Monday, March 7, 2011

Advantages of Cloud Computing– Part VIII – Disruptive Technologies

In order to explore how Cloud Computing will reduce costs in the convenience store industry, let’s fast-forward to the year 2020. That’s only nine years away, but based upon current events and lessons learned from the past, I believe I can come up with a fairly accurate overall prediction.

Think of a shopping mall that includes shops to buy almost everything you can imagine. If it’s a big one like the Galleria in Dallas, it’s hard to imagine leaving there empty handed. Huge stores like Saks Fifth Avenue carry almost everything you can imagine, but in a mall of this size it is possible that Gucci may have a selection of purses that appeal to the more discriminating shopper. On the other hand, The Gap may have a purse that suits her fine at a lower price.

The same is true of almost any product you can imagine. Stores gather together in malls to take advantage of the customers the ‘anchor stores’ draw, but are filled with other options should the anchor store be lacking in one department or another.

The Cloud will be a virtual network of computing software and services much like shopping malls, but unlike shopping malls, it is infinitely expandable. And just like the lady that might buy her sweater from Saks and her purse at Gucci, companies who live on the cloud will also be afforded equally convenient choices.

There are dozens of software companies and services that are available to convenience stores in today’s market, but in the future, things will be a lot different. Let’s say you like Brand A’s financial package, but you think Brand B’s inventory control system is better. And then there’s Brand C’s payroll system and Brand D’s customer relationship package.

In today’s environment, what it boils down to is you are forced to choose one brand over another and it’s always a difficult decision. And after you’ve made that decision, it’s difficult to swap to something else, isn’t it? If the software company sells out to another company and things start going downhill, you go downhill with it.

What if you could have all of them and use the best parts of each one? What if you could switch from one provider to another without losing your data? In other words, suppose you could pick Brand C for their payroll functions and later discovered Brand E had one that suited you better, due to the fact they only charge for the amount of time you use it, and since you only use payroll twice each month, why pay for the other 28-29 days you aren’t using it?  What if you could just switch back and forth at will? Each software company would use a common database that was shared by all, so switching from one to another would be transparent to you. It has to be this way if we are to ever hope we will be able to integrate to third parties like our suppliers and customers.

Will we have to change the way we’re doing business? You bet we will. That should give you a tiny glimpse at some of the aspects that will make Cloud Computing practical. But that only sets the stage for opportunities that will precede that era. We need to know where we’re going in order to plan for the future. 


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