15 August 2017

Software-as-a-Service is Not Just Your Software Running on Someone Else's Server

I recently published a blog post about the benefits of using subscription-based business models called "What bike rental and the future of software have in common." Many industries are going through a shift of revenue streams from traditional one-time sales to products being provided “as a service” and paid via subscriptions. In the software industry this is referred to as Software-as-a-Service or SaaS. However, there is much more to this than just switching from a perpetual license model to a subscription model.

The “false cloud”

Back in 2010, Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff warned attendees at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco to beware of what they called ‘false clouds.’ Benioff said “Companies hosting private cloud architectures do not benefit from economies of scale that ‘real’ cloud offers.” Back then, Salesforce.com's 77,000 customers were running on 3,000 servers spread over three global data centers. Theoretically, 77,000 companies of varying sizes would require at least 100,000 servers to independently run their CRM platforms on-premises or in a hosted solution. This translates to an equivalent output at only 3 percent of the infrastructure needed because of economies of scale and more efficient hardware utilization.

Many software companies are touting that they can deliver their software in the SaaS delivery model. However, what they are offering is often not a modern multi-tenant cloud solution where all customers are running the same software using shared resources and receiving software updates continuously without costly upgrade projects. In addition, these are not true SaaS offerings, where business users can configure functionality that would otherwise require expensive and time-consuming development using conventional single tenant software. These ‘false cloud’ solutions are often marketed as a ‘Private SaaS’ or a SIP (Secure Isolation Platform), but, in reality, are often just another way of selling an on-premise software package as a hosted solution.

SaaS is much more than cost savings

The biggest drawback with the false cloud is not that the customers are missing out on the economies of scale by not sharing resources, but that they will not have a speedy deployment, a future-proof and configurable solution, and the business agility that comes with a modern SaaS platform. 75% of enterprise software decisionmakers surveyed by Forrester rated ‘business agility’ as the top benefit of a SaaS platform, while another 72% rated ‘speed of deployment’ as a key benefit. Saving money, getting better uptime, and higher security are, of course, still relevant arguments for SaaS, but being agile and fast is of even greater importance. This is especially true for software that supports the rapidly changing processes in sales and marketing that can really reap the benefits of the SaaS model.

Software-as-a-Service is not just your software running on someone else's server. It is much bigger than that and should be an important factor when you choose your software vendors going forward.