A BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE FOR SME’S
An article by Mike A. Jurado, founder of Prime Software and a Cebuano IT practitioner for the last 30 years sharing his practical views and understanding about the latest technology buzzword.
CLOUD COMPUTING Cloud? How do computers and mobile devices use clouds to compute? Clouds float in the skies and computers live in land, how the hell does this work? A lot of IT solutions today have the word “cloud” in their offering and they say you can now use the cloud for your business. Perplexed? To understand, let us revisit the digital world and explore…
APPLICATIONS, DATABASES, SERVERS, CLIENTS, AND THE INTERNET
Trillions and Trillions of all kinds of information now technically termed ”DATA” in our global world are digitally written by SOFTWARE APPLICATIONS and reliably stored in digital files called DATABASES. There are other digital file storage formats such as excel, jpeg, pic, docs, etc. etc. but the most valuable, powerful, and versatile of all is the DATABASE. Databases live inside IT hardware devices called SERVERS or in SERVER FARMS, also called DATA CENTERS, which are qualitatively and solidly designed to withstand or recover from earthquakes, floods, typhoons, power failure, nuclear attacks, and all other possible calamities that may happen. Data Centers are usually located in very reliable locations, using very reliable security software, run by very reliable technicians. After all, the 1 st generation of data centers were the under-utilized server farms of the US Defense Department and NASA’s Data Centers. The new generation server farms have now become super reliable, much much more faster, mirrored and are replicated all over the globe.
CLIENTS are the SOFTWARE APPLICATIONS in our workstation PC’s, tablets, smart phones, and millions of other digital devices connected to these databases/servers anywhere in the world. Clients push and pull data to/from database servers via networked infrastructure such as wired and wireless Local Area Networks (LAN), Wide Area Networks (WAN), and the globally connected INTERNET infrastructure.
The INTERNET is one of the biggest game-changer of all times. By laying out undersea cables that are globally connected continent to continent, enabling satellites to transmit data, and the invention of the global IP Protocol numbering system, the world’s digital information databases/servers from anywhere in the globe became accessible by their client devices in real time. SMART PHONES, small PC clients in essence, are now staple human tools to work, play, transact, and communicate from anywhere anytime and the use thereof has become a subconscious human routine. Suddenly, we are all globally connected. The world is flat again
BUSINESS SERVERS, SOFTWARE LICENSES, SAAS, CLOUD, HYBRID CLOUD
Let’s look at the business enterprise. For years, the de facto practice of selling enterprise class integrated business software, ERP Software for example, is via an Application Software License that comes with the necessary ON PREMISE SERVER Installation, Configuration, Users Implementation Training, and it’s Annual Technical Support. The PURCHASE OF THE PHYSICAL HARDWARE SERVER deployed and maintained in the premises of the business is a must. This is practically investing big in IT assets for the long run. Customers have to purchase the Application software license, the physical Server, and other Network appliance/devices. Technical Staff to maintain and support the active system is necessary.
The introduction of the INTERNET triggered an avalanche of software innovations and new business offerings that shook the now easily reachable global business world. Leading software makers offered an alternative new viable offering – RENT the software instead. Software as a Service (SAAS) became the official term for this type of offering. They built their own or leased huge tracks of SERVER FARMS and offered for lease virtual server spaces with their “new cloud-enabled, Internet efficient” software applications to the world. They can now house thousands of database instances, allow secured connections to it efficiently with minimal resources. The SAAS provider’s overall logistical cost to deploy is obviously lower than the overall cost of the software license offering thus allowing them to offer a lower startup deployment cost with a minimal lock-in contract with the customer. In this case, the use of the Application Software is billed and treated as a continued monthly rental expense instead. Full adaption to the software is usually required and it’s drawback is that you DO NOT get to own the application software License at all and software customization is very limited and costly, Still, quite a number in the global business world embraced this arrangement and some did not. Those who have major legacy applications/database servers on premise and those wary about the security in cloud data centers are those that did not migrate to the cloud. Some cost/benefit analysis is called for here because there are many factors to consider and a good IT consultant’s guidance is advised.
The term CLOUD became the buzzword for anything that runs on Server Farms or Data Centers accessible from anywhere via Internet. If you ask me where is your server? I will point to the clouds above and answer you “just up there” where “connectivity, reliability, and access speed” is assured 99% of the time, as guaranteed by cloud providers themselves. That’s how robust the cloud is today.
