In the early days of computing, businesses looked to align their processes to match with what the software offered. With time, custom software, tailored to suit the organization’s specific needs grew popular. The ability of such custom software to speed up the business process, while improving efficiency accounted for its huge popularity.
Of late though, the nature of enterprise software is in a state of churn, with new models threatening the dominance of the custom software model. A common thread underlying the new options, is the departure from software lock-in, much the same way the world of computing departed from hardware lock-in during the mainframe era, and made it possible to access the software from multiple devices of varying configurations.
The most popular model that threatens the established order of custom software, is Software as a Service (SaaS). The cloud brings the generic software of the old back to the forefront, albeit in a new avatar. SaaS offerings are invariably modular in nature, with each module offering a specific functionality, and enterprises are offered the flexibility of opting for the modules they require. The extent of customization is usually limited to configuration settings. Even though the organization may have to go in for a process realignment to gel in with the SaaS offerings, the benefits of scalability, pay-as-you-use, as well as the ability to draw only the required components without investing in servers or maintenance make this option very popular.
Higher Level OS’
Moreover, there is a far greater churn happening below the application layer too. VMware, for instance, strives to replace conventional operating systems with higher-level services spanning multiple servers, making it easier to access applications and services in different servers and hard drives. This would especially allow enterprises to integrate mobile computing – now a distinct stream with incompatible OS and apps – to mainstream computing.
Hardware + Software
Hitherto, enterprise software was customized at the application level. Oracle’s purchase of Sun is the catalyst for the extension of this model to a deeper level, where hardware and software are packaged together in a lower-priced bundle optimized for speed, power and cost. This would give rise to lean machines, optimized for the specific enterprise tasks and nothing else.
At another pane, enterprises are realizing the value of simplicity and flexibility, and strive to incorporate the same in their computing model. The overriding priority is now on user experience rather than technological convenience or concerns of profitability. This, incidentally, also means greater integration of a wide variety of tools, including social media plug-ins at the software level.