The direction of travel is definitely towards the cloud.
So said Moshe BenBassat, CEO of workforce automation software vendor ClickSoftware, whose enterprise mobility solutions are available in both on-premise and cloud versions.
"The biggest change we've seen in the market is the demand for cloud solutions from large customers," BenBassat told Computing.
"Before it was the SMEs who opted for cloud. Large companies were already invested in IT infrastructure or were worried about privacy and security in the cloud. But at the beginning of 2013 we started to see demand from large companies for a cloud solution."
Among the eight new cloud customers that ClickSoftware has signed this year are "a very large Fortune 500 company working in the area of complex equipment, and two utility companies in Australia. The market is starting to understand that for security and safety in the cloud is as good as it is on premise," he said.
BenBassat claimed that he has seen no change in attitude towards the cloud since the revelations about the NSA: "If someone wants to penetrate your private system maybe that's easier because you're not going to invest what Amazon can invest."
He went on to mention two long-standing on-premise customers - a home care provider and a US home security vendor - who this year moved to the cloud. None, he said, has moved the other way.
It's easy to see the advantages of the cloud model from ClickSoftware's point of view. Software companies tend to like cloud as it smooths the payment cycle, makes piracy more difficult and makes tying customers into upgrades easier.
However, BenBassat is unlikely to follow Adobe's lead in shifting all its customers to the cloud any time soon. For workforce automation the on-premise option remains just as popular as cloud among ClickSoftware's customers.
"It's about fifty-fifty," he said, perhaps hedging his bets, and qualifying his assertion that cloud is the future with "for now at least".
The cloud model allows for quick implementation, particularly when the apps are integrated with the industry-standard cloud-based platforms used by many large organisations. Some of ClickSoftware's suite of 120 mobility apps have recently been made available for download from the cloud marketplaces of vendors such as SAP and Salesforce.com.
"We're trying to focus on the business functionality of the apps because this is where our expertise comes into play, but we also co-operate with other infrastructures for mobility that are available in the market," BenBassat said.
A good example is social media. Communication is essential if disparate mobile engineers are to work efficiently and ClickSoftware offers its own collaboration tools to allow them to synchronise schedules and resources. However, being in the cloud allows the company to broaden its reach by integrating with more widely used tools.
"ClickWorkforce is in the Salesforce.com AppExchange cloud where it also integrates with Chatter, Salesforce's own collaboration tool," BenBassat said.
"Let's say you have hundreds of technicians and one of them is fixing some old medical equipment he hasn't seen before. He can just put out a message on Chatter saying 'Anyone know how to fix this?' and if another engineer knows they can get straight back to him'."
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