I have been involved in some discussion around software as a service lately. While the general consensus is that this is going to grow into the mainstream method of software delivery, right now there are a number of challenges that need to be addressed before this will happen.
We provide RockSolid in both SAAS form and a traditional installed onsite model, the product functionality is exactly the same, the difference is how you install it and how you pay for it. SAAS requires minimal infrastructure onsite and is paid for as a monthly fee, the installed onsite mode requires suitable server infrastructure to house RockSolid and is paid for as a one off perpetual license cost.
We have a mix of SAAS and installed-on-site customers, while many of the challenges faced that are being debated are technical, the following are the issues we face positioning SAAS in order of occurrence:
- CAPEX vs OPEX. The primary issue we encounter when positioning SAAS is an organisations budgeting process hadn’t planned for a SAAS offering. Many customers get a CAPEX budget approved in advance, then evaluate tools and on making their selection they need to spend the budgeted CAPEX. An OPEX based SAAS offering may be a good fit for them, but the requirement to go back and redo budgeting is so undesirable that almost always in this situation the customer will elect the CAPEX option.
- Security of Information. Quite rightly so, the second most common issue faced is dealing with internal security concerns/requirements. Now RockSolid is a management infrastructure, it is not working directly with business data, only the operational meta-data that surrounds it. Yet the security concerns are very much there. Some organisations have blanket “no data outside the enterprise” policies, others and more willing to investigate the security implications and make an informed decision. (fyi, RockSolid’s security has been reviewed hundreds of times and always found to be very complete and comprehensive).
- Unfamiliarity with SAAS. The final common issue faced with SAAS is just unfamiliarity with the model. Some organisations have hundreds, or thousands, of applications that are installed on PC’s or Servers, that is what they know and they have no desire to change the model. Overtime as more applications go down this path this will start to change, but for now the level of practical enterprise SAAS applications is so low that a revolution isn’t on the card for some time.
The interesting thing is these issues are faced in positioning a management infrastructure, with companies such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon launching their “Database in the Cloud” offerings, a whole bunch more issues are added which makes entry into the enterprise of such services very difficult at the present time. I am preparing a post on this.