Coen Verweij
ServiceNow Technical Consultant

Clarity on premise or on demand?

03-07-2019

When I started at Odysseus 11 years ago Clarity was an enterprise application that could easily fit on a CD and any deployment at a client was easy to manage. This was partly due to the fact that our clients owned and maintained their own IT infrastructure. Specialists were easily involved and applications were hosted internally.

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When I started at Odysseus 11 years ago Clarity was an enterprise application that could easily fit on a CD and any deployment at a client was easy to manage. This was partly due to the fact that our clients owned and maintained their own IT infrastructure. Specialists were easily involved and applications were hosted internally.

The architecture of Clarity has hardly changed but this cannot be said about the infrastructure of our clients. This poses extra challenges with on premise and on demand (SaaS) installations and upgrades. In the past two months Odysseus has been involved with an on premise and an on demand upgrade. During these upgrades we have been able to compare the pros and cons of both types of installations. This blog will illustrate those pros and cons and conclude with a recommendation.

Clarity Architecture

 We will start by outlining the standard Clarity architecture as an initial reference point. Clarity includes a core set of programmes but also a number of third party tools. Some of them are delivered as part of the standard setup, others are not but are mandatory as core functionality. Listed is a short summary:

Standard setup:
·         CA Clarity Program
·         Apache Tomcat Webserver
·         Java virtual machine
·         Java 3rd party tools
·         Jaspersoft Reporting Server
·         Apache Tomcat Webserver (for Jaspersoft)
·         Java virtual machine (for Jaspersoft)
·         Open workbench (not mandatory, client tool for planning)
·         Interface for Microsoft Project (Microsoft Project itself is not supplied as part of the standard setup)

Mandatory but not part of the standard setup:
·         Oracle or MS SQL database (local or as cloud service)
·         Windows or Linux server (local or as cloud service)

Optional:
·         Power BI through Odata (Power BI itself is not supplied)

Challenges during an implementation

There are a number of different topics that need to be focused on during a Clarity implementation. Infrastructure, Single Sign On (SSO) and Software policies are three distinctive and challenging topics when it comes to choosing between on premise and on demand implementations, hence we will be focusing on these in this blog.

 Client Infrastructure

 Companies are more and more focused on their core business which leads to them outsourcing any supporting activities. This usually holds true for supporting IT activities. These outsourcing partners all have their own security rules and regulations, Service Level Agreements (SLA) and availability of their resources. It's becoming more common that database maintenance has been outsourced to Partner A, server maintenance to Partner B and that Partner C is responsible for the network. This makes coordinating and involving all these different parties for an upgrade pretty complex.

An upgrade is always preceded by a kickoff in which all stakeholders can communicate their specifications and demands. In practice however one or more parties always seem to deviate from the plan or resources are not available when necessary, which will lead to issues during the upgrade.

Single Sign On (SSO)

Single Sign On (SSO) is always a highly prioritised feature during installations and upgrades. Clarity has a seamless link with CA Siteminder, an identity management solution, but this solution is pretty heavy and costly. For on premise installations there are Open Source options, but configuring these to fit Clarity cost a lot of time. In all honesty I have hardly ever seen an on premise Clarity implementation with a decent SSO mechanism. The on demand version comes with an integrated SSO solution which is a lot easier.

Software policies

Software restrictions can be an ever bigger impediment at clients and their partners. Clarity is very dependent on the right version of Java and does not allow upward or downward compatibility. If a company has chosen to upgrade to the newest version of Java it can be difficult to make an exception for Clarity. Add to the equation that this also applies to versions of webservices, operating system releases and database versions and you have an extremely complex puzzle. To add to the complexity Jaspersoft Reporting Server, Clarity's reporting tool, has its own Java and Tomcat versions that do not equal Clarity's. Getting so many exceptions through a company's software policies can be challenging.

Who wins: On Prem or On Demand (SaaS)?

A Clarity environment that is hosted by a client has some big advantages when it comes to flexibility and connections to other programmes. The client is responsible for a good infrastructure and can also guarantee a higher availability and performance. Creating interfaces is easier and quicker as opposed to the cloud versions where the process can be tricky, slow and inflexible.

Preparing an on demand upgrade is pretty simple. You log a ticket 20 days prior to the upgrade and the complete upgrade is done within one weekend, including a sanity check. It does not get much easier than this, which is what every client wants nowadays.

There are a number of limitations to an on demand environment. Below are the most important ones:
·         No direct database access which means no triggers or stored procedures
·         No customisation options (configuration is an option)
·         Limited interface options
·         Limited reporting options

The advantages however are also noteworthy:
·         No versioning issues with third party tools
·         Integrated reporting
·         Integrated SSO
·         All you need is a local web browser
·         SaaS partner is responsible for performance
·         SaaS partner is responsible for a healthy and secure system

Considering the aforementioned I am tempted to conclude that there are more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to on demand implementations. A large advantage is all software, third party tools and connectors are housed within the 'walls' of a SaaS provider. Unless the client has complete ownership and control over its IT infrastructure I would definitely choose an on demand solution.