How Will Data Centers Change to Fit SaaS Needs?

The traditional data center should be ready to adapt to an increasingly on-demand world, said a panel of enterprise IT providers.

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- The traditional data center will have to evolve as the world adopts more of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, said panelists here at the AlwaysOn OnDemand conference, hosted by Hewlett-Packard at its headquarters.

The issue posed to the four panelists by David Thomas, executive director of TechAmerica Silicon Valley and one of the first SaaS founders when he created Intacct in 1999, was to define what the data center is today and what IT will be advocating in the future..

"It comes down to where does the industry find the best economic benefit. We're not looking at the ultimate victory in adopting either an Amazon [outsourced] model or traditional model, but where the balance lies," said James Urquhart, market strategist and technology evangelist for cloud computing at Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO).

Not only will there be a future balance of internal IT and outsourcing, there will also be a balance of vendors. "I don't believe you see any evidence that everyone will pick a company and go 100 percent with them," said Urquhart.

Doug Merritt, executive vice president of on-demand solutions at SAP, agreed. "The segregation of layers in computing has always existed and there are even more layers now with an increase in requirements," he said.

A single stack player that attempts to provide everything never does well, Merritt noted, and you have best of breed players who emerge. "There will be a need for a super dynamic stack for the next decade because the computing need is so strong. We need a shot in the arm after a decade of muddling around," he said.

And those players, notoriously bad at playing nice with each other, had better learn to interoperate, the panel said, because future generations are growing up with easy interoperation of things like smartphones and videogame consoles and other consumer devices.

They won't take kindly to needing six months to make Oracle databases work with IBM middleware, said Urquhart. "The next generation will not be tolerant of interfaces that don't auto-share data and get things done," he said.

Ron Wastal, vice president of sales and business development for Cast Iron Systems, which specializes in cloud integration, agreed. "The attention span of young folks is integration should just be, not take days. Here's the challenge. There are all kinds of flavors out there, there are all kinds of APIs. We have to make them all work together."

Three application models

Wastal described three application models: canned, configured and custom. SaaS demands custom apps.

"You need some flexibility in your integration process to deal with change. What we see with SaaS is change happens a lot more often than it used to. People change objects daily in Salesforce. The ability to do that will be tougher, but vendors like us will have to come together to help snap those components together," he said.

What could make things interesting is when the big name players decide to move beyond just infrastructures.

"As soon as you see someone acquire Salesforce or SuccessFactors or NetSuite, it changes. IBM and Microsoft and Google are all building cloud environments. How soon before they start looking for apps to run on them?" asked Wastal.

Andy Patrizio is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: Amazon, SaaS, Salesforce, data center, applications

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