What does the future look like from an IT perspective?

Within the next few years we will likely see more and more software and services move to the cloud – that is of course already happening – but the pace will pick up. A major change will be the desktop Operating System (OS) becoming more web-focused. By that I mean that you will run more of your Line of Business applications (LoB) via a web browser, replacing the current ‘fat client’ approach (a software application on your PC that connects to a server running a database application).

We already see this occurring in the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and finance software sector with #SAP and #Sage now offering the ability to run software like #SAPBusinessOne and #Sage 200cloud via a web browser. Microsoft have Office 365 offering such ubiquitous desktop applications as Word and Excel in web form. Google do the same with their G Suite offering.

Google’s Chrome OS is an extremely popular (more so in education circles than anywhere else at the moment) lightweight OS designed to run web-based applications. Its popularity has pushed Microsoft down the route of designing a lightweight OS of its own, codenamed Windows Santorini (but also being referred to as Windows Lite). This version of Windows will compete with Chrome OS and, I dare say, force the lightweight web-focussed OS into the mainstream consumer eye.

Both Chrome OS and Windows Lite will run on cheaper (or as most people would say – slower) hardware, whilst still providing a good user experience. And because you aren’t going to be installing a chunky, clunky bit of application client software your day-to-day working experience isn’t going to suffer. Web-based applications (modern, well-written ones, taking advantage of the latest technology such as HTML5) are responsive and excellent to work with. Chrome OS is also a very secure OS by nature – I’m hopeful that Microsoft will follow suit with Windows Lite.

The next big change is going to be with the server and back-end components of your LoB applications.

You won’t be running a server on-premise directly connected to your network. Instead, your LoB application will make use of Software as a Service (SaaS) from cloud providers such as Azure, Google and Amazon (other cloud providers are available of course!).

It might help to explain at this point that there are effectively two ways to ‘do cloud’.

The first approach is similar to what you might do within your network – instead of running a physical server (or multiple servers – say one as a Domain Controller (DC) and another as the LoB application server), more recently the drive has been to supply a single physical server running multiple virtual servers (your DC and LoB servers for instance). It’s these virtual servers that can be deployed through the cloud providers – in effect they are providing you with a ‘physical’ server on which you can run your virtual servers. However, this isn’t necessarily the most cost-effective way to do things with a public cloud provider like the big three previously mentioned. This is because you generally pay for processing time consumed. If you have, say, two virtual servers sat in the cloud, always on, always doing something (even overnight when you’ve all gone home – Windows Updates, disk defrags, etc) you will be paying for those two servers to run for 8760 hours a year (24 x 365). Yet those servers will only be actively used for business purposes for around 1924 hours a year (37 x 52)!! You can see that’s not going to be cost effective.

So, the second approach – SaaS. This is where you buy a service and use it for exactly the amount of time you need it. This does require the LoB application to support working in this way and more and more are like this. Probably the easiest example to understand is around using a database. Your LoB application will most likely need to read and write to a database – in a lot of cases this is Microsoft SQL Server, a big, hefty bit of server software, that needs a big hefty server to run on. If your big hefty server is a virtual server in the cloud and you are paying for the processing time of that server it could work out expensive. So, why not use a SaaS SQL instance instead? Your LoB application connects to that SQL instance in the cloud when it needs to and you only pay for that use period. You can see that there should be a cost saving in only making use of a service when you need it. Think of it a bit like Stop-start technology on a car – the engine only runs when you need it to drive the car – other than that, it’s not running and burning fuel (and therefore money – don’t get me started on the environmental issues either!).

SaaS isn’t just for databases, it’s a way of providing all sorts of computing resource, including backups, storage, security, and more.

You will see more of this technology (or not – it’ll all be in the cloud so you’ll just see a screen, keyboard and mouse!). And in my humble opinion this is a good thing for the end user, with all the complexity is taken away from the user, life will be much simpler. Me, I like simple.

For more information on any of the software and services discussed in this blog, contact Quintech.

You can find me, Andy Rimell, on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/andy-rimell-93b4143a