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All Hail the SaaS Revolution!

All Hail the SaaS Revolution!

August 14, 2008 0 Comments

Been thinking a lot about Software-as-a-Service (or SaaS) this week, and as it turns out, so have a few others!

Dave Linthicum posted recently that for the "last year we've been in a silent revolution around the use of APIs/services," while Mel Greer (Lockheed Martin's Chief SOA Architect) says the SaaS model is still an "impending challenge." Past or present aside...

Mel outlines the challenges companies will face by "as a service models" and includes:

  • the need for SLA's,
  • real time monitoring,
  • end-to-end testing,
  • new pricing models, and
  • a rethink on "service usability."

Mel, if you're reading, when do we not have these problems?!

Though the word is way overused, Mel is really suggesting that we'll need a way to govern the "as-a-service" business model. In fact, it's a popular topic this week. A blogger over at Patni had a long post with a gem in the middle... a governance outline (that I don't fully agree with) for SaaS. I presume this governance model would need a way to measure and police the following five elements of the SaaS scenario:

  1. Strategic Alignment
  2. Risk Management
  3. Performance Management
  4. Resource Management
  5. Value Delivery

SOA What? Let's think together for a second. Dave's right. There're are a ton of services out there. The Amazon web services are really cool, and people are being really creative with solutions being brought to market around them. Mel's right too. SaaS models are in their infancy, and if they're to really grow and achieve their potential, there are a lot of challenges ahead of us. Why not think about a SaaS governance model that could be used to make SaaS deployment more successful?

Does SaaS impart any requirements that differ from other "services" models? How would you approach figuring out your requirements and evaluating solutions that depend upon SaaS offerings? Do you think that SaaS adds a separate flavor to governance, or is it just same-old with how you operate your services and work with your providers today?

I believe SaaS does add separate requirements. Though, I'd look at the SaaS space from two different perspectives; that of the SaaS provider, and that of the SaaS consumer.

Providers have the following concerns:

  • Security: Consumers will have security requirements, but providers will have the more complicated requirement of meeting the security demands particular to each customer, without code changes each time.
  • Knowledge: Providers need to know what's happening when a customer calls with a problem so that they can be specific and inspire confidence. Without specifics, vendors are just perceived as finger-pointing even when they're right! (This is one of my favorite customers stories to talk about.)
  • Use the SLA as a competitive differentiator: If providers can accommodate their customers' business model better than a competitor, and can accommodate change/expanding models, they'll be a step ahead of the game.

Consumers have similar, but different requirements beyond the obvious:

  • SLA's that matter; Availability, for example, is important. Uptime, not really. SLA's should be based upon metrics that matter (and are measurable!).
  • Agility, (it's why they're using SaaS); As new features are deployed, it's important for SaaS consumers to be able to on-ramp their applications easily/quickly to take advantage of new features. Conversely, consumers need to be protected from change forced upon them by their service providers.
  • Low switching costs; Should a consumer need to change vendors it shouldn't break everything. At the same time, this feature can actually be extended to transparently combining SaaS vendors in the infrastructure so that applications don't know/care which provider is used, and decisions can be made that best serve the business, not the developer.

I'm curious to know what you all think about these requirements, and if these are among the things that are top of mind. I'm curious to know what real-world experiences people have with SaaS from a corporate perspective. I'll tell you, mine are limited to salesforce.com, and they're not very good. Rephrase - they're not what I would want were I a CIO delivering solutions to my users.

Here's a quick SaaS factoid: Did you know that Progress Software has 150 SaaS application providers delivering over 500 SaaS based products to the market today?

david bressler

View all posts from david bressler on the Progress blog. Connect with us about all things application development and deployment, data integration and digital business.

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