Data At Your Service: Cloud Begins to Reveal its Long-Term Value

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Data in Transit

Many industries are being reshaped by the possibilities that cloud-based data offers, according to Scott Butler, managing director for Accenture’s transit and tolling services in North America. Transit agencies, for example, are seeing “more and more opportunities to publish data online, generating more and more operational data, are typically lacking in the technology and the funding to really harness the power of these advances,” he said. “Cloud-based data services can solve these technical constraints by improving accessibility to data, but the barriers that they will need to overcome are institutional barriers around transparency, silos between business units, and the need to transform from transit operators to agents of customer service.”

For example, Butler continued, transit agencies have been publishing route and schedule data to services such as Google—thus allowing Google Maps to provide trip planning services to their customers. “We are starting to see mobile transit applications that cover the entire customer journey from trip planning to riding to providing feedback and satisfaction information. Cloud-based data services enable this capability and support its speed and broad scalability,” Butler said. “This trend will accelerate opportunities to integrate with currently-available loyalty and offers programs as well as opportunities to incorporate alternate transportation methods—such as bike- and ride-hailing and taxi services.”

Ultimately, just about every application “will be ported over or re-built to run in the cloud,” IO’s Slade predicts. “The industry has realized that true infrastructure as a service providers deliver savings, agility, and scaling benefits. There are plenty of legacy applications that now leverage the technology advances inherent in the cloud. Just think of all of the new apps that were built specifically for the cloud.” Slade advises enterprises to start their journeys into the cloud with their “least bandwidth-hungry apps, or apps that don’t require five-nines availability, so you can get a feel for how your apps run in the cloud. From there, you can move core business logic and databases.”

At the same time, the rapid development of increasingly sophisticated cloud-based data services will create additional opportunities, said Alex Henthorn-Iwane, vice president of marketing at QualiSystems, a provider of DevOps orchestration and automation solutions. “For example, IT organizations that may not be able to afford on-premises master data management infrastructure and tools can opt for cloud-based MDM services that offer lower, OPEX-based cost structures. As a result of this shift IT organizations need to shift into a high-velocity learning, experimentation, and practical innovation cycle to grapple with these disruptions,” Henthorn-Iwane noted.

Cloud Has Opened New Doors

Often, the types of applications being enabled by cloud cannot be predicted or planned. “The cloud has opened the door to companies to bring unexpected use cases to a new environment,” Perspecsys’ Grealish pointed out. “As a result, applications that were expected to always stay on premises and within the complete control of the enterprise are finding their way to the cloud. Examples include auto loan origination systems, healthcare claims management systems, fraud investigation applications, medical-device information sharing portals, IT service management, human resources, and employee management, storage and collaboration applications.” These applications “are driving a completely new class of regulated and sensitive data into cloud environments,” he added.

The quality and availability of end user access is a key component to cloud and data as a service success, since it provides ongoing and tangible visibility for decision makers. “The dominance of SaaS-based applications has made it easier for end users to get their jobs done faster and easier,” said MuleSoft’s Purpura. End users also now have access to “tools to move enterprise data into their SaaS applications quickly, and often without IT. The challenges come in when these SaaS-based systems need to write updates back into the systems of record. If data and enterprise architects aren’t proactively developing a combined data and API strategy to support these end user needs, they will be chasing their tails doing data cleanup for the foreseeable future.”

Data security is another issue on companies’ radar, and often causes second thoughts about diving deep into data as a service. At the same time, “large organizations are opening their coffers to increase spending on data security protections for SaaS environments,” observed C.J. Radford, vice president of cloud at data security vendor Vormetric. Data security has risen to the top of the list of concerns because of cloud, said Radford. “It has to do with the fact that they simply don’t have the visibility and control into the people and organizations that they do when using their own resources.”

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