10 key tips to achieving PaaS success
Sacha Labourey, CEO, CloudBees
Cloud computing is becoming an integral part of many companies’ business and technology strategies. Within the financial sector specifically, the economic downturn and the resultant regulatory and compliance changes has meant finance and IT departments are under increasing pressure to perform and provide the ability to document that their processes meet various compliance standards. Part of compliance is the software applications that support the processes. Not only this, but customers are more demanding and competition in the industry is fierce, as financial services firms struggle to offer more flexible ways to interact with their customers, providing web and mobile applications that make banking tasks quicker and more transparent.
Improving productivity, development, testing and deployment speed for applications is imperative to financial services organisations today if they’re to stay ahead of the competition. Responding quickly to customer demands, and using data more efficiently to keep pace with market changes means the IT department in financial organisations are being pushed hard to react at a time when operations are more lean than ever.
Cloud computing, coupled with continuous delivery practices, offer these IT departments a more efficient approach to development that is also cost effective, secure and produces higher quality software. Automating and improving the process of software delivery, continuous delivery has fundamentally changed the way software developers deliver applications. And with the power of the cloud and Platform as a Service (PaaS), offering a cost effective foundation to build, run and manage applications, businesses are reaping the rewards.
However, to be able to assess the type of use cases within financial services where PaaS can represent a productivity boost and those where benefits are less evident, you first need to understand the hard-to-unravel structure of various cloud offerings. There are three main offerings: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS).
The most basic form of cloud computing is infrastructure provisioning via the cloud. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) typically comprises the provisioning of (virtual) servers, networks and mass storage systems. The user can install whatever he likes onto this infrastructure, from the operating system to middleware to the actual application. This makes IaaS a very flexible instrument. But flexibility comes at a price: the user has to handle all the maintenance of the middleware, operating system, applications and other software utilities himself – only the computing performance and storage capacity scale automatically, because these are supplied by the infrastructure provider. Therefore, the user still needs to deal with every patch, every update and every issue that arises within the database, middleware and O/S infrastructure. The upside with IaaS, is that he can install and run software that is ideal for his processes, and/or which he may have developed himself. However, IaaS is clearly an offering that demands a high level of technical proficiency and sophisticated management – a scenario for large-scale users with very skilled/experienced IT staff.
If IaaS is the lowest tier of cloud services, Software as a Service (SaaS) is at the other extreme of the cloud stack. With SaaS, full application functionality is sourced from the cloud, with the user automatically getting a fully-maintained application and supporting infrastructure for the respective app. That said, the cloud provider offers him functionality that is vaguely reminiscent of the “one size fits all” paradigm. The user can set custom parameters himself – but has no influence over application logic and functionality. This model is particularly suitable for processes that are standardised across industries – such as ERP, warehousing or HR. Even if offerings come onto the market that are capable of being adapted to custom requirements, the approach is still one under which the user has, at best, limited influence over the application functionality. That said, users for whom the SaaS shoe fits can realise major productivity gains very quickly and cost-efficiently.
PaaS lies in-between the extremes of IaaS and SaaS. Particularly for large-scale financial service organisations who do not just want to use ready-made, off-the-shelf software but wish to map their business processes to customised applications, PaaS offers many advantages. IT departments and development teams in such companies are not limited just to user support and parameterisation of software packages sold to them by a vendor, but can develop some or all of the app themselves.
To that end, PaaS provides them not just with the basic infrastructure, such as servers and storage, but also – depending on the offering – with the functionality of the operating system and middleware. PaaS exists ultimately to relieve the developer’s pain points – typically daunting infrastructure maintenance tasks that are outside of their desired workflow.
PaaS providers create a managed environment that brings together integrated middleware and development services. These platforms create an abstracted environment that supports the creation, deployment and management of a cloud environment. PaaS allows an organisation to leverage key middleware services without having to deal with the complexitieis of individual hardware and software elements. PaaS offerings vary greatly across the board, so it’s important to recognise the main differences and choose accordingly. Planning is integral to success.
