Everyone is touting it; everyone is getting on the cloud bandwagon. What does cloud computing mean for the printing industry? Private, Public, Hybrid and those 4 letter words: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS. What are the opportunities and the challenges and what’s up with all the acronyms?
All the big players have announced they are going to provide cloud offerings for graphic arts customers. Xerox’s Cloud Consortium was announced at Drupa 2012, Pitney Bowes Volly offering for digital secure mail in the cloud, Doxee a new SaaS entrant to the US market from Italy, Mimeo’s plugin to allow HP Exstream users access to Mimeo’s print-on-demand infrastructure, Elixir’s Tango offering, EMC’s OnDemand hybrid cloud offering and Thunderheads recent shift to Thunderhead.com with a focus on cloud offerings are just a few examples. To stay competitive companies need to adopt a cloud strategy. Customers are looking to take advantage of the benefits that cloud computing has to offer.
As a basis for discussion I thought it would be a good idea to put a simple definition to some of the cloud buzz words:
Infrastructure as a Service where you are basically leasing the physical infrastructure virtualization, servers, storage and network. IaaS is the simplest model because it services only the physical infrastructure. The user is responsible for maintaining everything else such as the operating systems and applications. RackSpace is one example of an IaaS provider. IaaS is a good option for providing the secure infrastructure that is required to service highly regulated industries such as insurance, financial and healthcare. IaaS services network engineers to allow them to load and maintain the operating systems in support of application developers and the end users.
Platform as a Service provides the computing infrastructure and operating systems in addition to middleware, messaging and communications. This provides an environment to build and service business applications. PaaS is great for agile application development and rapid deployment in the cloud. PaaS services applications developers to deploy end user solutions.
Software as a Service is the top and most comprehensive layer of the cloud computing platforms. It includes all of the hardware, infrastructure and operating systems in addition to the software applications to service the end users. It can be as simple as emails or as complex as end-to-end Customer Communications Management systems. SaaS accepts and delivers information on behalf of the end user.
In addition to the platforms there is another dynamic that needs to be considered and that is what type of cloud deployment is required; private, public or hybrid.
A private cloud is generally thought of as cloud computing without using third parties. It sits within the firewalls of a given organization and is accessed by authorized users inside and outside the enterprise firewall. The private cloud provides for control and compliance and minimizes the risk of security breaches.
A public cloud provides an on demand utility with a pay-as-you-go service. Payment is based on usages much like your electric or water bills. It provides scalability and reliability and allows for focus on deployment of the solution.
A hybrid cloud is exactly as it sounds a combination of the best of the private and public cloud offerings. It provides for secure interchanges between private enterprise clouds in addition to financial and time-to-market advantages of the public cloud. Exchanges are typically secured over a dedicated secure connection such as point-to-point VPN tunnels. A hybrid cloud is best of breed and combines the capital advantages of public cloud along with the security and controls of a private cloud.
Our experience has shown that the preferred service model for cloud applications in the print and communications space is SaaS/Hybrid.
Many people tend to over simplify the requirements of print and multichannel communications. There are a lot of moving parts that need to be considered in order to deliver full functionality in the cloud. It isn’t simply moving the prepress, composition, ordering, archiving, messaging and presentment capabilities to the cloud individually. All of these need to be tightly integrated and working together as one end-to-end cloud solution. The other dynamic is to ensure the customers have full visibility and control of the process – transparency is a must.
As an example, here’s a sample of one of the SaaS workflows we provide in support of our customers.