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GigaOm: The Long Tail of IT

Our CEO, Pankaj Malviya, has been published on GigaOm recently discussing the how IT and PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) solutions can work hand in hand.

Below is the complete article:

The Long Tail of IT
Pankaj Malviya, June 25, 2008

Everyone who has worked in — or even with — an IT department knows that the demand for projects always exceeds IT’s ability to deliver them all. IT is able to address only those most highly prioritized, core business projects that receive the budget, staff and priority to develop, test, deliver and maintain over time. If projects don’t make the “A” list, the project either doesn’t get done or workers have to find a way to do it themselves.

Today’s more tech-savvy, Web 2.0 workforce has increasingly resorted to getting the tools it needs from SaaS software providers. In an ideal world, IT must be an active partner in prescribing technology to help the rest of the business work better together, move information efficiently, and get the answers needed to make the next strategic or tactical decisions. This is what the Long Tail of IT is all about: really important IT automation projects that would help the business but that consistently don’t make the list of must-do projects.

The platform-as-a-service evolution that is starting to emerge (for example, with solutions from Amazon, Google and LongJump) is one that has potential to restore the luster of the IT department, because these solutions are focused on delivering “customized, situational applications” that connect to a range of common and uncommon processes.

Platform-as-a-service provides a turnkey environment to build applications that teams can use to share data and collaborate. There is no infrastructure to install, and the time and cost to build, deploy and customize new applications is greatly reduced.

PaaS solutions should also be able to integrate with other sources of data using simple web-services APIs. Connecting to enterprise data sources securely is fundamental. Additionally, customization is extremely important; applications that are created must meet the unique requirements of businesses. PaaS should provide a visual way to create new forms, model and automate processes and workflows, and implement actionable data policies.

Rather than needing to work with a one-size-fits-all application (and an extensive, dedicated IT architecture), PaaS platforms need to be able to draw from functional domain experts from Marketing to Sales to HR to easily customize applications, or quickly create and publish situational applications, that are better suited to their unique business requirements. The PaaS platforms also need to deliver enterprise-level service, security, and hardware and software architecture, as well as rich functionality for each application, ranging from configurable dashboard widgets to a flexible database architecture that enables extensive relationships between application data, search capabilities across all applications, etc.

PaaS’ rise is built upon need. The fact that PaaS is on demand and in the cloud is driven by the reality that IT isn’t able to support its multi-departmental constituents with a flexible business platform of information and collaboration. Information workers don’t have time to build a server, manage a database, design a UI, etc. PaaS offers a convenient, predictable, leverageable alternative to yesterday’s big IT initiatives.

That doesn’t mean IT is off the hook, however. In fact, PaaS needs IT to succeed. Not just to bless the technology around security and scalability issues, but to be the guiding light of information management:

  • How do you organize your data permissions?
  • What data needs to connect to other data to form applications?
  • Do the new applications meet required compliance standards for users’ data protection? What should that data and application look like?
  • How much is customer-facing, and how much is back-end?
  • What external systems need to connect to this data?

PaaS gives IT something it never had: the ability to manage the ‘I’ without the need for too much ‘T.’ No hardware to install; no database to optimize; no web servers to update. PaaS provides structured, centralized data and processes that are enterprise-agnostic. The focus is then realigned on the applications one can build and the business problems one can solve, not on the technology that built them.

Pankaj Malviya is the Founder & CEO of LongJump.


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