Financial services firm Clarus Financial Technology more competitive and agile thanks to continuous delivery and PaaS
So, PaaS today is fast becoming the platform of choice for many financial services businesses looking to improve productivity, develop and deploy applications quickly and ensure regulatory compliance. Financial services company Clarus Financial Technology provides applications, software and services designed to empower financial firms to operate successfully since post-regulatory reform. The company is seeing real value in the use of continuous delivery and PaaS within the organisation, and has felt the use of CloudBees PaaS specifically has been instrumental in the growth of its business. Gary Kennedy COO at Clarus felt that developing on a PaaS has enabled his team to focus and concentrate efforts where they want to – on developing the Clarus software offerings. As a result Clarus has seen significant growth in the last two years. He said, “It was a no-brainer for us. At the outset we knew that taking a cloud-based approach to our application development was going to be critical to our success, and enable us to handle fast growth. PaaS offers us an agility that our competitors struggle to match. I’d imagine it’s given us around a 10-15% saving in overall costs vs an on-premise solution.”
Clarus has used the CloudBees platform since inception to provide source control management, continuous build management via Jenkins, hosted databases and web application deployment. Kennedy said, such agility is tremendously valuable to us and of course our customers, as is our ability to have anywhere, anytime access wherever we are in the world.”
The evidence is clear, but if you’re a financial services organisation, what should you consider in your move to PaaS?
- Understand your current computing environment: Before you can plan your future you have to understand current and previous situations. By understanding where you are and what’s currently working, you can assess future needs. Key questions include: what type of computing environment is being used? How well does it support existing business needs and how well will it support change? Does your current structure allow you to move quickly? Understanding all of these will allow you to plan sufficiently for the future.
- Be PaaS savvy: Whilst it’s tempting to jump straight in, it’s important to gain an indepth understanding of what your options are within a PaaS environment. Be sure you understand the different vendors’ offerings, how each platform works and what new skills will need to be learnt.
- Experiment: One of the benefits of the cloud model is that you can experiment with commercial offerings on the market without spending cash. Many of the PaaS vendors will let you try before you buy. With some experimentation you’ll get a good idea of what it means to use a PaaS environment.
- Know what your requirements are: create a set of requirements with some consideration for pop-up concerns, for example what development language is preferred? How much abstraction is needed? Do you want a platform that automates many of the routine tasks in both development and deployment? What middleware is in use and what services might you need? How much integration is required with other public or private environments?
- Evaluate with key stakeholders: A PaaS environment can have a dramatic impact in how an organisaiton develops software, so it’s important not to make individual decisions. With PaaS touching many parts of the business, a team that represents all the key constituents and stakeholders is essential (for example, development, quality assurance, and operations personnel).
- Practice makes perfect: Conduct a pilot project. Identify a project that’s well defined and can illustrate to the development and operations teams how well PaaS supports a specific business project. Trying several PaaS environments will be more enlightening, will provide some education and ultimately enable you to make a better decision.
- Plan a well-designed organisational structure: Technology is only as good as the organisation using it. Change is difficult and many developers and operational personnel may be resistant to trying a new approach. Educate co-workers on both cloud computing itself and the benefits of a PaaS environment. Many IT professionals are concerned that cloud environments may make their skills and knowledge obsolete, however PaaS actually can make IT more effective in supporting the business. PaaS frees IT from the day-to-day, mundane infrastructure maintenance activities and allows them to focus on more strategic, value-add activities.
- Continuous evaluation: Cloud computing as a commercial practice for companies is evolving, so you should continue to evaluate emerging standards and best practices. Embrace these approaches to remain competitive.
- Embrace the continuum of the develop/deploy cycle: Successful companies know that after they develop and deploy an application with a PaaS environment it doesn’t end there. Applications are increasingly dynamic. Cloud-based applications are continually being updated with the latest innovations.
- Define a strategy roadmap: plot a roadmap for what’s going to be put in practice over the next few years – a three- to five-year roadmap helps you to construct a meaningful and realistic plan.
Continous delivery, in combination with PaaS is transforming enterprises across all sectors, it offers cost savings, improves productivity and allows businesses to remain competitive whilst staying compliant.
