Windows Azure SQL Database Marketplace
Srinivasan Sundara Rajan works at Hewlett Packard as a Senior
Solution Architect. His primary focus is on enabling service-oriented
architecture (SOA) through legacy modernization for automobile industries. He
worked as a consultant for Compuware, Verizon, and other organizations in the
earlier parts of his career. All the views expressed here are Srinivasan's
independent analysis of industry and solutions and not necessarily those of his
current or past organizations.
Robert Duffner: Could
you please take a moment to introduce yourself?
Rajan: I currently work as a senior solutions architect for HP Enterprise
Services, catering to the larger customer accounts. I have more than 19 years
of experience in the industry. I write regularly in Cloud Computing Journal on
enterprise cloud adoption.
Robert: On the Supply
Chain and Technology blog, the author says that, "SMBs are frantically
moving to the cloud. Enterprises are not ready for it." What are your thoughts
think that is correct to an extent, in the sense that enterprises are still
contemplating. For an enterprise, infrastructure as a service is useful ,
but that is not a business
transformation enabler . The real challenge for them is moving to the cloud so
that their time to market improves, and software as a service is an ultimate goal
for them, although they can never really arrive at the perfect software-as-a-service
(SaaS) platform in the short run
The issue for them is that the big ERP packages like SAP or Oracle
Financials require a lot of customization. With that in mind, no SaaS offering
can straightaway satisfy most of the larger enterprise needs, so the best bet
for the enterprises is to get to a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) platform on top
of your SaaS building blocks. In other words, you satisfy your basic needs on
the SaaS, but you extend on top of it with PaaS to satisfy your enterprise needs.
That type of platform is still evolving, and enterprises are
not finding a ready-made answer to get into the cloud. Even though a lot of the
standard concerns like security and availability have been addressed, I feel
that the business capability enablement has yet to mature so that enterprises can
fully adapt to the cloud.
Robert: How do
you recommend that enterprises with the full spectrum of both very old legacy
systems and new applications approach the cloud?
always choose the Microsoft platform because of its PaaS and strong integration
tools with the on premises applications, and my approach is to recommend a
hybrid environment. For the foreseeable future, a 100% cloud-only solution is
not going to be viable for large enterprises.
The enterprises yet continue
to have their own data centers to
support certain legacy applications and calculations that are not available as
a SaaS s, for various reasons, enterprises are not going to to move these critical applications to the cloud.
Still, there is very good potential for some 30 to 40
percent of the workload to move into the cloud.
Let us take an example, in the very specific case of a data
warehousing scenario, from a business intelligence perspective, there is an operational
data store which is a consolidation of
all your transactions systems in near real time.
Near-real-time consolidation of all your operational systems
may not move to the cloud, because they have to be near to your data centers to
accumulate data as quickly as possible. On the other hand, there are operations such as enterprise reporting and
data marts focus on historical, staggered accumulation of data.
You could always wait a week to accumulate your operational
data store into the data warehouse, so the latency of cloud may be very
compatible with that scenario. On the other hand, enterprise reporting raises
issues in terms of licensing and standardization of the reports. For big
enterprises facing those kinds of problems, SaaS or PaaS would be ideal for
reporting. That's why the overall solution tends toward a hybrid delivery
Robert: I am glad
you mentioned the hybrid cloud environment, which is something we are finding a
great deal of interest in among customers interested in Windows Azure. You just
recently wrote an
article about how data warehousing fits in a hybrid cloud environment.
Srinivasan: A data
warehouse is not just one database. You have a transactional system, which may
be like any kind of a legacy system. It could involve mainframes, ERPs, and
other stuff. And traditionally you should have an operational data store, which
is at the transaction level. You want to capture a real-time, or near-real-time,
consolidated view of all this data.
You may have 15 different technologies like AS/400, mainframes,
Oracle, and ERP in your transactional system and want to consolidate them in
near real time into an ODS. Because of that near-real-time requirement and
having so many adapters in place and so forth, you may want to keep your
operational data store inside your data center, because of the latency and
Data warehousing typically works on a variable load pattern.
For example, a telecom company may load all its billing data to a data
warehouse, so naturally during the billing cycles, they would have a very high level
of activity, and then it might be cool for the next 10 days. And when the new
customer file comes, they may want to do lot of address validation, address
cleansing, and so on.
That variable load and the fact that data accumulates over a
period, rather than requiring real-time response, as well as the availability
of a common SaaS platform for reporting and a PaaS platform for extending that reporting,
make the rest of the components a very good candidate for moving to the cloud.
In this scenario, certain pieces like the operational data
store and transactional system continue to be on premises. The data warehouse
itself and the compute resources that handle the monthly or weekly differential
load can move to the cloud. That combination can benefit the enterprise in terms of operational and other expenses
while also providing the benefits of a platform tool.