You can also use the “CLOUD” in various ways too, the hybrid way. You can lease your own cloud server instance “space only” directly and do anything with it – install your own OS, apps, make it your backup file server, your email server, and administer it yourself. You can even deploy your cloud-enabled licensed software in the cloud server instance, administer it yourself if you are skilled enough or outsource the server administration to 3rd party. In essence, it really is a high end PC Server unit, physical or virtual, located securely somewhere that does not matter to the business anymore.
SOFTWARE APPLICATION ARCHITECTURE FACTOR
Data pushed and pulled across this unprecedented “client/cloud server/databases via the global Internet network platform” must be efficiently done with minimal bandwidth footprint always and this is realized through proper re-designing of software applications to be web-enabled or cloud architect-ed. The original reliable Client/Server architect-ed software design of the 90’s allowed spoiled excessive bandwidth users within local area networks (LAN) but crawls or freezes to a halt when forced to run over “low bandwidth” Internet networks. Everyone in the software industry had to rewrite, re-architect their software design, and use new software tools and protocols, to run acceptably fast in this new Internet inspired Digital Cloud environment.
THE SECURITY FACTOR
The INTEGRITY of the whole new environment has to be protected and maintained always to be sustainable. The software design processes must incorporate SECURITY AND DATA PROTECTION always. DATABASES must be “vacuum sealed” so that only authorized users access it, write to it, edit it, view it, or even delete it. The SERVER OPERATING SYSTEM SOFTWARE must also be configured to restrict access to the server resources to the qualified server administrator only and must always be updated on the latest anti-virus and anti-malware software protection including all connected client device’s operating system software. The authorized SOFTWARE APPLICATIONS should be the only ones allowed to access the database via some built-in configurable User Login/ Authentication and User Access Rights Definition defined by the designated database administrator. The NETWORK LOOP where data traverses from application, to Internet-cloud, to server and vice versa must be fully contained and always fully protected from external injection and diversion. Best practices policies in securing the network, port management, regular data backup, failure prevention/data recovery plans, etc. have to be in place. Today, the future of SECURITY is still evolving further and the future seems to evolve towards the newly “perceived more secured’” third ledger principle called CRYPTOCURRENCY OR BITCOIN technologies.
BUSINESS PROCESS FACTOR
Over the years, the continuous use of new software tools in the workplace has the positive effect of changing and improving the way work (the business processes) is done. The over-all flow of work of a particular business process is either reduced or totally eliminated because a new software tool, a business application software for example, took over those human work when deployed. The transformation results to lesser work, lesser people, shorter business processes, and a streamlined work place thus making businesses more stress-free, efficient, and competitive. Plus the important benefit of TRANSPARENT “SYSTEM GENERATED” INFORMATION– a new powerful decision making tool for business management. Managers are able to see what’s going on with the business in real time. They are able read, analyze, foresee, anticipate, and make more sound business decisions from these “get it anytime” system generated information. Technically speaking, applications are written so the databases can talk with each other to give you whatever business information you need. These systems has grown more intelligent over time. Today, there are software tools that mine further huge databases and other data sources to come up with easy to understand graphical views like DASHBOARDS for example. These tools are called BUSINESS INTELLIGENCE (BI TOOLS), a higher realm of analytical software discipline. President Trump’s election team mined facebook data to predict voter issues/preferences and designed their campaign messages around it to get more votes.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND INTERNET OF THINGS (AI & IoT)
New software applications have also become so good, so sophisticated, and so intelligent. There are new application software tools that help huge databases remember all the previous queries, historical data, match with current data, do their own statistical probability analysis, select the next most probable query or answer, then DECIDE (give feedback) very fast on their own with no human intervention. In fact we are now in the dawn of this new age of AI – ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Applications like ALEXA, SIRI, GRAB, WAZE, QOURA and many others are the first wave of AI types of Application software. All these are in the CLOUD. Today, a lot of small gadgets, electronic devices, factory machines, equipment, and many more have also become SMART CLIENTS that runs on AI type of software over faster 4G and the upcoming 5G INTERNET. Billions are now being invested in building AI enabled SMART CITIES, the cities of the future. Interestingly, so many small electronic devices, small things are also getting quiet intelligent that there is now another new realm of technology called IoT – the INTERNET of THINGS.
Welcome to the dawn of the 21’s century Digital Age. Are you living it?