About the Author:
CEO and Founder
Sacha was born in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and graduated in 1999 from EPFL. It was during Sacha’s studies in 1996 that he started his first consulting business – Cogito Informatique. In 2001, he joined Marc Fleury’s JBoss project as a core contributor and implemented JBoss’ original clustering features. In 2003, Sacha founded the European headquarters for JBoss and, as GM for Europe, led the strategy and partnerships that helped fuel the company’s growth in that region. While in this position, he led the recruitment of some of JBoss’ top talent and acquisition of key technology. In 2005, he was appointed CTO of JBoss, Inc. and as such, oversaw all of the JBoss engineering activities. In June 2006, JBoss, Inc. was acquired by Red Hat (NYSE:RHT). After the acquisition, Sacha remained JBoss CTO and played a crucial role in integrating and productizing JBoss software with Red Hat offerings. In 2007, Sacha became co-General Manager of Red Hat’s middleware division. He ultimately left Red Hat in April 2009. Following a period of research, Sacha became convinced that public cloud infrastructure would lead a fundamental IT paradigm shift and that middleware would play a key role in that shift. As a result CloudBees, Inc. was formed in April 2010.
The importance of app-based commerce to hospitality in the new normal
By Jeremy Nicholds CEO, Judopay
As society adapts to the rapidly changing “new normal” of working and socialising, many businesses are working tirelessly to ensure that they have all the necessary safety precautions in place to keep trading. One such sector is hospitality, but the way it typically operates now looks very different to what we were used to seeing prior to the pandemic.
Many pubs, restaurants and other hospitality establishments have now been open for a few months since lockdown, providing much relief and enjoyment to many consumers, as well as getting many employees back into work. However, a core component for businesses to maintain trading in these times is to ensure the crucial safety of staff and customers.
Payments are playing an important role in this and we’re seeing payment technology being implemented in new and unique ways to help make the hospitality sector as safe as possible. One such technology is app-based commerce, which allows businesses to interact with customers in ways that minimises physical contact whilst crucially still enabling engagement.
With table service now mandatory and Test and Trace measures continuing, we’re likely to see this technology being increasingly adopted in the months and years ahead. So, let’s take a look at what its use means for the hospitality industry and beyond and how it lines up with the government’s latest advice for businesses within the sector.
Understanding government guidance
Guidance issued from the UK government expands upon advice already offered by the Prime Minister to the hospitality sector, at the point of reopening back in July. It has been stated that all indoor hospitality is limited to table-service, interaction between staff and customers should be minimised as much as possible, masks are being enforced for indoor hospitality staff and the rule around groups of 6 continues.
At the same time, businesses now have a clear duty to support NHS Test and Trace by collecting names and contact details from customers so they can be reached if a customer/worker tests positive. This is a recent mandatory move having previously been guidance.
What’s more, it’s recognised that payments are a practical tool to help companies adhere to these guidelines. Throughout the pandemic it has emphasised that contactless payments are useful for reducing human interaction and touch points – such as PIN pads.
Early on, we saw the payment industry increase the authentication limit for contactless spending limit from £30 to £45 to help reduce cash purchases, cash machines and PIN pad usage. The Government are strongly encouraging the use of contactless payments in the hospitality sector, however, there’s a big part of the solution that they may have overlooked that can help hospitality businesses meet these guidelines with even greater ease – app-based commerce.
Why use apps?
Apps provide a whole host of benefits and are the perfect tool for not only minimising contact, but also ensuring customers are contactable at a later date, if needs be.
While contactless payments eliminate the need for customers to pay using cash, or touch PIN pads, apps can remove physical human interaction at the point of sale altogether. This is because they enable customers to pay ahead or at the table, meaning they don’t need to leave their seats or regularly interact with staff. And done well they can even be a boost for business, enabling more convenient transactions and higher levels of repeat purchase.
When it comes to ensuring that customers are contactable, apps and e-wallets have a real advantage over traditional card-based transactions and anonymous cash payments. They allow companies to retain details about who has attended an establishment at a given time, enabling them to know whether a customer was present while a person known to be carrying the virus was in the vicinity. The communication advantages of apps also allow establishments to manage their footfall and customer flow.
The role of app-based commerce in the new normal
Apps will become more and more important for all types of businesses, as consumers shift their behaviour towards digital. They represent a new ‘real estate’ for retail and other businesses to manage – to present their brand in the right way, to engage customers and drive transactions.