Robert: Are there
any other scenarios where you see hybrid cloud as being particularly important,
beyond those that you've already mentioned?
Product lifecycle management is becoming more and more collaborative. Big
manufacturers make certain components of a large product such as an automobile,
airplane, or industrial equipment, and you want a lot of suppliers to
collaborate with the design. You also want to enable connected parts purchasing,
quality assurance, and several other areas.
These manufacturers may
use very specialized systems that house a lot of IP, such as CAD systems for engineering
drawings, and they may not want to expose everything to the cloud. Still, cloud
provides a very good platform to collaborate with the appropriate security
For example Azure has
got the Windows Active Directory Federation and other stuff. These tools give
you a very good platform for multiple people to collaborate over the cloud
while still keeping certain systems isolated. Please also refer to my article on,
Federated Security in
Hybrid cloud can also be very useful in terms of reducing
dependence on legacy systems. For example, you may want to reduce the amount of
processing you depend on mainframes for over time. Mainframes are very good for
transactions, especially real-time transactions.
You won't be able to get an equivalent level of performance
for the foreseeable future in the cloud, but reporting doesn't have to coexist
with the transaction system. That can be moved to the cloud, and there are
quite a few scenarios like that where I could see a good amount of cross usage
between on-premises and cloud systems.
Robert: Can you
talk a little bit about how you see technologies like SQL Azure and DataSync
playing a role?
Srinivasan: In a
data warehousing scenario, say you have your ODS and your current data
warehouse on premises, and you have decided to move your data warehouses to the
cloud. Naturally, you cannot use your REST-based service invocations to move those
enormous amounts of data, so first of all, you need appropriate tools. SQL
Azure is exciting here, because it provides you lot of native tools for the
movement of large data. Of course, Informatica and other third-party vendors also
Whenever you are talking about this kind of a hybrid
delivery, you also need to address continuous integration, because it is not
just one time movement of data. There you've got multiple choices. You can use queues
for a publish-and-subscribe approach, which will give you asynchronous access.
You can also use SQL Azure for more of an ETL type of data transformation, so
you set some kind of a source and a target. This is especially so if your
source database is in SQL Server, because ETL plays a major part in moving the
data from one place to another.
You are never going to have the data 'as is' getting
transformed from a source to a target. You'll have to use multiple
transformations, so you need an automated tool to support movement from an on-premises
system to the cloud. That means you need several things to be taken care of.
First of all, you need the adapters. You need to have a
common tool that will talk to your on-premises data sources and to the cloud. The
second consideration is security, including how your credentials, tokens,
access accounts, and pass words are integrated.
The third concern is about ensuring a rich set of functionalities. Since you
have built it on TSQL, you have a rich set of functionality for transformation.
Those tools will definitely have a larger role on a hybrid kind of a platform.
Robert: In the article,
Business Value of SaaS Applications," you talk about the need to link cloud
application authentication back to enterprise directories. How do you see SaaS
vendors and enterprises handling this requirement today?
Srinivasan: I may
be wrong, but what I have seen in Amazon is that you need to go and register
yourself as a user. Consider how
untenable that is in an enterprise of 150,000 or 200,000 users. It's not like
all the users are going to access that same application, but you will need
Suppose you are using a workflow kind of CRM application,
where a service request needs to go to your
manager, and it may need to be escalated
further, depending upon the requirements of the individual transaction. You
can't set up all that authentication data or your organizational directory data
into the cloud, because that would require a huge amount of synching and
potential chaos from data mismatches.
Therefore, I need certain things to be tied back to my
enterprise directory. I still use a CRM application over the SaaS, but when my
customer sends me a complaint that I don't handle in a timely fashion, it should
automatically be forwarded on to my manager.
Such a synergy is possible only if the authentication and
authorization is tied back to the enterprise directories. Of course, it will put
a lot on the security mechanisms, but I don't really feel a need to duplicate
the security inside the cloud. It may be good for individual users but not for entire
Robert: You spend
a lot of time on legacy modernization. Is there a fit for cloud in this regard?
in a few different ways. First of all, most legacy modernization is targeted at
server consolidation or platform migration. I might move a system from multiple
mainframes into a single DB2 system on commodity servers.
Suppose the mainframe or other legacy system is implementing
content management or document management. You could certainly move that to
Office 365, SharePoint, or a similar content management system on the cloud.
This opportunity is not just about moving one to one. You could
establish certain dynamic scaling properties on top of it, for example.
Moreover, if you really think about your business processes with a holistic
approach, you might investigate what other business processes are redundant on
the legacy systems and consider whether those can also be moved to the Cloud. It
may also be that you would be able to extend SaaS offerings using PaaS.
