The (Public) Cloud for Your WMS?

For the last few years one question inevitably comes up when discussing AWLview WMS with new prospects: do you have a cloud SaaS offering?  The answer is No, but in the wake of the Windows Azure outage I feel the topic is worth further discussion.  There are plenty of good reasons to stay out of the public cloud, and also lots of good reasons to offer a cloud service.  I hope by the end of this post, you will have a solid understanding of our non-cloud presence and also understand some of the application transparency when it comes to AWL running in virtualized and private cloud environments.

The main reason AWL does not have a SaaS offering in the public cloud is simple: control.  AWL is an enterprise application responsible for efficiently and accurately shipping product.  While cloud systems are designed to be extremely robust and redundant, they are by nature extremely complex.  Utilizing a large hardware infrastructure allows providers to offer outstanding resources at great pricing, but an outage is beyond your control, mitigation is beyond your control, and nothing is more infuriating than refreshing online system status dashboards, waiting.  In our opinion, putting a mission-critical software component in the public could is simply dangerous.  Cloud reliability will continue to improve and already scales wonderfully, but keeping your ERP and WMS within your own controlled environment is definitely best practice, to say nothing of industries that cannot comply with security regulations by keeping data in the public cloud.

There are a number of cloud technologies that our customers utilize in their computing environments.  AWL is transparent to a virtualized environment, the majority of our customers utilize some form of virtualization in their datacenters.  Our larger customers run AWL in a clustered environment for absolute performance and redundancy to maintain their 99.999% uptime requirements.  Minerva’s own internal development and testing is done in a private cloud environment, with multiple physical machines pooled in a high availability virtual environment.

Of course as a technology company, we never say never.  There may very well be a SaaS version of AWL in the public cloud sometime in the future.  And a number of online properties and developers could only exist with the scalability and resources offered by providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) such as reedit, four square, and Smugmug.  Smugmug CEO Don MacAskill had an excellent blog entry on how they survived the April 2011 AWS outage with superb design considerations.  However, in our opinion, maintaining control over your mission-critical environment for ERP and WMS systems is still the best solution for maintaining reliable systems operations.


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