Recently, we’ve seen Apple support this move towards app-based commerce with the launch of App Clips, further bolstering its use as we emerge from lockdown and encouraging safer and hygienic ways to pay.
App Clips are a great way for consumers to quickly access and experience what an app has to offer. They are fast and lightweight so a user can open them quickly and start and finish an experience from an app in seconds. And when they’re done, the business can offer the opportunity to download the full app from the App Store.
We are also seeing a number of hospitality businesses warming towards the use of app-based commerce and doing a great job of implementing it. The technology has already become central to the safe trading operations of big names in the industry such as Caffè Nero and The Young’s Pub, which are great examples of how to make apps work for your business.
As the industry steadily navigates its way through a new normal of operating, we expect that app-based commerce will skyrocket. In fact, we’ve already seen a great number of businesses throughout different industries expressing interest in the payment method, suggesting that it will play a pivotal role in moving forward. It certainly is a great way for businesses to keep staff and customers safe.
Why the FemTech sector might be the sustainability saviour we have been waiting for
By Kristy Chong, CEO & Founder Modibodi ®
Taking single use plastics out of circulation is no easy feat, but the answer might lie closer than we think
FemTech: The Beginnings
The term FemTech was initially coined to describe the powerful offering from tech start-ups as they ventured into developing revolutionary products centred around women’s health needs. Whilst the beginnings were humble, we have seen a whole host of innovations enter the market which have changed the game for women and business leaders around the globe.
Fast forward to 2020, FemTech is an industry predicted to be worth $50 billion by 2025 and a powerhouse that is not just tackling women’s health issues but also helping to solve major environmental and sustainability crisis that we face today.
The fearless female entrepreneurs have founded and grown businesses that are continuing to help women across the globe deal with issues such as fertility, periods, sexual wellness, pregnancy and many others. And the best is yet to come.
It is a Man’s World
Traditionally, both technology and medical sectors have been very slow in tackling women’s issues and notoriously lagged in developing products and tools that address issues predominantly affecting women. Whilst figures show that women spend 29% more on healthcare than men, only 4% of overall R&D funding goes towards developing products for the women’s sector therefore the market is ripe for disruption.
As a woman, a mother and entrepreneur I knew that like many others I had to take matters into my own hands.
Following an incident with incontinence whilst training for a marathon in 2011 after the birth of my second child, I recognised the need to innovate apparel that offered a dignified, supportive and sustainable solution for women to manage leaks from periods, incontinence and everything in between. After two years of product development and over 1000 scientific tests, I founded Modibodi in 2013 with a long term view of breaking taboos, opening minds and offering a reusable, sustainable option for sanitary products that’s not just for women – but for the benefit of all bodies on this planet and the environment too. Now, we’ve expanded on that notion to support all people, including men who suffer incontinence, sweating and chafing, providing them with a reusable, sustainable option with our Modibodi Men range.
As you can imagine, this was far from simple not just due to tech and business sectors being notoriously dominated by men, with figures showing that 98% of VC funding goes towards male founded products but also because we were not just selling a new brand of lipstick or gym-wear, we had created a whole new product category based on talking about things that made people and retailers uncomfortable.
As a social advocate for women’s health issues and rights I knew that I needed to persevere because the amalgamation between technology and feminism is a major force of social change and one that can have wide scale impact on our world.
The Sustainability Story
The sustainability agenda has really taken off in the last couple of years, especially in our war against single use plastic. But it occurred to me very early on that we are not doing enough and there are still areas that need urgent review.
Very early on in the development stage of Modibodi I knew that sustainable sanitary products could be a game changer in eliminating single use plastics from circulation and whilst the world and respective governments were focusing on plastic straws, I felt the change needed to come from numerous angles and streams of consumerism.
The proof of concept was starring us right in the face, the average woman uses an average of 11,000 disposable feminine hygiene products in her lifetime and these convenient products come with an inconvenient environmental cost. They take 500 to 800 years to biodegrade, which means the first ever tampon and pad is still in landfill. Even more alarmingly, 8% of all waste that enters water treatment works comes from period waste, including non-flushable items such as pantyliners.
