Channeling Cloud Customization and Integration

Channeling Cloud Customization and Integration

We attended SuiteCloud 2010 in San Francisco last week. The event focused on NetSuite partners – ISVs, VARs, and from the folks we met, a lot of system integrators. It was an exciting show as NetSuite made a number of announcements, including a partnership with Amazon, linking SuiteStorage to S3 for cloud-to-cloud storage. Amazon is a serious cloud player. The guys at NetSuite also rolled out some powerful new features such as SuiteFlow, which was a pretty intuitive looking way to add all sorts of business logic and process to various pieces of the NetSuite puzzle.

What we took away from the show was NetSuite’s focus on updating its development environment, making it easier for channel partners to customize the platform in a more manageable way.

This was big news to a lot of the partners there because these upgrades prove that the SaaS model can support robust customization – the lifeblood for many of these partners and the reason the on-premise world has been so lucrative. For those paying attention, cloud-based environments like Salesforce’s force.com and NetSuite’s SuiteCloud have come a long way in the past year. With the addition of scripting languages and customized user interfaces these environments give partners the ability to modify and extend the SaaS model.

Cloud vendors like NetSuite that offer multi-tenant SaaS applications are focused on providing applications that have mass market appeal. They offer low-cost subscription pricing and powerful – but broad – applications that solve the big problems of many, but not the more complex problems of specific industries and organizations. This is where partners come in.

In speaking with a number of these NetSuite partners at the show there were two common lines of thinking. One, cloud had matured to a place in which they could make money like they did in the on-premise world. Two, integration was the lynchpin to the success of most of their projects and solution offerings.

Whether it was an ISV that needed to seamlessly hook their product to the NetSuite wagon, a reseller packaging a number of applications that needed to talk to one another, or a system integrator who was focused on migrating clients from on-premise systems to the cloud — it was all about integration.

Integration is the key to cloud success because in order to realize real value from these investments it is essential that you don’t silo your data in a mix of on-premise and SaaS applications. From the partner perspective this is a boon because the cloud model is built around delegating management of your systems to trusted groups outside the walls of your organization. In many cases this includes integration. MWD Advisors recently wrote a blog post about SIs in the cloud that gets right to the point,

While today’s adopters of Cloud Computing may be quite happy to shoulder the technical burden of making remote resources “fit for purpose” within their enterprise, we should assume that most won’t. Particularly when you consider that a big part of the promise of Cloud Computing is that with this model, you’re delegating responsibility for managing technology. Why, if you’re so interested in a model of computing which is fundamentally tied to outsourcing – and particularly if you’re interested about using this model not just for one application but for a wide variety of purposes – would you choose to take responsibility for integration yourself?

Cloud has the potential to be a win-win-win situation for vendors, partners, and customers. NetSuite took a big step in the right direction last week. The next step is for partners and customers to pick the right integration software. We may be able to make some recommendations.