Content in the Cloud

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The Incredible Shrinking Development Cycle

Regardless of reservations about security and reliability of cloud computing, companies may find themselves drifting toward the clouds anyway due to one key factor: industrywide acceleration of product development cycles. By leveraging cloud-computing capacity and templated applications, the time between product concept and deployment can shrink from months to weeks or even days. 

Matt Turner, an SIIA panelist and principal consultant for Mark Logic Corp, which provides information access and delivery solutions via its XML server, predicted that with computing functionality migrating to the cloud, "there will be no more capital request forms." Time-consuming and expensive steps such as hardware setup and application loading become the responsibility of the cloud provider. Turner expects product development cycles to shrink to 3–6 months for his customers rather than the 12–18 months that have been the norm. 

Carmel says, "With clouds, the time to impact is so much shorter. How long do I want to wait before delivering big value to my customers?" That reduced time to impact represents both opportunity and challenge to content product managers, who can more nimbly address complex customer requirements—or watch as other competitors do.

New Business Models

Assuming that content clouds are here to stay, how do established vendors of content and content services take advantage of the technology? The answer is by staying flexible and leveraging the web to capitalize on their brand value. 

Turner pointed to Reed Elsevier as an example of a company that is using the enhanced flexibility provided by content clouds to its advantage. "[The company wants] to deliver medical information directly to users, and [its] goal is to embed it directly into workflow." So Elsevier paid attention to how and when its information is being used in the course of a medical information search. Turner continued, "Say somebody is using a huge radiology machine, and they’re spitting out voice commands. Elsevier built an information application that’s web-based but also takes voice commands and brings up images from [its] books in that context."

Vendors of textual data would do well to consider how they can use their APIs to package their content with analytical applications, integrate video and audio capabilities, and build in connectors to Web 2.0 technologies to more seamlessly move their content into everyday workflows.

Enterprise publishers are going to be under pressure to be more aggressive and adept at licensing content through technical partners and less concerned about providing the workflow application tool themselves. Blossom says, "The idea that publishers will come up with a killer application will erode somewhat. They need to make it easier to integrate their content and figure out more effective licensing models." He suggests that publishers take a hard look at integrators in their markets to see who is delivering applications most effectively to the end user. "It’s time to up both the quantity and quality of redistribution partners," he concludes.

Another survival strategy for established publishers will be finding web-based technologies that can add value to content archives and reinforce brand perception. The poster deal for this strategy is Dow Jones’ April 2008 acquisition of Generate, which harvests company and executive data from the web and applies social graphing and relationship mapping to the data. The deal enables Dow Jones’ Enterprise Media Group to amp up its business intelligence solution and reach beyond its traditional search offering, while building on Dow Jones’ rich content archive.

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