Robert: You also
wrote an article comparing cloud sourcing versus
outsourcing. Can you talk us through your thinking on that?
have worked both in the US and in India, so I think I know both business environments
to some extent. I am not pointing at any single company, but I believe that,
under the current outsourcing model, companies spend most of their time on
maintenance, which means that they get relatively less value for their business
Say I, as an enterprise, wanted to create a new report to
satisfy a federal compliance requirement. What we current see in an outsourcing world,
we go to the business unit that
requested it and tell them that it would have cost them about $10k, but because
their system is on an unsupported platform or an older version of the database,
it is going to cost more like $100k.
That has been a relatively common scenario, and while it is
not really a problem of outsourcing, but outsourcing is not clearly able to
solve that situation. You can't really plan in advance for things like that,
and with outsourcing, you generally have a multi-year contract which provides
less room for dynamically adding and removing resources.
If it's executed well, cloud gives you a lot of choice that
increases your capability to concentrate on business capability versus
Security and trust also come into play. When you move your
data to your outsourcing provider or let that provider access your databases, there
is a very similar set of considerations as when you move the same data to a
trusted cloud provider. Therefore, that security aspect remains much the same
between outsourcing versus cloud sourcing.
Because there is the potential for a huge benefit in terms
of business capability if executed correctly, outsourcing may evolve into a
combination of cloud sourcing plus outsourcing plus data center maintenance. The
outsourcing companies may also help companies move towards cloud sourcing.
Robert: The cloud
is clearly a no brainer for startups because you can pretty much trade your
capital expenses for more operating expenses. Do you see any corresponding best-kept
secrets in terms of cloud advantages for big enterprises?
very interesting concept there is the community cloud perspective. Think about
an automobile manufacturer that needs to comply with a large number of separate
regulatory bodies from all over the world. It could carry substantial cost to
create separate sets of reports from scratch for each of those worldwide
Of course, those reports are largely standard in nature,
such as emissions reports that need to be completed by a large number of
international car makers. Therefore, each individual car company stands to
benefit in terms of the cost and time requirements to create those reports if
they band together to create a common SaaS model, which is not available today.
Another aspect of the community cloud concept is an industry
exchange for information. For example, certain in-car controls created by big
automobiles, collect and track information about collisions on the highway. If
I get into an accident, information about it is automatically passed on to a
help desk that handles my automated request for help. Aggregating the support
for those information stores among multiple car companies represents substantial
cost savings, as well as the ability to get better geographical coverage.
So community cloud can create some valuable synergies among
different companies, even though they may be competitors. In that sense, this
idea is similar to relationships that are commonplace in other areas. For
example, Microsoft, IBM, HP and Oracle collaborate on projects like SOA
standards or security standards, even though they are competitors in many
enterprises traditionally have to spend a significant amount of time thinking
about things like business continuity and disaster recovery. How do you think
those considerations are impacted by the cloud?
provides you things like standby server support, replication, and log shipping out
of the box, although there is of course the issue of how trusted they are. Large
providers are providing very good SLA commitments, and I have written on the
topic of infrastructure-as-a-service acting as a disaster recovery platform.
Disaster recovery and that sort of thing follow naturally
from some of the basic tenets of cloud, since things are automatically copied
and replicated, for example. And the tools are also available as part of the platform
to get back your old data from your replicated versions.
Of course, enterprises have to go through certain studies
and proofs of concept there, to figure out how cloud suits their particular
scenarios, but for applications that are already hosted on the cloud, there is
definitely a simple alternative to conventional backup and disaster recovery.
Robert: People have
speculated that server shipments might decline as a result of virtualization
innovation and now the cloud, but that hasn't happened. How do you see these
technologies impacting the need for servers?
are continuing to increase, and in fact, the presence of the cloud helps to
accelerate that growth. Data volumes are growing, and what we want to do with
them is also. What cloud is really giving you is that you don't have to spend
lot of your time thinking about how much compute power to have in reserve to
avoid going over capacity and losing business.
concludes my planned questions for today. Is there anything else that you would
like to talk about?
touch back on the community cloud concept, it is very difficult to achieve SaaS
using a common package that suits every enterprise. You need customization,
which is going to be available in the form of PaaS, and how well you provide integration
from your on-premises systems will be a key differentiator as businesses try to
focus on generating business value instead of using their resources on
A lot of the new offerings are pretty exciting, but we still
need a lot of case studies and proofs of concept to illuminate the path for
enterprises to follow in adopting cloud. There are still a lot of issues to
work through, including vendor lock-in and many others, but ultimately the
effort will be worth it, and businesses on the whole will benefit.
for taking the time to talk today, Srini. I really appreciate your insights.