This is the second in a series of guest blogs from Microsoft's partners about how they are working with us to enable customer success in Financial Services. Over the coming week, we are excited to share news and views on Sibos 2012. Today, our guest author is Daniel E. Retzer, Managing Director and Chief Technology Officer at XSP. You can visit XSP online here.

Simply the Cloud

Peel away the marketing hype, and the cloud may appear to be a simple concept that has been in the computing world for decades. It provides software from a remote location over a network and the organization using the software does not have to be involved in the day to day running of it. 

The cloud does much more than just host an application. It transforms the way software is provided and consumed. The cloud frees people and organizations from being tied to the desk or expensive, tedious software deployment and support models. The cloud removes the artificial barriers technologists have placed around software and solutions so people can interact with information in a natural, intuitive manner. The cloud removes fear and uncertainty; it falls in line with what we, as consumers, have come to expect with other ubiquitous forms of technology, such as the television or the microwave oven. Push a button and it works. We, as consumers, do not need an understanding of nuclear engineering to warm a cup of tea. Why should we then be expected to care about TCP/IP, HTTPS, and other fundamentals of network engineering and software engineering if we just want to share a picture with friends or access reference data from different parts of the world?

The concept of the cloud is deceptively simple. It’s important to understand that the cloud encompasses several concepts that were not really economically or technically feasible until the advent of ubiquitous, high-speed access to data networks (e.g., broadband Internet, Wi-Fi and 3 or 4G). These concepts include virtualization, multitenancy and software as a service.

 Virtualization is an important ingredient in the cloud because it removes the physical constraints on the hardware systems that support applications in the cloud. The ability to virtualize servers or simulate multiple devices on a single machine is a crucial step in defining the cloud because it makes hosting software applications more cost effective and simpler to manage.

Multitenancy allows applications to host multiple client organizations (known as tenants) without requiring additional hardware components. In a multitenant environment, multiple customers share the same application code, running on the same operating system and hardware with the same data-storage mechanism. The distinction between the customers is achieved during application design; thus, customers do not share or see one another's data or configurations.

Software as a service (SaaS) is a model of software delivery in which software users only pay for what they consume. It is built upon the underlying concepts of multitenancy — and in many cases, virtualization — and is the predominant business and operations model in the cloud.

At XSP, the cloud and SaaS are the realization of the product and technology vision that began with a clean sheet of paper and the re-architecture of the XSP v5 Corporate Actions platform. We envisioned a product with literally limitless opportunities to reach consumers of Corporate Actions information and the notification/election value chain.

In short, the cloud is an enablement platform for business. Users of business applications simply expect things to just work. They should not be experts in the underlying complexity. Software’s complexity should be reduced to the simplicity of a button.