SMAC is another new word in the IT world that, according to many IT analyst, should change the businesses. But is this really the case? SMAC contains four new technologies that can be used by businesses. However as Chris Curran states in his blog on June 27th 2012 we cannot be good in all of the technologies, and even most of the businesses need other emerging technologies such as visualization, sensors or transparent and flexible screens (Curran, 2012). And as Curran continues focusing for example on SMAC, can lead to miss fundamental capabilities as agile app building or field tech support. In order to define whether or not SMAC is a hype or already reality I will discuss the terms cloud and SMAC. Furthermore we will investigate about the trends, benefits and threats that the cloud will bring for businesses. Last but not least a real-life example will be described. In this real-life example a retailer is placed central within his omni-channel concept. These kinds of scenario’s sound a far from my own bed show, but most of the functionalities already exists.
What are cloud computing and SMAC?
Cloud computing is defined as applications and services which are offered to the individual or to businesses over the internet. Within this definition some variations can be made as well. As some businesses may want to host their servers in the cloud and some businesses only wants to use an CRM systems from the cloud, several levels of services from the cloud can be defined. Typically there are three types of cloud services that are commonly known:
· Infrastructure as a service, where a series of servers is hired and deployed for whatever purpose necessary (CapGemini, 2009).
· Platform as a service where customers are able to create new software using tools and libraries that are delivered by the provider. In this service level the customer is responsible for software and deployment settings (CapGemini, 2009).
· Software as a service where the service provider, provides a software solution that can be used by a large number of customers. They all share the same platform, but the software which is used can be modified to each individual customer’s needs (CapGemini, 2009).
A distinction between a private cloud and a public cloud should also be made. As more and more tools are available through webpages businesses are able to create the own private cloud. Using these applications customers, partners and employees are able to login the platform which is created by the company and thus making. When combining applications that are installed in the data center of the business and another applications used from a could provider, we speak about a so called hybrid cloud solution (CapGemini, 2009). Examples of Cloud services which can be found for individuals are Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Google docs etc. For businesses examples can be found as well, for example Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for business.
SMAC stands for Social, Media, Analytics and Cloud computing. Actually SMAC is using the tools that becomes available when using cloud computing. Where companies have to think how the cloud can be useful to them, SMAC makes companies think about how all applications needs to be integrated and create a useful work environment for mobile employees (VentureBeat.com, 2012).
However SMAC tends to be narrowed down by Google and other companies, in which they say it is used by employees to find each other and to work together within a single environment with all kinds of tools (Cloud Computing Journal, 2013). However when looking at a description given by PWC for example, SMAC can also be described as adding new possibilities to extend existing services in order to create new services for customers. These services can be made available through the company that is already delivering the service, but can also be delivered by third parties (PWC.com, 2013). Looking further at SMAC we can see four different kinds of technologies that continues to evolve and thus creating more and more possibilities when combining these technologies.
An interesting example of new possibilities that is created by combining technologies is for example the acquiring of Goodreads by Amazon (The New York Times, 2013). By combining their unique selling point’s customers of Amazon get more social media possibilities at their disposal. On the other side using the analytics system of Goodreads, which is mainly based on peer-based analytics, combined with the system that is already been created by Amazon gets more interesting reviews and better recommendations for the users of both platforms. With regards to the mobile part of SMAC, GoodReads should be able to use the mobile platform that is created by Amazon with its Kindle. As GoodReads should be able to make additions to this platform, the users should benefit from these additions (Goodreads, 2013).
Trends, benefits and threats of Cloud Computing and SMAC
Several trends can be found around Cloud computing. The first, and in my opinion most important trend is the hybrid cloud. As not all applications will be hosted within the cloud, and data may not alwys be saved in the cloud, some of the data needs to be stored in-house. However most of the companies still want to integrate the data from their internal network with data that is stored in the cloud. Gartner recommends that enterprises focuses on application and data integration between the various applications (Gartner.com, 2012).
Besides this hybrid cloud, another trend can be seen as well. More and more developers of mobile devices uses the cloud as platform where the data is stored. Using this kind of method for storing the data enables the mobile devices manufacturers to create thinner and lighter devices than ever before. This is also the enabler for the SMAC term were already two of the four terms exists of mobile and cloud (Ahammed, 2013).
A third trend in cloud computing is the growth and the vendor choice. As the cloud package gains more and more momentum, the cloud is famous for its adaptability and scalability. As more and more businesses sees the cloud also as a archiving solution (were the cloud service provider makes sure that backups are available in case of emergency) data can be stored in the cloud (Ahammed, 2013). In fact there are some more trends in cloud, as games will go more and more to the cloud, the usage of data collected by mobile apps can be used for analytics (think for example of the Nike+ data that is stored within the cloud).
