Posted by: mcgratha | January 17, 2011

ECM in the Cloud

Continuing the theme of the Future of ECM … final trend #13 …

This final blog post in my outlook on the future of ECM trends over the coming 5 years focuses on the deployment of ECM into the cloud.

The implementation of ECM solutions, probably more so with Document Management, is increasingly focused on configuration of the product rather than customisation. This is largely fuelled by ECM vendors continuing to provide a much wider and higher quality suite of functionality out-of-the-box with their products.

As such, I expect that many organisations will start to question why they are procuring ECM software up front, as a capital expense, when they are unlikely to customise it very much – see my blog post ECM as a commodity. Subscription based licensing for ECM software (led by example by open source vendors) will become increasingly common over the next few years. This will lead to a greater demand for ECM Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and Cloud based solutions.

Cloud computing is a style of computing where massively scalable IT related capabilities are provided as a utility service across the Internet to multiple customers, where capacity can be increased and decreased on demand in minutes (rapid elasticity) and the service is charged for using a ‘pay as you use’ model.

SaaS does not necessarily equate to cloud computing. It is more a subset of Cloud computing (as illustrated in the diagram below) but which can operate outside of Cloud computing as well. For example, an organisation might provide a business application as a distinct SaaS offering, but without the ability to rapidly scale capacity up and down on demand as required in Cloud computing.

Cloud Model

I expect that as more of the core ECM functionality is commoditised and the new CMIS standard starts to open up and simplify access to content held across multiple ECM repositories, ECM Platform as a Service (PaaS) implementations will become commonplace. This in turn will drive the availability of an increasingly number of SaaS solutions (running on top of PaaS) that offer a specific configuration of ECM deployed to customer needs, in addition to providing key business functionality areas such as Archiving and business applications such as Case Management.

As discussed in my blog post The spawning of a new construction boom, ECM solutions will increasingly be assembled from an ECM App library (utilising the CMIS standard) built on top of a core ECM engine and accessed as a ‘black box’. This approach lends itself to be naturally deployed into the cloud, as illustrated below.

ECM in the cloud

The economics of the Cloud will drive this too. The cost of running systems in the Cloud is significantly less than on-premises computing — typically up to 25% the cost of traditional on-premises computing. Gartner predict that by 2012, 20% of businesses will not directly own IT assets and will be using the cloud instead. In such scenarios, organisations would not need to care about what ECM product they are actually using, only the functionality that the Cloud SaaS provides. This allows them to focus on core business activities that drive value.

It is likely that many organisations will require the solution to run within a private cloud. This is due to security implications and that ECM and SasS applications will need to integrate into other business systems within the organisation. In some cases, the private cloud will also need to store information in specific country locations (and not ‘anywhere out there in the Cloud’) due to legal restrictions on where information can be stored.

Not every organisation will choose to use an external supplier to provision their private cloud. However, I do expect that most of them will increasingly take on the cloud principles within their own internal IT department to organise and manage their ECM services.

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