Decades ago, business application vendors ( SAP, PeopleSoft, Baan, JD Edwards, SSA, Infor and Oracle) have built massive platforms to deliver business applications. These business applications have become core pillars of many organizations. It was not uncommon to see ERP implementation projects run into tens of millions of dollars. Some failed, some succeeded. These business applications have spawned a whole line of careers for many people. Business applications have captured important processes and workflows for effectively running the organization.
Since original version, most of these vendors have continued improving their platform. They have maintained a clean separation between platform, business functions and customization. (This wasn’t always the case, customization used to make upgrades painful)
Several of these vendors have succeeded in moving their products to client server and web architectures. They started to support new language such as Java to replace their custom languages like ABAP and PeopleCode. They also adopted Java application servers ( albeit, modified versions).
You couldn’t blame them for thinking that they will be able to navigate to Cloud by using similar tactics. May be provide an AMI here and offer a hosted version there etc.
But, I am of the opinion that what worked in the past will not work for them to take advantage of Cloud. These vendors are ripe for disruption.
Cloud represents a transformation unlike any previous architectural evolution. Cloud offers elastic, practically unlimited infrastructure to run your applications. Cloud also presents a newer(arguable) programming model with serverless architecture. Cloud eliminates the need to worry about underlying infrastructure elements. Cloud is the new platform.
These vendors do not need to continue with their own bulky platform. They should discontinue them. They can get away with a thinner layer built on top of Cloud platforms. Business functions should become lambda ( or whatever GCP, Azure calls them) functions. Customization should become pre and post processing and/or modified lambda functions. The data records should become cloud storage objects. Business application developers do not have to worry about DB connections or server resources. They will only need to write business logic. There is no need for painful upgrades. Business applications should become easier to deploy and manage like new breed of applications.
There will still be some gaps in Cloud platform to fully support these vendor applications. Thus a thin layer is needed, but it can start to disappear over a period of time.
Can this be done? Yes. Will SAP or ORCL or Infor do it? Likely not.
There is a white space here for new generation of startups to emerge. use Cloud as the base platform for building business applications. This is a much bigger opportunity than simply running business apps on Cloud instances.