I’m an unabashed Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) believer. I spent the first 10 years of my career defining and building traditional enterprise software and the past 11+ years building SaaS solutions (the last 7 with WebEx (now Cisco)) and from where I sit the benefits of SaaS are undeniable. The reasons are pretty simple. We can build SaaS software faster, deploy it more quickly and operate it more reliably – all at lower cost than traditional enterprise software. So the logical conclusion is that “on-prem” is dead and everything is destined for the cloud – right? Actually no, premise-based infrastructure still has a major role to play in future deployments. Why? Equally simple reasons: physics, user experience and lawyers. Let me explain…
For all the benefits of SaaS we haven’t figured out how to speed up light. It will always be faster (and cheaper) to move data (whether it be a real time HD video stream, or a large Powerpoint file) across campus via the LAN than to ship it to the cloud and back. Science fiction not withstanding, it will also probably be at least a few more years before I can carry a telepresence room in my pocket. So a fully immersive experience is going to continue to require premise-based equipment and software. For all the security advantages of a professionally managed SaaS-environment, the maze of corporate policies and often conflicting privacy and regulatory regimes world-wide ensure that some traffic and data will need to be kept on the corporate network. Often for no other reason than it is easier to maintain this status quo than to gain approval for a change from the legal department.
So the obvious answer then is choice…the ability to deploy in either the cloud or the premise depending on your requirements. From where I sit, the obvious answer is obviously wrong. The cloud vs. premise choice means you have to choose. Do you want the innovation and time-to-value advantages of SaaS or the performance and compliance advantages of on-premise? That is not a choice I want to make.
The answer is not cloud or premise, but instead both. With the right combination of cloud and premise based assets we can indeed get the best of both worlds. The key is not choosing between the cloud and the premise but being strategic about where we choose to deploy various hardware and software components of a total solution. For example, there are real advantages to deploying the application layer in the cloud to take advantage of web-speed innovation and instant global deployments. Similarly, audio and video MCUs and distributed content cache’s have huge benefits when deployed on-premise close to the people using them. In a well designed layered architecture, cloud deployed applications can take full advantage of these premise-base assets.
This is exactly the approach we are taking at Cisco across many aspects of our collaboration portfolio. For example, we have deployed a version of our Cisco WebEx “meeting switch” onto a blade in the ASR 1000 router to provide on-premise switching of local traffic for our SaaS-based Cisco WebEx meeting application. Similarly we have integrated the on-premise Cisco MeetingPlace audio and video conferencing bridges with our cloud delivered Cisco WebEx applications interface. These are just the first examples of the kinds of powerful, hybrid deployment architectures we planning to deliver in the coming months and years.
My bottom line advice: Don’t be forced into choosing between a cloud and premise deployment. Instead, choose both and be thoughtful about which components you deploy where.
by David Knight, senior director of product strategy, Cisco’s Collaboration Software Group