SANTA CLARA, Calif.—You might not have heard of SHI International previously, because it's never done much media and marketing, but this is a well-established IT products seller and software maker that’s on a roll.
For most of its 24 years in business, SHI—whose acronymic name comes from Software House International—operated mostly by word of mouth as sort of an online Best Buy for IT folks. One can pretty much order up anything needed and have it delivered. For example, one can go on SHI.com right now and order Microsoft SQL Server for $3,033, a Samsung Series 7 Slate tablet for $1,186 or an HP EliteBook Revolve 810 G1 desktop for $1,292.
Now, the company has evolved to a new level and is talking about it. On Nov. 4, Somerset, N.J.-based SHI introduced its new SHI Cloud Marketplace, which presents everything it already has available on the SHI virtual shelves in addition to offering new cloud-based functions. The announcement was made at Cloud Expo West 2013 here at the Santa Clara Convention Center.
Order a Tablet, a Cloud Service or Both
Users can still go shopping to their heart's content for hardware and software on the site. The news is that they also can order up a cloud service, such as a database, CRM, storage—or 78 other current software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications—and put it immediately to work in an IT system. This can be done literally in minutes, and it’s possible for an IT-savvy line-of-business staff member to do it.
Using the Marketplace, customers can research, compare, purchase and deploy a growing list of cloud offerings from Amazon Web Services, Rackspace, Windows Azure, VMware (vCHS), HP Cloud and SHI Cloud.
What’s also interesting about SHI's new portal is that once the service or application is determined, then all one has to do is point and click to designate the desired Web service provider (see the six "name" providers above), identify the desired virtual machine in the user's own system and then assign the new software to it. All the provisioning, meaning data sources, storage, policies, security, networking—everything that used to take days and weeks for several people to do—then plugs in. All the connections are made automatically, and the service then goes immediately to work.
Powered by Newcomer Appcara
Appcara is a Milpitas, Calif.-based Web developer that powers the service for SHI. Appcara provides a flexible and easy-to-use cloud application platform called AppStack that streamlines and speeds up time-to-market for companies needing distributed applications. SHI has bought into it big time.
Using the SHI site, users also can securely source, procure and manage their infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings, Appcara CEO John Yung told eWEEK.
"Once you click on the Web service provider, you click on the location you want to deploy, and the server site, and the system will go call the API [application programming interface] in the launching of the server. All the provisioning is done in the back end," Yung said. "If you know what application you want to deploy, instead of deploying the server and installing the software, there’s also an application marketplace of about 80 apps."
At this time, most of those available are open-source Web apps (Java, Ruby, PHP, MySQL, MongoDB and others), but more and more commercial apps are coming in. "You can point and click to deploy those applications into the server at the same time," Yung said.
Doesn't End at Deployment
Sounds almost too easy to be true, but that is exactly how it works. Appcara and SHI demonstrated this at the conference to dozens of onlookers.
"After the deployment of the application through the portal, we don't end there," Yung said. "You can actually manage the configuration of the application. Say, if you deploy a database, and you want to change the listening port, you can go to our UI and modify it while it's running on the server. The whole scope is that we want the user to use the UI without having to lock into the server."
The SHI Cloud Marketplace's comprehensive functionality is far ahead of other cloud platforms, SHI CEO Thai Lee (pictured with Dell CEO Michael Dell) said.
"Most marketplaces either allow customers to compare services but not purchase them, or purchase services but research them elsewhere," Lee said. "The SHI Cloud Marketplace combines both features while also offering access to SHI's volume licensing experts for recommendations and compliance assistance."