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SaaS Infrastructure Choices: An Analysis
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SaaS Infrastructure Choices: An Analysis


This is a presentation that I delivered as part of Softletter's SaaS University event in Washington, D.C. on July 20th, 2010. I discussed the challenges for most software companies of moving to a SaaS …

This is a presentation that I delivered as part of Softletter's SaaS University event in Washington, D.C. on July 20th, 2010. I discussed the challenges for most software companies of moving to a SaaS model and what choices they have for hosting the infrastructure required for the new solution.

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  • Will start with what are the challenges for SaaS companies.Focus in this talk on Operational Discipline aspect, not Business Models, Development ChangesPOINT IS: DON’T YOU HAVE ENOUGH TO WORRY ABOUT WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT INFRASTRUCTURE?A profound shift is occurring in the way that enterprise applications are purchased and delivered. The traditional model of application deployment, in which the customer acquires a perpetual license and assumes responsibility for the software’s implementation and ongoing management, has many disadvantages for end users. Increasing dissatisfaction with the costs, complexities, and length of time that it takes to recognize value from their investments have pushed software buyers to demand alternative models of application delivery, such as Software as a Service (SaaS). SaaS transitions the burden of deployment and management from the end user to the software vendor, and forces vendors to take responsibility for the performance, security, and stability of their applications.SaaS requires revised business models, re-architected code, and instant proficiency in an entirely new set of operational disciplines: 24x7 systems management and call centers, hosting and networking, security, disaster recovery, and more. Most software companies are aware of the significance of the SaaS model, but are struggling with at least one of three foundational aspects of SaaS delivery: business model, code, and/or 24x7 operations.
  • 2010 SoftLetterSaaS Report indicates that companies are evaluating a lot of different platforms – and this doesn’t even include IaaS and Colocation.I’d argue that the cloud computing and hosting choices available to people — whether they’re ISVs, enterprise developers or business users — are still poorly understood.
  • Let’s start with a high-level definition of Cloud ComputingLots of confusion. Lots of different definitions. Boils down to outsourcing compute functions to someone else:In the 1800’s companies generated their own power – today we “plug it in and go”Burden’s Wheel – power enabled Burden to automate processes – lower cost and crush his competitionThink about what the value of these guys to Burden’s businessNow think about what they might say about utility power – unreliable, secure, “what happens if it fails”, “we want to control our destiny”, “our power needs are special”Economics drove the switch
  • Another way of looking at it.Point here is that Cloud computing is really three models. SaaS companies really have three choices – DIY (left side), or to themselves leverage cloud computing by picking a PaaS or IaaS model to host their application.Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models. ConvenientOn-demandSharedRapidly provisionedMinimal effort or interaction
  • Considering that end users are demanding it, competitors are already providing it, and most, if not all, software companies know that their future viability depends on it, what options are available to the ISV for efficiently overcoming business model, code, and operational stumbling blocks to launch a quality SaaS offering?For software companies, there are two choices for SaaS delivery: build or buy.
  • Since it’s possible to abstract the underlying hardware from the workload running within a VM it’s also very easy to do things like allocate more memory or compute power to the VM than is actually available on the underlying physical hardware. As the business grows, the demand on application performance may grow with it? It should be easy to assign and re-assign things like CPU and RAM resourcesDifferent IaaS and cloud computing models are based on different technologies – VPS (Virtual Private Servers), dedicated physical hardware and virtualization platforms like VMware. How much CPU and RAM in total (usually different based on the underlying model being used) can be assigned to the application(s) has an impact on the decisions you make about scaling.Scale Up Not Always the Answer:The reason is that there is always a limit to the physical hardware that can be thrown at an application and a lot of applications aren’t even designed from the beginning to scale in this manner. With VMware a maximum of either 4 or 8 vCPUs (virtual CPUs) can be assigned to a VM depending on the version of ESX being used. There are even good reasons why arbitrarily assigning the max number of vCPUs to a VM isn’t the best course of action.  More importantly, if the application (and underlying OS) wasn’t built to support SMP and multi-threading, adding vCPUs will have no effect whatsoever. If scalability is a concern, ensure that all of the applications components can take advantage of a large number of CPUs and can address > 4GB of RAM. This is known as a “scale-up” model. 
  • Visually make this better?
  • Amazon – 1.7GB of RAM and 160GB Storage per BlueLock – 2GB of RAM and 140GB Storage – 20GB included with VMJet is not the most expensive part of owning an aircraft – it’s the operation of that aircraft that is the most expensive partJet as hardware…Operating airline vs. using itNeed experts (pilots) to fly the planeSpeed to implementation…on the Internet and on a plane in minutes/hours vs. getting your own plane, etc.Your Pilot or Mine…Sharing allows you to make the expense variable Southwest – only use it when you need it….
  • Projetech is a privately-held Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider for the asset management software, IBM Maximo®, providing delivery and management of the application to the enterprise. Projetech is a Premier Business Partner with IBM Software, Inc., and an authorized reseller of IBM Maximo® software and service.
  • Want to emphasize the control aspect of IaaS – I think we have an advantage here. Best balance
  • Undoubtedly, your hosting provider must have a reputation for successfully implementing hosted services. They also must be focused on addressing specific SAAS requirements, including capacity planning, compliance, visibility and new technology integration. In short, SAAS should be a natural extension of the host's core business and expertise—not just a loose grouping of services packaged together to capitalize on the SAAS trend.