This is why I believe that the revolutionary innovations that are born out of the FemTech sector have capabilities to be one of the key drivers of the sustainability agenda. There is something remarkably special about a group of purpose driven businesses that can connect with consumers through a collective set of values to drive change and be a force for good.
As most purpose driven business leaders will tell you, the fight never stops as the world evolves and continues to change. The sheer growth in the FemTech sector and the capabilities developed to date have changed millions of lives around the globe.
As an industry and a movement, we’ve also managed to play our part in driving the sustainability agenda and I will argue that actually the wide scale change and unity needed to continue making strides in eradicating single use plastic from our circulation will come from within the powerhouse that is FemTech.
The sheer capacity for change can be easily demonstrated if we look at the granular data and its potential for growth. If just 100,000 young girls use Modibodi alone from the start of their menstrual cycle, this would prevent 1.1 billion disposable hygiene products from ending up in landfill or 1.5 million garbage bags of waste. As of May 2020, our global base of 500,000 customers alone have prevented an estimated 2.5 million garbage bags of disposable hygiene waste from ending up in landfill or flushed into the ocean.
With the FemTech industry growing at a racing speed, I have no doubt that we are at the tipping point of pioneering wave of inventions that will take the agenda further and have the capacity and means to lead the movement. It is up to the trade organisations and world leaders to recognise the potential that such businesses and brands carry in order help to facilitate its growth trajectory.
Limitless possibilities: Delivering disruption with IoT
By Nick Earle, CEO of Eseye
In the past decade, digital companies like Amazon and Netflix have used data to reinvent products and services in ways no-one imagined possible. Shopping and films were not new concepts, but these companies and many others built hugely successful businesses by disrupting existing industries through connected, personalised, data-driven services.
We are on the brink of a similarly disruptive revolution, as the Internet of Things (IoT) starts doing the same for ‘physical’ businesses – from tennis rackets to coffee machines and industrial machinery – allowing them to offer connected, data-driven, differentiated experiences. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘next Internet’ and IDC predicts that in total there will be 41.6 billion connected IoT devices or “things” by 2025.
Access to this incredibly detailed data on every aspect of how the physical world works will create endless disruptive innovations – from both new and existing companies. This presents limitless opportunities, but also severe threats to companies that wait too long.
A decade ago, many predicted this revolution, but it has taken longer than expected. Despite pockets of innovation, many have struggled to deliver successful IoT projects. We have yet to see the IoT equivalent of Netflix.
There are some obvious reasons for this. Many companies with a long heritage in the physical world find digitisation hard to navigate. Moving from selling units via a capex model to managing a continuously connected, data-driven relationship via an opex model is a big shift – involving new technologies, business processes, skills and management metrics. Concerns about how to do this can cause management paralysis where the outcome is often ‘do nothing and wait’. Arguably a worse approach than trying and failing.
It’s also a culture issue. We don’t like change, it’s difficult and we only do it when we have to. The problem is that when you are the market leader your existing financial metrics often disguise the change that your competitors are implementing in the market. A large installed base of customers will keep generating revenue for a long time and it’s often hard, if not impossible, to recognise the new disruptive business models that are winning the next generation of customers. But as the old saying goes, you overtake on the corners not the straights, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many digital initiatives not slowed them down. Your business model is being disrupted whether you can see it or not and it’s almost certainly accelerated during 2020.
Another reason is much more basic. Due to the fragmented nature of the Mobile Network industry, where multiple players compete with each other with their proprietary SIMs, the holy grail of ubiquitous global cellular connectivity for each and every device via a single embedded eSIM has not been possible. The reality is no network SIM, even from the largest Tier 1 operators, can deliver more than 90% global coverage, even with extensive roaming arrangements. You don’t want a connected lawn mower which is invisible in 10% of cases, or a connected health monitoring device that misses 10% of emergencies. And to fill that connectivity gap you don’t want to have to use a different operator’s SIM – that just adds complexity, cost and kills the business case. If this connectivity barrier can be removed, then the savings in manufacturing and supply chain costs that can be delivered from moving to single global product SKUs will more than justify the investment in IoT pilots and new product rollouts. This is the problem that Eseye solves and we are currently doing it for more than 2,000 customers worldwide.
