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Armanino’s Financial Advisory blog is your source for thought leadership around cloud ERP and accounting solutions and integrations. Supported by the Cloud Accounting Institute and numerous experts in cloud, finance, reporting, integration, compliance, and technology, Armanino’s Financial Advisory blog features must-read content on what’s happening in the finance industry, case studies, white papers, and much more.

January 28, 2012

SaaS Shared Services: Back to the Future

Posted by Lindy Antonelli

SharingThe old folks say there is nothing new under the the sun. That saying never made sense to me when I was younger. I belong to a generation that saw amazing inventions in computing and telecommunications come seemingly out of the blue to transform the way we live and work.

Now, with over 20 years of experience in providing technology services to clients, I see it differently. New things come out of old patterns. In computing, the pendulum keeps swinging between two poles: dedicated and shared resources. (Got kids? Watch them flip back and forth between “That’s mine” and “Let’s share.” Same song, different verse.)

Art Rosenberg got me thinking about this with his “back to the future” blog  on the roots of interactive applications. “As we watch ‘cloud-based’ applications, Mobile UC, and IP networking take over communications between people and business process applications, I find it interesting to go back to the early days of business computers that were limited to premise-based mainframes and ‘batch processing’ with punched cards. That’s when I got involved with enabling computers to support remote end users with keyboard terminals to access ‘interactive’ applications,” he writes.

That was in the days of the dinosaurs, so to speak. As Rosenberg says, “Because mainframe computers were big, slow, expensive, and with limited processing power, it was not practical for individual end users to use computers the way they can now.” Rosenberg helped innovate and market a new concept: time-sharing. This enabled “a number of users [to] share a computer interactively, independently, and concurrently by time-slicing the CPU and swapping active user programs dynamically between secondary storage and main memory.”

Time-sharing programs made the minicomputer commercially viable for companies that could not afford a mainframe. Time-sharing service bureaus extended minicomputer access to companies that could not afford dedicated computing power. The personal computer came along and finally gave dedicated processing power to individuals. Networks enabled personal computers to communicate among themselves and with central servers and to share expensive resources such as applications, storage, printers, and control devices. And so it goes, with the pendulum swinging back and forth between increasing personal control and optimizing shared resources.

The leading edge of this dynamic today is cloud-based computing. Now access is dedicated and the infrastructure is shared, enabling individual users to leverage shared resources for software development, servers, data center infrastructure, support services, etc. at a level they could not afford if they had to acquire and own them individually. Like all the advances that led up to it, cloud computing enables users to do old things in new ways. What makes cloud computing transformative is that it greatly increases the interactive potential of all the people, devices, and processes involved.

The CPA who can work on a file online with his client, the company accountant who can outsource a business process, the small business owner who can suddenly afford Fortune 500-level software capabilities are all beneficiaries of this evolution. As Rosenberg points out, “Time-sharing also introduced the beginning of what we refer today as the ‘user experience’ that has become the focus of good business communications.”

The marriage of something old and something new, something owned and something shared, is bringing new benefits to the light every day.

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