The Challenge of the Cloud
Lack of Cloud-based Integration
The key issue in getting value-for-money out of cloud products is integration. Government CIOs recognise that there’s no point saving money by migrating to the cloud if users can’t get their work done because the services aren’t easy to access. Cloud-based applications operate in a separate network domain for which users will need separate user ids and passwords. That means when users join or leave, separate SaaS accounts have to be created or removed for each supplier and for applications they need access to. This loads the help-desk with password-related queries.
A technology is needed to integrate cloud based applications into the corporate domain infrastructure so access is seamless and extra user management is not necessary.
Where The Cloud User Portal would come in?
How The Cloud User Portal would meet these challenges is described in the sections that follow, but key to understanding the solution is seeing that it has to be used by both customers and suppliers; it needs workflow to connect them; and it has to understand each user’s identity to be able to keep tally of the services being used. These requirements are explained in more detail here:
Solving the integration problem requires the organisation’s users to share their internal corporate identities with those used by the external SaaS applications. The SaaS application needs to trust the
organisation’s IT to give it an authenticated user-id whenever the user accesses it. In this way, users do not have to login a second time when they access the SaaS application.
Solving this technological problem requires a way of federating user identities between the organisation and the SaaS applications. This will obviate the need for external SaaS users accounts and the extra management involved. Users will get seamless access and the organisation will see increased overall security and efficiency. The federation mechanism must be secure and follow industry standards, so any customer and SaaS supplier can share the necessary trust.
Metering Usage (and Billing)
Another challenge for SaaS services is how they are billed; to achieve the value for-money customers need to be able to be charged only for what they use. Therefore the SaaS suppliers’ billing system should be enabled to monitor their customers’ usage so periodic bills can be generated on a “pay as you go” basis. The supplier’s billing system must be capable of tracking on-going usage of the SaaS application.
Matters are further complicated because SaaS applications almost always consume other supplier’s resources which are typically charged on a per usage basis; e.g.: license and infrastructure service costs. An organisation using SaaS will have to agree a separate deal with each SaaS application provider. A mechanism is needed to automate and generalise this process.
The Single Supplier Solution
Many suppliers are very keen to get customers ‘locked in’ to their product suite and don’t have a business incentive to offer other suppliers’ products. Of course sensible customers will always try to retain their independence to be able to choose best value products from any supplier.There is thus a requirement to help organisations to consume SaaS services from multiple suppliers, ideally as a self service function. What is needed is a ‘broker’ portal service available to customers and suppliers on which suppliers could ‘register’ their SaaS products for customers to buy. Such a portal would provide seamless integration of every suppliers’ application with the customers internal network and have all billable events metered and reported back to the suppliers for them to bill.
A reason for writing this article
I have specified this need for a Cloud brokerage service because I feel this could be the only feasible way to enable government on the cloud and save tax payers billions of pounds over the next few years. I am just identifying a need for suppliers and government to get together and agreeing on a way forward. Approved products and services would not need re-tendering.. Just imagine the savings this would bring to the economy.
I will follow up with an article on the technology which could be used in a follow up article. Please leave your comments if you like my contributions .
Help me continue my fight to promote Open Source software and Cloud computing. Too much money is wasted by Government , Corporate and SME's lining the pockets of the large corporations.
The workspace has changed. Cloud Computing is here.
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