woods says. The goal, in other words, was not just to rehost the application but to do some serious workflow process improvement as well.

To accomplish this, SNL Financial adopted Appian's cloud-based business process management system. Although the annual licensing cost was similar to the on-premises software the firm had been using, the clincher was avoiding the $70,000 in hardware costs that would have been needed to update the application at the time. (SNL has since built a "spectacular new onsite data center," Woods says, so it's no longer an issue.)

SNL Financial is expanding its workflow processes to more than 500 banks in Asia, with Woods crediting the cloud for allowing this type of scalability and geographic reach. "We wouldn't have been able to improve our legacy workflow in this way. There was a much longer IT development life cycle to contend with. Also, the application wouldn't have had as much capability," he says.

"These platforms are mission-critical to us, not a side project," Woods explains. "They affect our business engine at our core and they have to enable us to fulfill our timeline guarantees to our customers," he says.


Originally published on Computerworld |  Click here to read the original story.
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