Software-as-a-Service Ship Is Cruising Full-Steam Ahead

NEWS ANALYSIS: Software as a service and cloud computing are now powerful and permanent forces in the IT industry that enterprise executives must reckon with.

"The software-as-a-service ship has sailed," Google CIO Ben Fried told attendees at the Bloomberg Enterprise Technology Summit in New York City late last month.

Where once there were entire conferences dedicated to whether or not cloud computing would ever be right for the enterprise, that argument is now moot.

OK. So it is a moot argument, but the reality is that it isn't one boat but an entire flotilla of boats that have sailed. Not to belabor the metaphor all that much, but there is the SS Amazon, the SS Rackspace, the SS OpenStack and a mixed crew of major vendors, independent developers and CIOs.

The CIOs attending the Bloomberg forum weren't disputing the value of cloud computing, but were still concerned about security, privacy and liabilities related to the cloud. However, rather than allowing those issues to scuttle cloud computing initiatives, the executives want to be able to evaluate the varied cloud offerings in a real environment rather than looking at PowerPoint slides of promises.

Former U.S. CIO (and now executive vice president of emerging markets) Vivek Kundra, when asked what is the biggest concern of the business and technology executives he now meets with, answered "extinction."

He explained that the examples of brick-and-mortar retail stores, print books and cumbersome bureaucratic services being digitally disrupted have CEOs and CIOs looking to implement strategies that will keep their enterprises off the path to extinction. Cloud computing is an integral part of creating that extinction-preventing digital-first strategy.

As Walmart CTO Chip Hernandez said, CIOs need to build a reference architecture that allows them to plan their transition to the cloud and also determine whether it is better from the company's perspective to create a private cloud or make use of a public cloud. Hernandez said Walmart has opted for the private cloud. The public and private trade-offs mostly center on control and the comfort levels executives have with public clouds.

The cloud, that overarching term, continues to grow to embrace all those other buzzwords that have sprouted within the technology space.

BYOD Redefined

The bring-your-own-device movement is another one of those boats that have left port. Rather than struggle against BYOD, the advice from CIOs is to get ahead of the trend. As Freddie Mac CIO Robert Lux put it, "CIOs need to embrace BYOD," and added that if BYOD or other computer services grow within the shadow IT community [such as employees signing up for IT services with credit cards beyond the control of IT], that is the fault of the IT organization, not the fault of employees looking outside IT to get the services they need to accomplish their jobs.

Less clear is where BYOD meets compliance—especially in the financial sector, which was a big portion of the Bloomberg audience. The conference took place after the Associated Press Tweet stream was hacked and sent the financial markets into a short-lived nosedive based on false tweets regarding an explosion at the White House.