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The Need for a Cloud Development Framework

By August 25, 2010Article

Saugatuck Technology’s latest survey research indicates that more than half of all user firms worldwide plan on utilizing Cloud solutions for even their most core business operations within the next two to three years. And all our research points toward more powerful Cloud solutions, systems, and platforms, standing on their own as well as integrated with a wide range of traditional on-premise IT.

This rampant and accelerating use of Cloud-based IT is driving developers within ISVs, Cloud providers, system integrators, and user enterprises to explore and demand new development capabilities for Cloud-based and hybrid solutions. Unfortunately, there have been few guidelines and even fewer examples of the types and scope of development capabilities that are needed.

This article examines the need for a Cloud development framework or model to provide a starting point, building blocks, and a benchmark for comparative analysis of offerings, and presents a simple foundational model for such a framework.

Benefits of a Cloud Platform

Saugatuck’s most recent interview programs with ISVs and with partners in large vendor ecosystems indicate that between 40 and 45 percent of ISVs are looking for—and experimenting with—ways to incorporate Cloud offerings and associated development into their business and technology strategies.

Most have learned that developing for the Cloud is a significant and potentially costly step. Development for the Cloud requires knowledge, technologies, resources, and a broader ecosystem of partners than most ISVs and developers are prepared to invest in themselves. Thus, providers with platforms for developing Cloud-based solutions are beginning to change the course of software development, by encouraging and enabling powerful Cloud solution development without heavy ISV investment in resources.

Cloud development platform offerings enable building a Cloud business solution, deploying a solution to the Cloud and running it there, and integrating a Cloud business solution with other solutions either in the Cloud or on-premise, behind the firewall. These offerings not only enable development, testing, and deployment of Cloud business solutions, but may also include the middleware necessary to operate them, charging on a usage basis for database, storage, and other services. Alternatively, Cloud development solution providers may partner with one or more Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers to enable the efficient operation of Cloud solutions through middleware and services offerings.

When properly designed, deployed, and utilized, these platforms can significantly reduce the costs of software development by improving ease of access to tools and libraries, enabling and encouraging secure community-based development, and reducing time to market/deployment. Long-term benefits include improved quality, improved distribution of software, and reduced costs of maintenance and enhancements.

A Basic Cloud Development Framework

The nascent nature of Cloud solutions, Cloud development, and the Cloud environment in general, both allows and demands structure. Structure enables an objective series of comparable metrics and capabilities that can be used to understand and scope the needs of ISVs and developers, which in turn will help the Cloud platform and service providers develop and optimize their own capabilities and offerings.

Saugatuck has worked with several hundred ISVs and user development organizations (from enterprise IT groups to open source communities) since 2005 to develop and refine a simple framework that both illustrates and explains what should be found in core Cloud development offerings.

Figure 1 below summarizes our basic framework and its key layers. Within each layer are multiple components critical to enabling efficient Cloud development. Future Saugatuck research published for our clients will examine the layers in more detail and provide examples of Cloud development platform and provider capabilities.

Figure 1: Saugatuck’s Cloud Development Framework

Source: Saugatuck Technology Inc.
  • The Infrastructure Services Layer. This layer includes the most basic of IaaS capabilities: The supporting hardware, software, and associated infrastructure where development may be executed and upon which the deployed Cloud solution will run. It must be at least as powerful, secure, robust, reliable, and available as any physical infrastructure within a development or ISV organization.
  • The Middleware Services Layer. This layer is the “glue” that cements the development work to be done with the desired application(s), data types and sources, environment, and technologies. We can also think of this as the “enablement” layer for Cloud development, as the capabilities offered by the Middleware Services layer, typically via APIs, will enable and shape the capabilities of the result from the development effort.
  • The Development Services Layer. This layer is where the “real” work is done. The Development Services Layer is critical in creating tremendous value in the marketplace for developers, ISVs, and platform providers. Within five years, most Cloud development solutions will migrate the Development Services Layer to the Cloud.
  • The Application Layer. At the top of our model lies the Application Layer, which consists of two types of applications developed and deployed in the Cloud: Native Cloud Applications and Ported Cloud Applications (ISV or enterprise applications migrated to the Cloud).

No development framework or model is effective or useful without management capabilities. Our stack model includes these as Metering and Analytics and Administration, spanning and integrating all four stack layers.

  • Metering & Analytics. These are the “dashboards” and analysis tools for managing Cloud solution usage, pricing, and efficiency. They provide baseline metering and management capabilities for developers and ISVs to measure and match Cloud solution usage to their SLAs and performance guarantees. They also provide abilities to see and track development and runtime cost models, and feed this information to billing engines. These tools also help manage Cloud solution efficiency (i.e., how well or poorly the solution is working) in development and then in deployment.
  • Administration. These tools enable the governance critical to efficient development in a Cloud environment. For example, version control can become a challenge very quickly, as can management of multiple projects in various phases and stages. Key capabilities offered by this layer can include at least the following: configuration management/version control system, data dictionary services, and directory services (e.g., LDAP).

Implications for ISVs

The above is presented as a core framework for development of Cloud-based solutions, both in traditional development environments and within Cloud development environments. Ideally, any Cloud development platform will enable and support both, as it is likely to be years before most ISVs and enterprise development groups are ready to go “all-in” with Cloud development (to borrow a phrase).

Realistically, it will be between three to five years before a majority of traditional ISVs and enterprise development groups move most of their development into the Cloud itself. While ISVs in all markets see the opportunity and are planning on moving toward SaaS/Cloud models and many early adopting ISVs are well into SaaS migration or transition, the fact is that we are talking about the transformation of an entire way of doing business, including ecosystem(s) of partners and customers. This requires a unique and often taxing combination of management change along with the technologies.

That three-to-five-year timeframe will also bring a massive opportunity for Master Brands to emerge as leaders for the ISVs in their ecosystems—and a significant opportunity to expand those ecosystems and Cloud dominance. Master Brands, by definition, dominate IT ecosystems (see Saugatuck Strategic Perspective MKT-731, “Gorillas in Our Midst: Articulating Saugatuck’s ‘Master Brand’ Model,” published 30 April 2010). If the ecosystem needs to move to the Cloud, the Master Brand needs to enable that—or lose the ecosystem.

To put it simply, the path to IT dominance follows development. Almost all traditional ISVs need—and are seeking—help from their Master Brand partners (e.g., HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP) in figuring out how to make the SaaS/Cloud transition include, and go beyond, development. The vendors that establish and deliver the best ISV-to-Cloud transition programs have the best chance to be market-dominant Master Brands for the next generation. This includes traditional IT Master Brands, as well as Amazon, Google, and other cloud-based leaders of today.

Bruce Guptill and Mike West are SVP and VP of Research respectively at Saugatuck Technology Inc., a provider of subscription research and advisory services focused on key trends and disruptive technologies driving change in Enterprise IT. This Op-ed was originally published by Saugatuck as a Research Alert RA-755, entitled “Saugatuck Research: Markets Need a Cloud Development Framework” published July 8, 2010. For more information, please contact Saugatuck at +1.203.454.3900 or visit the company website at

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