Today’s businesses are looking for more ways to leverage modern technology to fulfill their business needs. Much of that development is occurring through software. Where fundamental business applications used to be comprised of on-premise software, now, cloud applications are dominating the software field. Not only are cloud apps more convenient to install and maintain, they also offer benefits and features unique to the cloud industry: browser-based applications that are accessible from anywhere, no-contract subscriptions under a pay-as-you-use model, zero internal server maintenance, professional customer support, and instantly added features.
Cloud applications are like vehicles that carry businesses through waves of technological developments and consumer trends. Behind cloud applications are large-scale data centers maintained by leading database and software players — Microsoft, Amazon, Google, IBM, Oracle. Through connectivity-centric development, they are driving rapid changes in the global network in key ways that enable more accessible and intuitive-to-use enterprise applications. The cloud industry is shifting how applications run; how services are deployed; how businesses interact with clients; and how we interact with the digital.
We often hear that cloud applications come with automatic updates, but what does that really mean? Companies used to have to perform new installations every couple of years when their existing software like QuickBooks, Microsoft Office, or Microsoft SQL Server becomes outdated. Firms are now adopting cloud enterprise applications that receive over the air updates, which immediately take effect for the in-browser application. Even companies loyal to familiar software brands have cloud-based options: Intuit offers Quickbooks Cloud; Microsoft has Office 365, and Oracle’s ERP system NetSuite has an entirely cloud-based version SuiteCloud. In these applications, updates are maintained by developers and the cost is covered in monthly subscriptions. It’s a big contrast to what an internal IT team used to do.
Automatic updates allow cloud developers to continue to improve software as well. In software, bugs are inevitable. Cloud platforms make it convenient for developers to make minor adjustments and implement new changes instantly across its platforms and users. Users can consult a cloud service provider’s release notes to see the latest updates. For example, Adobe announces monthly feature updates to Adobe Experience Cloud, the company’s digital intelligence platform; its August 2017 release notes included a number of fixes and updates to its analytics, mobile, social, and campaigning platforms. Such frequent software adjustment is only possible with cloud applications, as it’s impractical for users or a client IT department to manually keep up with monthly installs, especially across an entire business network.
Many cloud developers are creating on end-to-end solutions rather than isolated applications. That is due in part to changing client demands. As the Internet of Things or IoT is now more prevalent in the business sphere, companies need a centralized platform to cover end-to-end operations — manage assets and data, automate services, generate leads. There are other reasons why cloud industries are emphasizing more integrated solutions; first, for user experience; second, for IoT standardization where well-integrated cloud platforms can simplify upcoming developments.
For retails and businesses, this means they can adopt one cloud solution for marketing, payment, and store management. The benefit of integrated applications is also very pronounced among marketing firms as new IoT developments are creating fresh opportunities for them to reach consumers. For them to tap into the IoT market, cloud resources are pretty much an essential: modern marketing that uses data analytics and machine learning requires robust servers for storage and computing. Also, applications need to connect almost seamlessly to IoT devices to sense data and deliver content. For most companies, it makes more sense to subscribe to an integrated marketing solution like Adobe Marketing Cloud or Oracle Marketing Cloud.
Adobe’s marketing platform covers cross-channel campaigns, data analytics, and conversion rate optimization tools. With Adobe Target, companies can personalize content for IoT devices from consumer electronics to gas station pump displays and vending machines. For example, Adobe solutions let retails embed iBeacon technology for location-based marketing and message customers who are within a radial distance of a beacon. Adobe’s more specific applications — marketing cloud, advertising cloud, analytics cloud — converge under a unified, user-friendly platform so businesses can access and manage multiple facets of modern marketing from one interface. For Adobe clients, the returns are significant.
Adobe case study: Travelocity’s cloud marketing success
Travelocity used Adobe Marketing to launch a creative campaign called “My Deals.” Customers build their own package with a fit price, dates, travel destination, and activity; the information enters Adobe Campaign, which automatically matches customer selections to hotel, airline, and car rental deals in Travelocity’s database and generates highly personalized email alerts for individual customers. The entire campaign workflow is automated and scalable to more custom settings. The result was a 40% increase in email open rate.