  • 1. Your SaaS Infrastructure Choices:A Comparative Analysis
    Bob Roudebush
    Director of Sales Engineering, BlueLock, LLC
  • 2. Agenda
    The SaaS Shift
    Cloud Computing for SaaS Companies
    PaaS versus IaaS
    Cloud Objections
    Summary / Q&A
  • 3. The SaaS Shift: What It Means for ISVs
  • 4. A Lot of Choices for SaaS Providers
  • 5.
  • 6. Traditional Computing Model v. Cloud Computing Model
  • 7. Value of Cloud Computing for SaaS Companies
  • 8. The PaaS Option: Characteristics
    • True “Elastic” Scalability
    • 9. Particularly suitable for “scale-out”
    • 10. Popular for Web-based Applications
    • 11. Ruby on Rails, .NET Azure, etc.
    • 12. Reduces Development Time
    • 13. Bundled Services: Security, Content Distribution, etc.
    • 14. Impacts Application Architecture
    • 15. Configuration as Coding, Session State / Caching
    • 16. Platform/Vendor Lock-in
  • The IaaS Option: Characteristics
    Evolution of Existing Hosting Model
    Virtualized x86 hardware on a standard OS
    Deploy application “As-Is”: .Net, LAMP, etc.
    Increased Flexibility / Customization
    Scale-Up or Scale-Down, Dedicated Compute Capacity
    SaaS Vendor owns the “OS-App-Data” Stack
    Can Include Managed Services
    Passes burden of operational discipline to provider
    SPLA programs allow shift of software costs to provider
  • 17. Relative Cost of the Choices
    Capital Expense
    Operational Expense
  • 18. Relative Cost: Hard Numbersfor 5 and 10 Servers (1st Year)
    Capital Expense
    Operational Expense
  • 19. Cost Differential – Managed versus Unmanaged
    Source: Toigo Partners International and HP
  • 20. A Real World Example: Projetech
  • 21. Typical Objections to Cloud Computing
  • 22. Summary
    What’s your core competency?
    Software versus Infrastructure
    Know what to look for.
    Service Level Agreements
    Security and Control
    Expert Services/Support
    There are tangible benefits to Cloud for SaaS.
    Ability to change cost structures
    Economics will win over technology
  • 23. Analysts: by 2012, 80% of Fortune 1000 enterprises will be leveraging cloud computing in some way.
    BlueLock, founded in 2006, provides multiple IaaS cloud hosting offerings for SaaS companies.