I’ve spoken exclusively to IoT industry leaders from Microsoft Azure, EY, Thales, Relayr, and The Chasm Group, to understand the opportunities that IoT offers for companies to create disruptive products and services, and the lessons they’ve learnt delivering digital transformation and disruption through connected devices.
Dr Miroslaw Ryba, Global IoT Leader at EY, explained that: “Disruptive IoT is about taking the sum of thousands of IoT sensors – say in a factory – and combining data to deliver transformational insights. And that the next, exciting phase, will be a new data economy.
“There is [already] an agreement that the user gives up their data in return for a service. Imagine what will happen once that data expands to real-world activities. It will allow the development of whole new classes of products and services aligned to customer needs.”
Tony Shakib, Global IoT Business Acceleration Leader, at Microsoft Azure believes that we’re at an inflection point where some companies are taking investment in IoT infrastructure seriously, allowing them to capture meaningful data, and integrate it into their workflow management systems. Here they can start delivering, and acting on, real-time insights.
He said: “Gradually we’re crossing from the experimental phase to mass adoption” he explains. “Once we get there, we’ll see real change. Once you start connecting devices and using data intelligently, the amount of innovation you can do becomes exponential.”
When moving from incremental advances to big disruptive IoT-driven transformation, Shakib believes the key is cultural change.
He explained: “Tech is not the bottleneck – devices, security, connectivity, and cloud platforms are all there if you know where to look. The problem is people struggling to understand the art of the possible.”
VP of IoT at Thales, Andreas Haegele, unpacks the points of consideration including, security, connectivity and process when trying to maximise the benefits of IoT.
“Most business models of the past – and many today – are ‘sell and forget’. IoT connects your products, which changes what you offer. It creates an ongoing connection between you and the customer allowing you to deliver ongoing services and collect data which provides valuable insights.
“However, there are other factors to consider, namely around process and security. Eseye, for example, offers out-of-the-box connectivity which you can embed in an IoT device and it just works, there is no need for setting up new networks, security protocols, certification with mobile network operators (MNOs), etc. IoT needs security to be embedded from the start as security is very hard to retrofit. There must be a unique identity for every device so they can be managed during their lifetime. And you need to make sure software updates can only be accepted by trusted sources.
“Also, built-in connectivity is central to IoT. Each device needs to consider the right type for them, but I expect most will use cellular eventually, since it removes many roadblocks to uptake. If devices over-complicated connectivity, that’s a major turn off for customers who expect seamless, convenient experiences.”
While Peter Van der Fluit, Principal at Chasm Group, said: “Any company that currently makes or operates a physical product needs to be thinking about IoT. If you don’t connect your product to create a differentiated offer, someone else will.
“To be successful in embracing IoT, or any disruptive technology, companies should divide their business into four ‘Zones’ – an approach established by Geoffrey Moore in his book Zone to Win. Two of these Zones focus on innovation, and two on the core business. Each needs a different leadership style, culture, financing and governance.”
With so much disruption and change thrust upon companies, business models are inevitably going to evolve. Josef Brunner, CEO at Relayr, explained to me how IoT is disrupting business models, forever.
Josef said: “IoT is creating whole new ways of thinking for those who manufacture products, enabling them to change how they sell in a way that works better for them and their customers. This is often talked about as moving from selling products to selling services. We’d go further and say that at its best, IoT is about selling outcomes. Rather than charging an hourly or monthly subscription, the manufacturer can sell the value that is delivered.”
But there are pitfalls to be avoided when switching to a model that sells outcomes. Josef explains: “The main mistake companies make is to think of IoT as a technology project, looking at what tech is available and working out where to deploy it. Instead, they should start with the business problem.
Start by looking at what assets you have, and how they could be used to deliver a better experience for customers. Put the customer need at the centre of that offer. Then look at how tech can enable it.”
The inventors of the internet could never have predicted Uber and Netflix. Likewise, we can only guess at what IoT entrepreneurs will come up with once they have access to data from trillions of devices capturing rich data on every aspect of our lives and businesses. But it’s likely to be an even bigger wave of innovation than the first version of the internet unleashed. There really are no limits.
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