Using cloud computing brings various benefits to the businesses which uses them. However these benefits comes with certain risks as well. When moving to the cloud this brings some flexibility to the way in which the employees of the organization works. The data is not only available through the wires and Wi-Fi connection within your office building. However using cloud applications or services increase your dependency on you internet connection. When this connection is low of bandwidth the employees are not able to work fast enough, or cannot work at all (Shagin, 2012).
The second benefit is the cost reduction and the increase which the cloud bring to an enterprise. As most of the providers offers their usage of the solutions on a pay per use model, it is very easy to add or to remove users from the platform that is being used. This is in contrast with the on premise installation of services, which in most cases are ready to support a huge amounts of users. However this cost reduction is adding risks as well. Most of the cloud solutions are not prepared for usage in a hybrid environment. This will add large amounts of complexity and planning before the new solutions can be enrolled within an organization. In some cases the benefits will be lost due to the planning and the custom made connections that have to be made (Shagin, 2012).
A third benefit that is heard a lot is reliability. Due to the economies of scale that cloud providers tends to realize, providers invest more in the reliability of the systems they maintain. Another important aspect is that they hire highly experienced staff to work with these kind of environments, because of the simple fact that if servers malfunction, lots of customers notices the problems. Therefore cloud service providers try to maintain their infrastructure in the best possible condition. Cause when failures occur, penalty clauses apply in most cases (Shagin, 2012).
The last most common identified risk and benefit in one is identity and access management. Systems which are provided through an internally available datacenter already contains some security risks, services offered by a cloud service provider might be even riskier. As service providers are more commonly known, they are more a target for denial of service attacks, than individual businesses. However due to the nature of the providers the solutions which they can provide, in order to decline certain attacks are far more greater than smaller companies, that doesn’t have the knowledge nor have the money to implement such systems (Shagin, 2012).
Not only certain types of security is important to deal with. Regulations which can be used by governments, in order to get data is an important fact as well. Authorities always have access to certain types of data. Moving to the cloud doesn’t change these kind of regulations. However when looking at regulations from the United States (for example the patriot act and the fourth amendment) it is possible to request data, with none or limited legal protection. This issue specially applies to foreign citizens and organizations, as the legal protection is especially aimed at American citizens. Using the patriot act, authorities are able not only to request relevant data, but they can request all data, which might be data that is not relevant to the investigation (van Hoboken, Arnbak, & van Eijk, September 2012). When having identified this risk, a lot of organizations outside of the U.S. are more and more looking for other cloud providers or creating a private cloud for their organization.
Real life case of Cloud computing and SMAC
An interesting example of SMAC in practice is the Omni-channel experience in retailing. Within Omni channel all channels that a retailing concept uses should be seamlessly integrated with each other. All data that is used should be the same for the store information, but also the information on the website, which is opened in a laptop/desktop, tablet or mobile phone (Coghlan, 2012)
For example a customer needs to be able to visit the physical store. As a product isn’t available in the physical store the customer should be able to purchase the same article using the website. This can be done using in-store computers, or using a mobile phone. Another possibility is to order the products at the cashier, which can link the customer details to the order. During the order several other products can be displayed to the cashier which are related to the products or exact replacements for the product in question. This analytics data is also available for the customer using the website of the shop the customer is in. Whenever the product is bought by the customer, the purchase can be shared through social media like Facebook and Twitter (McKenzie, 2012)
In the scenario above all parts of SMAC can be found. As retailers are now focusing on customers this scenario will be found in practice during the coming years.
SMAC is no longer a hype but already reality. This can be seen for example in the retailing industry where all four technologies (Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud) can be found. The abbreviation is being hyped as the four technologies are already in place and being used more and more in the combination of the four technologies.
For the cloud and SMAC several trends can be defined. The first and most important trend is the hybrid cloud. Due to some potential threats for the cloud technologies, where the most obvious is the security risk and the potential threat of the patriot act and the fourth amendment hat is being used by the American authorities. The second trend is the data storage of mobile applications within the cloud. As more and more possibilities arise to store the data. Storing the data in the cloud enables the users by performing analytics on the data. A third trend and benefit from the cloud is the mobility that will be given to their users. They are no longer attached to an office where a connection with the business network is necessary. Last but not least the reliability of the and the scalability of the cloud is an obvious example of benefits that the cloud can bring.
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