Thu, 15 Nov 2007 10:48:36 GMT
David presents his outsider’s point of view of Software plus Services. He says Software plus Services is coming, so we’d better get on the bus. Enterprises use a combination of in-house or locally installed software and SaaS (Software as a Service). David argues that both Ss in SaaS really stand for Software.
A current-day example would be Microsoft Exchange. Some run it locally. Some consume it over the Interweb hosted and managed by a third party. Some do both.
Another example is Dynamics CRM. Because it lends itself to the SaaS approach, CRM applications tend to be the leading edge in SaaS. Microsoft also offer Dynamics as a service under the guise of CRM Live.
S plus S in relation to SOA
If SOA applies only to stuff that happens inside the corporate firewall, then it encompasses the on-premises part of S plus S. If SOA applies to services wherever they are, then it applies to all of S plus S.
Mail and CRM are early adopters of the SaaS model.
It is possible that once Cloud Services have got proper traction, SaaS will become the default for new functionality.
Benefits of SaaS
SaaS is fashionable right now, and a lot of consultancy words have been written for and against it. Here are some of the oft touted benefits of SaaS:
- Lower Costs – no up front license; transactional model; avoid writing stuff again.
- Faster deployment – or no deployment
- Less Financial Risk – no up front investment; try before you buy
- More reliable – someone else’s SLA
- Easier Upgrades – can be a con: uncontrolled new features
Potential Challenges of SaaS
It’s not all positive though:
- Vendor trust – outsourcing everything is risky
- Data safety – are they serving you competitors too?
- Regulatory and compliance issues
- Integration – can SaaS apps integrate with my other services?
- Customisation – can services be customised enough?
- Identity – supports federation?
- Management – how can I manage and monitor?
- Supporting users – someone else’s helpdesk?
Here’s a worry: Benefits accrue to the business users. Challenges accrue to the IT departments. Unfair, unbalanced. But that imbalance therefore almost guarantees this a move to SaaS is going to happen.
The marketplace has already started differentiating their users into two distinct groups. Both Microsoft and Google do this. The groups are: business vs consumer. The business versions are almost all pay per user. However, they also solve many of the problems above – or instance where the helpdesk lives.
Multi- vs Single-Tennant
Many providers of SaaS offer solutions that are available on a shared enviroment (with your potential competitors) and also as a single customer per instance model.
SaaS is obviously also beneficial to the vendor. Consider rolling out new versions to a large customer base – frequently under conditions not under your control, versus updating one version of an online app fully under the vendor’s control.
Enterprises and SaaS
If it’s good enough for ISVs, then don’t the benefits also apply to enterprises?
Well, yes. It i
s only a matter of time before enterprise apps are built in The Cloud.
Application Platforms for S plus S
David predicts a battle for dominance in the Cloud space for the SaaS platform. Google, Amazon and Microsoft are all competing here. This is different to programmable applications hosted an accessible over the Internet. Instead, a SaaS platform is a computing platform that has various OS services upon which you can build your apps.
So what happens when OS, database and orchestration moves into the Cloud?
Example Platforms for SaaS
Examples are Amazon EC2; Salesforce.com’s Force.com; Microsoft’s BizTalk Services; Amazon’s S3.
Amazon EC2 – the Elastic Compute Cloud - a service without an SLA, allowing you to host (for pennies) farms of Linux VMs on demand. Without an SLA, this is not a viable platform for an enterprise organisation to use.
Amazon S3 – Simple Storage Service – a service with an SLA. For storing stuff, this is a RESTful service that allows developers to store objects in nested buckets. Once again, for pennies.
Salesforce.com’s Force.com – whilst writing their application, they build themselves a platform on which to run it. They packaged up the platform and turned out outwards, allowing developers to write CRMy applications and add-ins for Salesforce.com – using their own language called Apex. The smart business move here is then creating a marketplace for ISVs to sell their wares.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM in the Cloud – developers can write .NET code that hooks into Dynamics events, but it is not a full platform for arbitrary applications. Because Dynamics CRM is the same platform wherever it is hosted, your code can run wherever you host CRM. This is genuinely a platform to run .NET code in Cloud services.
Microsoft Oslo – a set of investments and secret projects in SaaS companies and products to run this next generation of applications.
Microsoft BizTalk Services – offers connectivity between apps in a firewall friendly way. This will soon have workflow. Microsoft is calling this an Internet Service Bus – an ESB in the Cloud. This platform is not yet a commercial offering, but it will be soon. BizTalk services has Service Provider, Workflow, Connectivity and Identity stacks. However, it shares not a single line of code with BizTalk Server.
I must admit, I’m with David on this one. He says SaaS is coming. I’d agree. Maybe not today, not tomorrow, but soon.