The Cloud as an Enterprise Social Networking Platform

Arthur Cole
Slide Show

Cloud Computing Starts to Mature

The emphasis in the cloud is shifting from public to private cloud computing deployments.

The more familiar enterprises become with the cloud, the more it seems to be uniquely suited for what is expected to be the two major developments in data functionality over the next decade: mobility and collaboration.

It seems rather odd given the history of high-tech over the years that consumer devices are now driving changes in the workplace. However, most observers say the movement toward social networking is inevitable given that most knowledge works have already embedded their personal lives into Facebook and Twitter, so it's only natural to want those and other services to improve their business performance.

The cloud as a collaborative tool is starting to seep into the major platforms as vendors try to transition the technology from a mere resource bank to a value-added enterprise commodity. HP's recent deal with Microsoft, for example, puts systems like the Exchange, SharePoint and Lync Server on the collaboration and real-time collaboration editions of Enterprise Cloud Services. The idea is to provide a foundation on which users can build communal platforms that can be used for a wide variety of enterprise functions.

One of those functions is expected to be software development, particularly as it applies to building new cloud services. Already, the cloud is host to a number of cloud-ready development tools, such as CollabNet's Agile ALM portfolio and Codesion platform. The company points to the cloud's improving security and regulatory compliance, system integration, service capabilities and public/private/hybrid architecture as top reasons why it will continue to draw development activity over the next few years.

Indeed, signs are pointing to a booming collaboration market by mid-decade. ABI Research is reporting more than 50 percent year-on-year growth for collaboration services and products in 2010, a pace that should produce a $3.5 billion market by 2016. Many of these solutions are available as freemiums aimed at mobile users looking for applications convergence, business process integration and technology consolidation as they bridge their wired and wireless infrastructures.

All of this sets the stage for the next big struggle for dominance of the enterprise environment, says The New York Times' Quentin Hardy. As evidence, he points to service leader Salesforce.com's recent purchase of a small company called Rypple that specializes in using social enterprise tools like message posting and status badges to enhance team management and project development. Salesforce sees the technology as a means to increase its leverage in front-office operations like sales and customer service, while leaving much of the back-office functions to traditional software developers like SAP and Oracle.

Still, the big question is how eager enterprises are willing to go along with this. Service and platform providers may want it, along with end users, but enterprises are rightly concerned with the heavy reliance on public communications infrastructure that the cloud requires. Full control of one's data is still a top priority at most institutions, so the triple prospect of bigger, better and cheaper will have to be very compelling to produce a significant migration to a cloud-based social enterprise.

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