How Cloud and On-Premise Platforms Work Together

Today’s software industry buzzword is “Cloud.” We all know what it is, and some of us are already leveraging Cloud platforms to reduce resource consumption on-premise. Right now, many ISVs are making a black-and-white distinction between Cloud and on-premise platforms. When you’re evaluating software platforms, there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground because many providers are exclusively leveraging either one or the other.

The problem facing most of us as technology managers is whether Cloud or on-premise makes the most sense for our businesses. Because there are strategic benefits to both, the decision can be a struggle. But what CIOs should know is that you truly don’t need to make a clear-cut decision for your business. Implementing platforms both in the Cloud and on-premise is a great way to play to multiple aspects of your business while enjoying the benefits that each strategy has to offer.

In July of 2009, IDC released the results of a study on the way businesses use word processing programs. The study’s findings indicated that an increased number of companies were using Google Docs (1-in-5) while noting that the percentage of companies using Microsoft Office is essentially unchanged at 97%. Amidst the scuffle over which platform is better, it seems that American businesses are recognizing Cloud and on-premise software platforms have unique applications for their businesses and can be leveraged simultaneously.

Comparing Cloud

Cloud software platforms promise businesses a unique benefit over on-premise implementations: a lower total cost of ownership. With no servers to manage or product maintenance to perform, Cloud platforms completely remove much of the headache for IT staff. On top of that, a Cloud platform allows for better collaboration between information workers off-premise.

With an on-premise software solution, the cost of maintaining servers and the time spent updating software are significant drawbacks. Collaboration between off-premise workers is nearly impossible to integrate directly with these platforms. But Cloud strategies have their limitations, too. Some larger businesses are struggling with the volume of data that their platforms naturally require to fully leverage the software. While Cloud can offer a lot of security, government agencies and other organizations with highly sensitive data don’t get quite the same assurance that their information is safe.

For larger businesses and organizations with highly sensitive data, keeping data warehouses on-premise appears to be the best (if not only) option. But, when we look at how each strategy can solve the other’s shortcomings, suddenly a richer, more connected world opens up to us.

It seems simple, but many companies have yet to adopt a hybrid strategy. Typically, newer companies want to leverage Cloud because it’s the hot new strategy. Established companies want to stick with on-premise because implementing a new platform or moving large amounts of data to the Cloud can be costly. Ultimately, many organizations are perfectly content running applications on the Cloud but want to maintain full control and ownership of data on-premise. This is where a hybrid strategy comes in handy.

A typical hybrid strategy does exactly this. Information resides on-premise, while the application layer that collects this information is in the Cloud. That way, organizations can enjoy the cost saving power of Cloud computing while maintaining full control and security over their data on-premise. The data access layer is the one key difference between pure- and hybrid-solutions. The component that directly connects to the data stays on-premise. The only data that is transferred to the Cloud is the result of the query.

With your applications on the Cloud, the maintenance aspect suddenly becomes simple. No more uninstalls, upgrades or patches. Why perform all the typical upkeep when you can simply leave these applications in the Cloud for automatic updates by vendors? As long as you provide access to data located on-premise, you can enjoy the benefits of both Cloud and on-premise strategies while eliminating their drawbacks almost entirely.

Rony Ross is the founder, executive chairman and CTO of Panorama Software. Rony has a strong background in both software development and marketing, and holds a successful track record of managing research and development centers for a number of multi-national software companies before starting Panorama Software in 1993. In October 1996, the company’s OLAP software technology was acquired by Microsoft Corporation and formed the basis for Microsoft’s database technology known as OLAP Services and renamed Analysis Services 2000.