Delivering the Transition to the Cloud – Lessons for CSPs

Mar 31, 2014 by Prayson Pate

Overture CTO, Prayson Pate

I recently had a chat with Russell Fleischer, CEO of HighJump Software, which is a provider of supply chain management software.  HighJump started with traditional onsite approach to software solutions, but has since moved to the cloud.  HighJump’s Chuck Fuerst describes some of the “Benefits Of Cloud In Logistics” in the December 2013 issues of CIO Review, including flexibility, pay-as-you-go, TCO, incremental features and security.  I asked Russell Fleischer about how HighJump uses the cloud to deliver these benefits.  This blog will describe his thoughts, and will also suggest that the lessons learned by HighJump also apply to Communications Service Providers (CSPs).

 

Flexibility is an Advantage

As the HighJump web site describes,

HighJump supply chain management software manages the flow of inventory and information from supplier through manufacturing, distribution and EDI solutions all the way to direct store delivery. HighJump solutions are designed to meet market and customer requirements in industries such as 3PL/logistics services provider, aerospace and automotive, food and beverage, consumer packaged goods (CPG), healthcare, high-tech, manufacturing, retail and wholesale/industrial distribution.

Fleischer related that “HighJump has been offering a cloud solution for the past four years, but has been actively seeking out suitable situations for the last two and half years.  About 85% of the deployments are customer located, and we don’t expect to see a sea change in the next 12-18 months.”  He noted that HighJump has an advantage because they have the ability to offer the same solution hosted in the cloud that they offer on site.  This allows the customer to choose the appropriate deployment model based on the totality of considerations: CapEx versus OpEx, control versus outsourcing, security, and overall IT strategy.  HighJump doesn’t push them one way or the other, instead focusing on meeting the customer’s needs.  As CSPs move to offer virtualized and cloud-based solutions, it will be important to continue to offer their customers an option to stay with premise-based appliance solutions.

First Step in an Evolution

Today HighJump uses datacenter partners to provide rack space and power.  Each HighJump customer has a dedicated set of hardware that is owned and managed by HighJump, ensuring the same experience as a solution hosted on the customer site.  This model also ensures maximal flexibility and security because of the dedicated servers.

I asked Fleischer whether they are considering offering their solution in the form of Software as a Service (SaaS) using shared servers.  “It is a possibility in the future.  The market is maturing, and the price points are coming down.  HighJump is always looking for ways to make our solutions more affordable, so the changing economics may allow us to pass on savings.  These lower costs, combined with a SaaS model, may allow HighJump to address smaller businesses.” 

I have heard similar strategies from some CSPs, who see cloud and virtualization as a way to expand their offerings to the lower end of the market (such as SMBs and SoHo applications).

Connectivity is Key

One of the most interesting aspects of cloud services is the network access.  Regarding public cloud access, the article in CIO Review asks:

What does your network infrastructure look like? Because the service is delivered over the internet, you will need a strong network. Make sure your provider can offer redundant network paths. In the event that one connection fails, you can switch to the other and avoid system downtime. Or, you may want to use a direct connection to communicate with the cloud, which is more reliable than a VPN, although the cost may be higher. In short, consider the trade-offs and benefits of each infrastructure in conjunction with a cloud-based system.

Fleischer noted that the key performance indicators for proper WAN operation are latency and uptime.  I asked if HighJump and their customers are able to get the needed SLAs and reporting, and said yes.  To date HighJump has not offered a bundled solution including WAN connectivity.  “Most of our customers are Tier 1 customers who have their own IT teams and manage their own networks.  We do partner with our customers to trace and resolve network issues.”  Fleischer added that as HighJump considers moving down market, a bundled SaaS / WAN solution may make sense, especially for those customers who don’t have large IT shops.  To me, this shows that working with application software providers like HighJump is an emerging opportunity for CSPs.  Together they can offer the hosting and communications services to create a complete solution for the end user.

Advantages for Customers and the Supplier

Hosting solutions in the cloud has clear benefits for HighJump’s customers, including simplicity of operation and maintenance.  HighJump offers a variety of software solutions, such as warehouse management and EDI support.  Hosting in the cloud enables HighJump to provide better coordination of these disparate services during upgrades of the HighJump software, or of that of a partner service (e.g. for EDI).  Cloud hosting also simplifies the actual maintenance and support of the software for HighJump.  Fleischer added that with cloud hosting “we can engage more crisply with customer because of our expertise and focus, allowing better responsiveness to the customer.”

Has HighJump seen any issues with the cloud model?  Fleischer said no.  It’s been an advantage for them, where “HighJump is able to fit the style and priority of their customers.  As our customers and the market evolve, we want to ensure that we are able to continue to fit their models.”

HighJump has a very capable product with a flexible deployment model.  Fleischer is excited about the opportunities for both cloud and customer deployment models, and for the possibilities expansion of cloud services moving forward.  I see similar opportunities for CSPs as they try to find new ways to monetize their cloud and connect resources.

About the Author

Prayson Pate is Chief Technology Officer and SVP of R&D at Overture, where he is also a co-founder. Prayson is a technology leader and evangelist with a proven track record leading teams and delivering products. Since 1983 he has been building Carrier Ethernet and telecom products for service providers and network operators around the world - both as an individual developer and as a leader of development teams. Prayson spends much of his time driving adoption of Overture's new Ensemble Open Service Architecture, which includes aspects of automation, virtualization, SDN and NFV. He has a BSEE from Duke, an MSECE from NC State and is the holder of nine US patents.

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