As more IT organizations begin to evaluate their existing application portfolios as they prepare to adopt a private cloud computing model, one question that seems to come up is: Just what does it mean to run an enterprise application on a private cloud? Theoretically, all that would be required of that application is to move it another set of arguably more intelligent servers.
But Lawson Software apparently begs to differ. The company today is rolling out Lawson Internal Cloud Services, an implementation of its ERP software that has been optimized for a private cloud computing environment. New elements of the Lawson offering, which comes on the heels of a recent announcement that made Lawson software available on a public cloud, include new application management software and the ability to deploy Lawson software as a virtual appliance. The software itself is based on what Lawson describes as Lawson Grid Technology, which enables Lawson software to run effectively on a cloud computing platform.
Improved application management software is nice to have no matter what the environment. But the Lawson cloud computing implementation also includes two modules, Smart Office and Enterprise Search, that are deployed as virtual appliances that come with the underlying database and operating system. Having enterprise application deployment simplified because the vendor optimized its deployment on a virtual server platform is intriguing. Not only does this simplify deployment, it also allows the application environment to dynamically scale, said Lee Kilmer, global director of product management for Lawson Software.
A crucial element of any application being deployed in the cloud comes down to how elastic the application environment really is. Virtual appliances are a key component of elasticity in the cloud, but so too is distributed caching and any number of other distributed system services. What that means, unfortunately, is that when you take a hard look at most enterprise applications today, very few of them are really cloud computing ready. They can run in the cloud per se, but they won't behave the way most companies want in terms of providing more flexibility. Without reworking the application, all you wind up with is a less expensive way to run an existing application.
Cloud computing will no doubt have a profound effect on enterprise computing. But the more IT organizations come to understand what it takes to make the shift to cloud computing, the more they begin to realize that it's going to be a journey with many phases. And right now, what most people are talking about when it comes to cloud computing is really shared infrastructure, but the end goal should really be a more dynamic, flexible approach to how we install, manage and access enterprise application software.