James Thew - Fotolia
Cloud or death. For GoldMine Software, the latter loomed as a very real possibility. Its 1990s era Windows-based customer relationship management (CRM) application was built long before clouds, smartphones and tablets became mainstream. Therefore, reaching new customers on multiple platforms demanded offering the software as a cloud-based subscription service. Standing in the way? No time, expertise or budget.
"We knew that desktop as a service (DaaS) breathes new life into old applications, including CRM," said Paul Petersen, GoldMine's vice president and general manager. "We had to switch from a premises-based license model to a cloud-based subscription service to grow our user base. It's a major change to our revenue model, but we believe this is a very good way to extend the life of any desktop-bound application. It's a move we had to make quickly to stay competitive."
In other words, no cloud, no new revenue stream.
One factor that led GoldMine to consider the DaaS model was that its own product would not need to stand alone, but could be offered as one application in a larger portfolio with the potential of reaching a larger audience. Users subscribing to the DaaS provider could opt to access GoldMine along with other more widely chosen applications, such as office productivity.
Software companies with similar aging, desktop-centric applications face this same "life or death" decision point, according to Jeff Kaplan, managing director of strategic consulting firm THINKstrategies and a TechTarget contributor. "We live in the Darwinian world of the cloud with a proliferation of new applications that grows every day; but that makes it tough for traditional software vendors to keep pace," he said. "If a software company is not willing to make the investment necessary to compete in the cloud, it will surely be left behind."
Another factor favoring the DaaS model is easier access to software add-ons. "Applications that are supported by a rich ecosystem of partners and developers, like CRM, accounting and sales, benefit from DaaS delivery," said John "JD" Helms, president of Overland, Kan.-based desktop delivery provider nGenx. "It becomes a holistic story; when you put your core application and all of the supporting third-party add-ons into the cloud and deliver through DaaS, you essentially get a single sign-on experience to the entire family."
Lacking in-house cloud expertise, GoldMine sought help. The Milpitas, Calif., company settled on three vendors: nGenix for Windows-based hosted application and desktop delivery; IndependenceIT to deliver workspaces, applications, and desktops as a service; and Google Compute Engine to host and scale it.
GoldMine is standardizing on nGenx nFinity Workspace to Web-enable its application. Doing so allows users to log in and access the application from a smartphone, tablet, PCor Mac, providing platform flexibility that had never before existed in GoldMine.
For its part, IndependenceIT, based in Allentown, Pa., is powering the Windows-based desktop as a service and application delivery through its IndependenceIT Cloud Workspace Suite. Applications developers benefit from the ability to reach potential customers who would not have considered a non cloud-based configuration.
"GoldMine was never architected for 'as a service' delivery," said IndependenceIT CEO Seth Bostock. "Our software is the glue that handles user creation and license management without human intervention. It was clear to us the one thing GoldMine didn't want to be was a service provider."
Paul Petersen, VP & GM, GoldMine Software
Cloud-enabling a desktop-bound legacy application cannot be achieved simply by wrapping the original application code in a cloud translation layer, said Helms. "We need to break the code apart, work on the individual components and then put it back together," he added. "This is work that's necessary to deliver in a cloud-driven environment. What was once a Windows-based legacy application we now refer to as a full, feature-rich client installation."
Choosing Google Compute Engine (GCE) instead of Amazon Web Services was a matter of cost and responsiveness, according to Helms. "With Google, we are at a more favorable price per seat than Amazon, and the recent Google price cuts help even more," he said. Yet, the decision was not based solely on price. He added that GCE's support for Windows-based cloud workspaces is well suited for developers as it allows business critical Windows-based workloads to perform at high performance levels with flexible scalability.
In a world that now expects near-instantaneous delivery of services, Helms said GCE held an advantage, here, too. "The level of performance we get and the speed at which systems spin up is impressive," said Helms. "Competing platforms sometimes required customers to wait up to 45 minutes to access the services they've just signed up for. With Google, it's under a minute. Our engineers got pretty excited about that," Helms said.
nGenx president John 'JD' Helms
For GoldMine, the cloud transformation is extending the application's lifespan. It is also enabling the company to expand beyond its desktop only roots and create a potential new profit center from its existing product line. It's a reality that should not be overlooked by other software developers, according to Petersen.
The cloud conversion comes at an opportune time. According to research published by IDC in mid-2014, the market for virtual computing clients, described as virtual desktops or workspace as a service expected to grow worldwide from $2.8 billion in 2013 to $4.7 billion in 2018.
"We are adding new customers every quarter," said Petersen. "We're doing well, and we're here to stay."