SaaS (Software as a Service) is flourishing. More and more companies are turning to SaaS and other on-demand solutions to respond to business needs faster and more cheaply. SaaS is a software delivery model in which software and associated data are centrally hosted on the Cloud and accessed through a Web browser. Customers pay only for what they use and can configure their own environment via a self-service model.
Simple examples of SaaS are web-based email systems such as Hotmail, Gmail and Office365, mostly targeted at consumers. Payroll and Human Resource Management systems have been long-time proponents of SaaS. Salesforce.com is a SaaS-based CRM system. Today there are SaaS offerings for almost every application type, with several ERP and Marketing Automation solutions in the SaaS Top 10.
From the customer’s point of view…
By eliminating the need to install and run applications in-house, SaaS lessens the burden of ongoing hardware and software maintenance, operation and support. SaaS also reduces the up-front expense of software license purchases, replacing it with subscription-model and/or on-demand pricing. Additionally, SaaS and other cloud and hosting services take high availability and disaster recovery planning to the level of a professional data center.
SaaS also has its detractors. Some may worry about security and safety, the level of legal protection in the country where their solution is hosted, the lack of opportunity to customize the solution and the feeling of not being in control of upgrades and new releases.
SaaS has the attraction of tapping into a larger market (not restricted by hardware or operating system), establishing an ongoing revenue stream, easier roll-out of new software releases and stronger protection of intellectual property.
Preparing applications for SaaS readiness is not as simple as Web enabling a solution. A true SaaS application has a multi-tenant architecture. The ability to have multiple organizations (called tenants in the Cloud nomenclature) co-exists on the same application instance, without compromising the security of data for those organizations, defines the application as multi-tenanted.
Most experts agree that the tenancy point is what differentiates SaaS from other Cloud offerings. ‘Shared hardware’ is placed on one end of the spectrum and SaaS on the other end, and IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and PaaS (Platform as a Service) in between. In general, the higher the multi-tenancy point (SaaS being the optimum), the less effort is required for setting up a new tenant, because more of the underlying stack is shared. This is well explained on IBM’s Web site at https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/cloud/library/cl-multitenantcloud/index.html.
Getting Saas Ready…
While preparing an article for the LANSA Review magazine, I interviewed several independent software vendors (ISVs) who explained their experience with SaaS and all interviewees agreed that the IBM i is an excellent platform for SaaS. The IBM i architecture with its library lists, security levels and many other features is “made for SaaS”.