torsdag den 29. april 2010

How Will GIS Companies Weather the Gathering Cloud Computing Storm?

Der er lang vej endnu ...

Cloudy, cloudy, foggy ...

The debate about cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) is well and truly over. SaaS has just too many advantages to offer customers and end-users for anyone to credibly argue against it. The pay-as-you-go service model provides ease-of-use, scalability, reduced maintenance and support effort, and lower total cost of ownership, which means that more and more customers expect SaaS or cloud options when they evaluate new business software. But what does this mean in the world of GIS where change and technical advances have tended to be a bit slower than in many other business software categories? We know the potential that GIS and online mapping and analysis can offer to solve complex business problems, but can GIS software and the use of spatial data evolve to meet the needs of a world that consumes its software as a service in the cloud or do we need to rip it all up and start again?


So where stands GIS and the mapping software companies as regards the cloud and SaaS? Certainly a lot of organizations are paying lip service to the concept and a few vendors have introduced SaaS offerings of one sort or another. But for existing GIS software vendors to successfully provide GIS as a service they first need to make the obvious significant philosophical leap: They need to stop thinking like software companies and start thinking and acting like service providers. There is little evidence in the announcements so far that the larger GIS software incumbents have made the mind-shift. This mirrors the pattern in other software categories. Just ask Marc Benioff, founder of probably the best-known and most successful cloud computing company, He claims his big rivals in the customer relationship management space, Oracle and SAP, don't have what it takes to make a go of it in the new cloudier climate. He could be wrong, but history would support his point of view. Innovation and major paradigm shifts - such as what is required to move from providing traditional on-premise solutions to offering software purely as a service - are not easy for large incumbent technology vendors.

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