Moving applications into the cloud can make a lot of sense: no need to look after cranky hardware, no updates or patches to apply. As such it's no surprise that for some the cloud tipping point - when using cloud becomes the default choice - has been reached.
But does that mean that all enterprise computing should move to the cloud? When asked 'Is software as a service (SaaS) now the default choice for all new IT projects?' the TechRepublic/ZDNet CIO Jury was evenly split: while many tech chiefs are exploring the benefits of cloud options, it seems that many still see significant benefits to keeping at least some applications a little closer to home.
Cloud is taking over, especially in commodity spaces, said Delano Gordon, CIO at Roofing Supply Group: "It is the answer if you need to quickly scale up and are constrained by resources. There is still a place for on-premise applications but it is becoming more of a novelty outside of specialized or custom applications."
Matt Mielke, director of IT at Innovations Federal Credit Union said software as a service and cloud service providers are on the table when looking at new vendors. "However, we like to keep our options open and look at on-premise as well. In some instances, security requirements dictate that we look at on-premise applications for sensitive data."
There's a definite direction of travel towards cloud in the UK public sector said Rob Neil, head of communications and technology at Ashford Borough Council. But he said in the short and medium term there will still be a place for on-premise applications, especially in the SME — or district council — space, as most business applications will be on rolling annual maintenance agreements.
"It will take time for these organisations to adapt to the new opex based funding model for XaaS as traditionally it's been anathema to load support costs onto the taxpayer whereas periodic injections of capital investment haven't been so problematic," he said.
Dan Gallivan, director of IT at Payate said that while CIOs will still consider non-cloud options if it makes sense, cloud options are definitely in favour: "It seems to be the trend for most application providers to move to cloud, the benefits are great; scalable, flexible and accessible."
There is still room for on-premise options, said Shawn Beighle, CIO of the International Republican Institute, but he said: "It really depends on the results of the needs assessment, but I almost always look for SaaS solutions first before considering an on-prem solution."
Dirk De Busser, IT manager at Fashion Club 70, said where possible his organisation tries to use a SaaS option. "When there isn't a SaaS alternative, or the SaaS offering doesn't provide the needed features, we continue to use on premise."
Not all tech chiefs are convinced though. Jeff Focke, director of IT Shealy Electrical Wholesalers said: "SaaS is great in certain situations, however there are still a large number of enterprise applications that are still best operated on-premise. Each project/application is evaluated based on numerous aspects to determine if still better to host on-premise or viable for the cloud with a large evaluation facet revolving around DR planning."
And John Gracyalny, VP of IT at SafeAmerica Credit Union, said that while he uses SaaS for a couple of things, by and large core processing is done in house. "I feel my network and consumer data is more secure with this approach."
Keith Golden, CIO of Econolite Group, said that while his organization sees the cloud as the first choice when deploying new enterprise applications, "it still has to make sense in comparison to the available on-prem apps — we are far from mandating cloud-only".
Cloud-based apps work great when there's uncertain or dynamic user demand for a standard service, but not everything fits that profile, he said. "We'll replace our existing ERP a few years from now — if we were doing that today I'm far from certain that a hybrid manufacturer/software/services company such ours could go to the cloud for that. The inherent complexity of such an installation doesn't lend itself well to cost-effective multi-tenancy. [It] will be interesting to see how that develops."
This week's CIO Jury was:
- Jeff Focke, director of IT Shealy Electrical Wholesalers
- Abby Hosseini, CTO of Mercury General Corporation
- Dale Huhtala, executive director for enterprise technology infrastructure services at Service Alberta
- John Gracyalny, VP of IT, SafeAmerica Credit Union
- Rob Neil, head of communications and technology at Ashford Borough Council
- Dan Gallivan, director of Information Technology Payate
- Richard Storey, head of IT at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust
- Dirk De Busser, IT manager, Fashion Club 70
- Delano Gordon, CIO, Roofing Supply Group
- Matt Mielke, director of IT, Innovations Federal Credit Union
- Keith Golden, CIO of Econolite Group
- Shawn Beighle, CIO, International Republican Institute
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Steve Ranger is the UK editor-in-chief of ZDNet and TechRepublic. An award-winning journalist, Steve writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture, and regularly appears on TV and radio discussing tech issues. Previously he was the editor of silicon.com.