Cloud computing has become an indispensable IT resource for many companies, enabling them to provide improved agility, efficiency and scalability.
"We're going with SaaS for the simple reason that we don't want to deal with [software] upgrades" in order to get quick access to the latest product features, Velleca says. In addition, he says, most of the cloud applications are being designed for mobile use, and UST Global is making a huge push toward mobility as part of its effort to be more flexible in its markets.
"The key trends today are mobility, social, cloud and big data, and they're all closely related," Velleca says.
Most of the cloud applications UST Global uses now come with support for social media, Velleca says. "That's extremely important to the way the enterprise works," he notes. "All transaction systems [should] have a social platform with them. The next generation of applications need to be socially enabled."
The move to SaaS is not the only cloud effort underway at UST Global. The company relies on Amazon.com's public platform-as-a-service offering to support its innovation lab and corporate website, Velleca says. UST Global also operates a private cloud powered in part through server virtualization technology from VMware and Hyper-V. UST Global is also using ServiceMesh to help manage policies across virtual environments.
With the private cloud, "we can deploy [servers] into secure networks to set up a development environment very quickly," Velleca says. In addition to greater speed and flexibility, UST Global expects to see benefits such as cost savings from a reduction of capital expenditures on servers and other hardware.
Some companies are running productivity applications in the cloud. Intero Real Estate, based in Cupertino, Calif., supports more than 2,000 agents at 14 corporate offices and more than 40 franchise locations. The company implemented Microsoft's Office 365 Exchange cloud-based offering to provide a cost-effective, scalable way to deliver messaging for agents who rely on email to communicate with other agents and clients, and to help close time-sensitive deals.
"Ultimately our reason for moving to the cloud is to provide better scalability, agility and efficiency to our agents," says Eric Rees, Intero Real Estate’s director of IT.
While cloud services have existed for years, Rees says "today [the] technology has finally caught up with what its full potential can be. Cloud services are able to accommodate many businesses, especially those in the small to mid-size market space."
The biggest concern Rees has about the cloud is its overall reliability. "There [are] a lot of variables with cloud-based services, so naturally it's something that you need some sort of reassurance with," he says. "And of course not being in control is something that most IT people have a hard time with."
Expect to see cloud service providers promoting their services with more aggressive marketing and limited time offers to attract customers, in the hope that they will become entrenched in their systems, says Garvin of Evans Data.
"In the private cloud sector better appliances or ‘cloud in a box’ will be launched, appealing to enterprise IT managers who want the flexibility of cloud with a plug-and-play appliance," Garvin says.
What does Garvin consider to be the biggest challenges and concerns regarding use of the cloud? "Security, security, security--and reliability," she says. "These are two most important factors in cloud services and form the biggest barriers to adoption."