Enterprise Application Marketplaces in the Cloud Provide Effective Alternative to Legacy Off-the-Shelf Software

Global 2000 enterprises have historically relied on home grown custom software or the purchase and customization of commercial software packages to meet their business needs, often with disappointing results.  The recent emergence of Enterprise Application Marketplace vendors in the cloud provides a new approach that promises to improve business results by speeding up the development/deployment cycle and reducing the TCO of enterprise applications.

Historically, Information Technology (IT) departments from the global 2000 custom built and maintained all of the mission critical software applications required to run their businesses. These custom homegrown software systems included support for Financial, Manufacturing, Human Resource Management (HRM), Enterprise Resource Management (ERP) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) requirements. Unfortunately, these systems proved to be almost universally:

  • Expensive to build
  • Obsolete before they were implemented
  • Expensive to maintain
  • Difficult to expand and enhance
  • Difficult or impossible to integrate into other systems

As a result, a new market opportunity emerged for commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software and gave birth to a new whole new set of vendors such as Oracle, IBM, SAP and HP (just to name a few) to develop and market mission critical business applications that met 80%-90% of most global 2000 requirements (please note that the built-in requirement to customize the other 10%-20% spawned a very financially rewarding consulting marketplace).

And although most of the global 2000 still rely on these elite COTS software vendors and their armies of consultants to provide the current generation of mission critical software applications, these COTS solutions have also fallen short of their promises. With the list of failures not that much different than it was for homegrown systems, solving the major problems associated with massive enterprise applications has continued to be elusive.

With the rapid emergence and associated enterprise adoption of Cloud Computing, Mobile Computing and Social Media, global 2000 data volumes are exploding and therefore information management requirements are also evolving at an accelerating rate and becoming more complex than ever before. As a result, the application development and deployment professionals from within global 2000 IT departments are now exploring the use of cloud computing infrastructures such as Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), cloud computing application delivery options such as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and new software development approaches based on Open Systems code sharing, interoperable cloud based middleware and Enterprise Application Marketplaces.

Because the legacy COTS software vendors don’t have a great track record providing software solutions that meet the past needs of the global 2000, there is a high level of skepticism in global 2000 IT departments that the legacy COTS software vendors can deliver next generation solutions that addresstoday’s evolving enterprise information management requirements. Fortunately, as is often the case when markets go through paradigm shifts, next generation vendors with next generation technologies have stepped up to fulfill the evolving needs of the marketplace. One genre of the new COTS software vendors that are offering a completely next generation approach to the evolving requirements of the global 2000 are the Enterprise Application Marketplace providers.

Enterprise Application Marketplace

The concept of an application marketplace became mainstream through the widespread use of the iPhone App Store. Thanks to the iPhone and the iPhone App Store, smart phone and mobile computing device users now expect to purchase both personal and business applications over the Web and plug them into their devices with seamless integration with all of their other applications. This demand has fostered a billion dollar application development marketplace worldwide.

I have personally built several iPhone applications and found their application development environment to be a bit cumbersome but much easier than manual coding.

From a website developers perspective, where it wasn’t that many years ago that most sophisticated websites had to be hand coded in HTML,WordPress has emerged to provide developers with a marketplace of interoperable building blocks or plugins that allow website developers to literally drag and drop functionality into their sites with little or no responsibility for writing code. Once again, the demand for WordPress plugins has fostered a multi-million dollar application development marketplace worldwide.

After building and maintaining over 25 websites in HTML the past 10 years, I switched to WordPress earlier this year and would recommend it to anyone still coding sites by hand.
Addressing the Small to Medium sized business (SMB) market, Salesforece.com, best known for its SaaS based Customer Relationship Management (CRM) success, also created an application marketplace based on itsSalesforce Platform, a leading cloud based application development platform for creating business applications. There are lots of COTS components available to purchase and utilize and a fairly active development community with on-line forums to support development efforts.

As a long time user and administrator of salesforce.com, I was an early beta tester and now a long time user of force.com, the Salesforce.com development platform. I would recommend it as a viable development and deployment platform option for SMB organizations that don’t have large IT departments and therefore large application development staffs.

From a global 2000 enterprise standpoint, there are several next generation vendors that offer enterprise class cloud based application development platforms and associated Enterprise Application Marketplaces:

  • Covisint, a leading cloud engagement platform for creating and enabling new mission-critical external business processes that enable organizations to connect, engage, and collaborate with the critical external audiences that define their success such as customers, business partners, and suppliers also offers AppCloud®, an Enterprise Application Marketplace, as part of itsCloud Engagement Platform. Having roots in the automotive market and expanding into the healthcare market, Covisint plans to expandinto other verticals.
  • SnapLogic, a leader in enterprise cloud integration has developed over 150 intelligent connectors (called Snaps), and robust APIs to support the quick and easy integration of enterprise data and application, behind the firewall, outside the firewall and in the cloud. As a result, SnapLogic offers theSnapStore, a modular collection of integration components built for a specific application or data sources. These Snaps shield both business users and developers from much of the complexity of the underlying application, data model, and service. Snaps are easy to build and modify, and are based on an open and standardized development environment. The SnapStore lets you purchase and download a Snap in seconds.
  • kCura, a leader in providing document review technology through Relativity, its industry leading SaaS based software, has developed the Relativity Ecosystem, an integration platform that allows litigation support professionals, independent consultants, and third-party software providers to design, build, and integrate applications to extend Relativity’s functionality. The Relativity Ecosystem includes best-in-breed integrations and highly customized products that were built by ISV Partners and the advice@kCura team. It allows users to pick and choose the solutions that best suit their particular workflows, integrating them to more easily and efficiently transfer data between software packages that serve different stages of the e-discovery process.

What all of these vendors have in common is their ability to:

  • Reduce time to market (get applications from design to implementation much faster than ever before)
  • Reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
  • Deliver applications that dramatically increase operational efficiencies

Please note that most of the legacy COTS software vendors such as SAP, IBM, HP and Oracle along with a formidable list of startups in various vertical markets also offer some version of the Enterprise Application Marketplace. Over the next six months I will be reviewing many of these vendors and their technology in depth and will post my findings in follow-up articles.

Conclusion

Global 2000 enterprises moved from homegrown custom software development to a “COTS plus customization” approach to meet their business needs, often with disappointing results.  The emergence of Enterprise Application Marketplaces in the cloud provides a new approach that promises to speed up the development/deployment cycle and reduce the TCO of enterprise applications.

I would recommend any global 2000 IT department that is considering the development of next generation applications to meet the evolving demands of cloud computing, mobile computing devices, Social Media, Big Data, enterprise collaboration investigate the new generation of application development platforms that support Enterprise Application Marketplaces in the Cloud. It could turn your IT Department into heroes.

About Charles Skamser
Charles Skamser is an internationally recognized technology sales, marketing and product management leader with over 25 years of experience in Information Governance, eDiscovery, Machine Learning, Computer Assisted Analytics, Cloud Computing, Big Data Analytics, IT Automation and ITOA. Charles is the founder and Senior Analyst for eDiscovery Solutions Group, a global provider of information management consulting, market intelligence and advisory services specializing in information governance, eDiscovery, Big Data analytics and cloud computing solutions. Previously, Charles served in various executive roles with disruptive technology start ups and well known industry technology providers. Charles is a prolific author and a regular speaker on the technology that the Global 2000 require to manage the accelerating increase in Electronically Stored Information (ESI). Charles holds a BA in Political Science and Economics from Macalester College.