The Travelocity team also experienced more marketing agility with Adobe Marketing cloud solutions. When news channels declared August 23rd to be “Cheap Flight Day,” marketing staff used their Adobe solutions to quickly generate relevant targeted emails to get recent airfare customers to return to Travelocity’s website. The new campaign ran within hours.
Quoting Tony Arbelaez, Senior Technology Manager at Travelocity, “By evening, our emails were live. If you looked at our competitors, we were the only ones to react so quickly.”
Beyond digital marketing, integrated cloud applications also help streamline multiple internal business operations. Oracle’s core offering Oracle Cloud Platform enables clients to drive innovation with industry-leading tools for data warehousing, analytics, and application development. The Platform-as-a-Service strings together IoT cloud, Supply Chain Management (SCM) cloud, and Big Data cloud to allow companies to incorporate data from sensor-enabled devices and equipment to automate workflow, digitizing tasks like product monitoring, fleet management, and supply chain planning.
Oracle’s case study: AT&T’s move to the cloud to speed up service
AT&T is in the process of virtualization 75% of its core functions within the next couple of years. It’s currently working with Oracle to move thousands of internal databases to Oracle’s public cloud infrastructure. One way AT&T expects to leverage new cloud services is to optimize workforce management. The company dispatches about 70,000 trucks daily to get technicians out to customers, which takes thousands of people to administer efficiently. With cloud tools that combine real-time data analytics and machine learning algorithms, AT&T can improve its fleet management and speed up service dispatch. Practically speaking, that means they can potentially cut their current four-hour appointment windows down to one-hour.
Minimizing customer wait time is one goal, per AT&T communications CEO John Donovan. Cloud tools will let you gain instant insights like weather and neighborhood construction, he said in an interview with IT World, then fleet operations become more precise and efficient and customers get their services faster. Turnaround time improves for internal departments as well. With data-driven applications that instantly sync across the enterprise, staff can build new dispatch strategies on the most current information and have it go live in a day.
Migrating to cloud applications
Leading database developers will say that the migration to cloud resources is essential if not inevitable. Clients might have a working database installed on-site, but Oracle CEO Mark Hurd pointed out that they are working with different features in different versions of the database and the servers are tedious to update. For just deploying security patches, he said that Oracle’s on-premise customers are 14 months behind its public server updates. On the other hand, public cloud users don’t have to deal with server updates. Considering how businesses are expected to scale with growing networks and data, public cloud infrastructure has already become the more viable solution.
The move toward cloud-based operations can be intricate. Cloud software environment differ drastically from on-premise applications; cloud apps are designed to be multi-tenant, so it’s hard to expect software features to convert one-to-one to the cloud. There are also data structure differences to account for. Most public cloud servers default to NoSQL (Not-only-SQL) while private company servers likely are using relational data. For businesses, this means cloud migration requires forethought, planning, multiple department collaboration, and if needed, outside consultants to assist with the migration process.
Leading cloud service providers should be able to help smooth the transition. For example, Oracle provides packaged cloud migration tools to move existing software to its cloud infrastructure and out-of-the-box integration adaptors to connect Oracle and third-party apps. Amazon Web Services, as well, has comprehensive tools that let companies move internal applications to Amazon-hosted servers in comfortable increments without interrupting services. Further, AWS recommends a minimally-invasive cloud migration strategy where a company gradually moves its software components, applications, and database to public servers to decrease risks associated with lift-and-shift migration.
Finally, the current cloud industry is filled with developers that offer competitive enterprise solutions. Potential clients should take time to research on different cloud applications, platforms, infrastructures, and vendors; compare high-ranking software packages and longterm benefits; consider scalability, and ask questions. Once a firm overcomes the hurdles of initial cloud integration, it can expect to profit from all that modern cloud computing has to offer — high-performance data management, streamlined applications, advanced development tools, and integrated yet intuitive interfaces that will keep improving with every cloud update.