Cloud Challenges – Interfaces and Upgrades
Cloud computing is still much in the news, as witness this week’s announcement of Cenium landing another client and OTRUM’s new cloud-based Enterprise portal and Digital Signage products, as well as the continuing interest I’m seeing in remotely-hosted hospitality management systems of all kinds. I’ve talked before about their advantages in security, ease of installation and, especially for multi-property operations, consistent and accurate reporting.
One major challenge still needs to be worked out, though, and that’s how to handle system upgrades. With today’s ever-growing need for more cross-system data collection and consolidation in this famously multi-system environment, interfaces between applications are more critical than ever. They’re typically easier to set up in a multi-application cloud environment – implementing a single interface between two cloud-based applications surely beats having to do so between two site-based examples of each at every property – but keeping them working seamlessly becomes a real challenge when either vendor can upgrade their system at a moment’s notice.
There’s clearly a significant need for vendors to cooperate in providing test environments for each other; any unexpected snags when a new version is put into operation are going to be massively apparent when the change occurs simultaneously at every hotel using the applications. Vendors will also have to maintain multiple versions of each application in operation, because not every hotel will be able – or want – to upgrade to a new version at the same time. And, of course, every different version kept in operation just multiplies the interface problem.
For simpler applications such as OTRUM’s Digital Signage this isn’t too much of an issue; its interface requirements are fairly straightforward and unlikely to change often. Something like the mix of applications required to run a complex resort is a different situation altogether. Interface format standards are a major help, of course, but another approach is the development of much more all-encompassing applications that cover as many operational areas as possible, reducing the need for interfaces to the minimum. All the major HMS vendors have pretty comprehensive offerings with their current ranges, but it will inevitably take a while for them to reach the same degree of full-property functionality with the new-architecture applications they’re developing. In the meantime, keep your eye on Cenium.