The first step to upgrade your legacy ERP is to move it to the cloud. The cloud is not only another hosting solution, but completely new deployment and development method that opens the doors to an entirely new ecosystem of tools and connectivity.
Platforms like Auto.Sky can deliver true cloud benefits to client/server applications through functionality in charge of automatically scaling your ERP infrastructure up and down. This automation layer handles hardware incidents, constantly monitors CPU and memory as well as protects the environment from external attacks.
Those ISVs already deploying their legacy ERPs in the cloud can also further optimize their existing offering. The original development assumes several constraints regarding the hardware required to be purchased separately and maintained by the customer on their premises. Once we remove this constraint of static on-premise hardware with the new world of virtually unlimited cloud resources, a new paradigm of performance, availability, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and security is revealed.
Cloud ERP as a new product
The ISV should consider the evolution of the original ERP as another product release that will only run in the cloud, which needs to be developed and maintained accordingly. The original system core, however, is a valuable asset that is preserved. The ISV can start with simple, yet impactful improvements based on cloud resources such as storage, database services and security features. Combined, these resources bring another level of performance, security and cost reduction to the solution.
For storage capabilities the cloud typically utilize SSDs. Compared to on-premise hard disks, they provide a more cost efficient, higher performing alternative. These are the traditional block storage systems most developers tend to see as local storage. The cloud, however, also offers a variety of options to store content. Automatic file storage services can be easily plugged into an ERP system enabling file sharing at scale without any management burden. Object storage is also is a popular repository of highly requested content. Any software can read and write files, images and videos through a rich authorization, authentication and accounting policy. Multiple versions of the objects can be maintained on highly durable systems that replicates copies among multiple datacenters. These are all available as an affordable service without any need to configure a single piece of hardware.
Another impactful improvement the cloud provides is the ease of access to database services. Instead of purchasing and maintaining the database server and licensing, the customer can use the database as service, which includes the hardware infrastructure and database license in most cases. Well-tuned servers provide simple upgrade paths to move between different flavors of virtual machines allowing you to choose the best combination of CPU, memory and disks in a highly resilient environment with multiple options of redundancy provided.
The database solution is usually a significant cost component of the ERP infrastructure. The database license might represent up to 40 percent of the overall infrastructure cost in the cloud. It is a major constraint to the ISV’s margin when competing with cloud-native solutions using open source databases in multi tenant environments. The best alternative is to move away from the commercial database solution and adopt one of the several open relational database infrastructures such as MySQL or PostgreSQL. Robust and scalable database services are available for these solutions delivering enterprise level performance for a fraction of the commercial database price. It may not be an easy task, but represents a major step to increase the profitability of the ISV by turning the commercial database costs into its own margin.
There are several options to incorporate No SQL databases, data warehouses solutions, extremely cheap massive cold storage and a variety of solutions that were not possible given the usual customer hardware constraints. These are now easily accessible in the cloud and can be used to power up the original ERP solutions.
Last but not least are the security tools available in the cloud, which can be easily incorporated to the ERP system. There are still concerns about the cloud environment security among the IT staff, especially regarding data confidentiality. In reality, few companies have the security tools automatically available in public cloud offerings. This includes feature-rich authentication, authorization and accounting methods, VPN solutions, data at rest encryption, firewall filters, DoS protection, encryption key management and very sophisticated audit mechanisms. Today, the cloud offers the most comprehensive security toolset to protect ERPs from intrusion and attacks. Using these tools properly, the ISV can securely build mobile access modules and integrate with external systems maintaining the expected level of security needed for ERP software.
The ERP must evolve to stay relevant in the market and offer the customers the benefits of new technologies at affordable prices. The cloud is the best environment to foster this evolution allowing ISVs to evolve the existing cloud/server software in small yet significant steps.