February 10, 2010
Adobe Systems is offering its LiveCycle Enterprise Suite 2.0, a framework for building front ends to back office applications, as a hosted service. It will be a subscription-based service known as LiveCycle Managed Services ES2 in Amazon's Elastic Compute Cloud.
ERP, financial, and other back-office systems often have non-intuitive user interfaces that only specially trained users recognize and work with effectively. The hosted version of LiveCycle provides a framework for developers at small and medium-size businesses as well as large corporations. It gives access to Adobe Flex user interface components, the Flash animation runtime engine, and other tools with which to build front ends to back office applications, allowing end users to do more self service through existing applications. LiveCycle Managed Services can be used to collect data from end users in a self-service manner. In April 2009 the Polish Ministry of Finance provided a rich Internet application built with LiveCycle that allowed taxpayers to download forms and submit them electronically. Within two days, the number of people submitting electronically had exceeded the total for the year before, according to an Adobe case study posted on its site. Data checking safeguards and validations can be built into end user interface forms that advise the user if data can't be entered in the format he just attempted. Prompts can be triggered as a user attempts to fill in a field on a form that advise the user of the nature of the data sought. The London Borough of Southwark built a simple-to-use, "One Touch" application using the core LiveCycle Enterprise Suite. One Touch took the place of what was usually five or six visits to various city offices to obtain city services. It reduced the time needed to apply for and be approved to receive such services as unemployment insurance from 36 days to 24 hours, according to Dominic Cain, head of client services in the borough, in another case study. The LiveCycle Enterprise Suite, formerly sold as an enterprise product only, became available as a managed service in EC2 on Feb. 8. Adobe took the step of hosting LiveCycle in EC2 because it thinks companies are ready to make use of a framework in the cloud. They've seen the reliability of applications from Salesforce.com, NetSuite, and Oracle all made available online, said Paul McNamara, the Adobe entrepreneur in residence for cloud products, in an interview. Front ends that capture end user data in forms or display application results in PDF reports can use EC2 as infrastructure in both cases, with the online application tied to the data center's back end application. Employees through a company can easily access such an application. Likewise, business partners and customers can make use of easy-to-use front ends extended to them. "Developers benefit because they can roll projects out faster. They develop and deploy in the cloud. without needing an incremental infrastructure," such as moving from a development environment to a production environment, McNamara said. Adobe established a Network Operations Center staffed 24 hours a day to oversee applications built with LiveCycle and running in EC2. The Adobe staff takes the technical support burden off the user's IT staff, McNamara said. Application frameworks typically reduce the amount of code that needs to be written by providing connectors and plumbing to make the application work in its target environment.
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