PaaS & ETL in the Application Ecosystem

Our conversation continues about the optimal mix of technology to support business process.  In our last TechWise blog,“Living IT, QuickBase Leads The Way”, we discussed the concept of Living IT and why organizations should plan for changing and dynamic technology.  To elaborate further on this topic we want to introduce some ideas around what we refer to as the the Application Ecosystem and how technologies such as PaaS and ETL fit in.

Core Systems

The Application Ecosystem of an organization is a broad way to refer to the various technology tools that the organization uses.  This applies to government, for-profit and non-profit organizations.  At the center of the Application Ecosystem is what we refer to as Core Systems.  These tools are typically associated with basic organizational functions required for accounting and transactional purposes.  For smaller businesses, tools like QuickBooks or PeachTree are the frequent choice while larger organizations have mostly deployed ERP systems like Oracle ERP or SAP.

While accounting and ERP systems have expanded to include broader functionality few if any organizations are able to function with a single technology to manage business processes.  This is due to the fact that ERP and Accounting systems are designed fir best practices and with transaction management as the primary focus with process management flexibility given limited attention.  This means that organizations are pushed to find technologies that complement and extend core systems.  We refer to the multitude of applications that support defined and ad hoc organizational processes outside the core systems as the Extension Layer.

The Extension Layer 

There are two basic types of applications in the Extension Layer, Point Solutions and Situational Applications.  Point Solutions are specialized, typically best of breed applications that solve a specific and typically well defined need.  Image management, warehouse management and CRM are areas that often are targeted for point solutions.  The other type of application in the Extension Layer is often referred to as Situational Applications.  These are applications that solve more unique or possibly temporary organizational needs where no viable Point Solution exists.  Often these types of applications are managed ineffeciently using spreadsheets or simple databases.

Application Connections 

The final but very important element of the Application Ecosystem is the body of interconnections between applications.  These connections or integrations may be between applications in the Extension Layer or with Core Applications.  In many cases organizations lack the technical capability to effectively integrate applications so information is moved between applications with human, manual processes.  Only when extension applications reach a significant size and value are they integrated in an automated way with other applications.

Paas & ETL Enable Flexibility in Extension Layer Application Creation and Interconnectivty

Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) tools such as QuickBase and Wolf Frameworks provide organizations with tool sets to rapidly build and deploy Extension Layer applications that extend core accounting and ERP systems or provide effective departmental or workgroup functionality.  PaaS is frequently utilized for Situational Applications but also quickly becoming a strong choice for CRM, sales force automation and other areas often relegated to Point Solutions.

One of the main benefits of PaaS as part of an organizations Extension Layer is the ability to quickly and easily interconnect data and processes between applications designed on the same PaaS technology.  For example, QucikBase allows the ability to create cross application relationships between applications as a simpel and easy way to share information.

A technology that is rapidly becoming mainstream is Extract-Transform-and-Load (ETL) tools.  Open Source technologies like Talend ETL are allowing rapid, low cost development of integration.  This means that organizations can choose to automatically tie together applications, processes and information that previously could not have been efficiently integrated.

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