Saasify - Software as a Service and the Enterprise


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Given a tough economy and tight IT budgets, how can CIOs best
provide the software their enterprises need? Increasingly, by offering
enterprise applications — including HR systems, ERP and CRM — in the
form of Web-based services. And at many businesses of all sizes, CIOs
are offering on-demand Software as a Service (SaaS) delivered directly
from the cloud to employees’ computers and mobile devices.

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Saasify - Software as a Service and the Enterprise

  1. 1. SaaSify!With the rise of software as a service, applications providers arescrambling to transform their solutions — and how CIOs consumesoftware.Given a tough economy and tight IT budgets, how can CIOs bestprovide the software their enterprises need? Increasingly, by offeringenterprise applications — including HR systems, ERP and CRM — in theform of Web-based services. And at many businesses of all sizes, CIOsare offering on-demand Software as a Service (SaaS) delivered directlyfrom the cloud to employees’ computers and mobile devices.But there’s a catch: Many makers of business software aren’t ready.For a variety of reasons, they don’t yet offer SaaS versions of theirapplications.To be fair, many if not most business-solutions providers are now scrambling to“SaaS-ify” their applications. They must, if they want to retain current customersGenerated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-28-06:00 1
  2. 2. SaaSify!and attract new ones. Increasingly, both new and existing customers want theirsoftware delivered as an on-demand service.But solutions providers find that transforming their existing software packagesinto reliable and secure Web-based services — ones that can scale up to servethousands of customers at once — is no easy task. Rewriting code for multi-tenancy takes time and money, resources many companies can ill afford.Fortunately, virtualization technology has emerged that helps make apps readyfor SaaS, and ready for new markets, too. Virtualization makes it possible toprovision new instances of an application — and the underlying technology stack— at the proverbial push of a button.Yet if the goal is to create the basis for an industrial-strength SaaS offering, thensimply virtualizing an application isn’t enough. There’s still a good deal of set-up,configuring and testing to do.As a result, a growing number of software companies and hosting providershave begun working with more-comprehensive virtualization platforms. Theseinclude CA AppLogic®, a turnkey application-centric cloud platform offered byCA Technologies. This type of solution is attracting software makers eager torespond and benefit from the growing demand for “SaaS-ified” solutions.Rocket BoosterOne factor driving the demand for SaaS solutions is the recession of 2008and its aftermath — the “real rocket booster” for the SaaS market, says KevinDobbs, Managing Partner of Montclair Advisors, a SaaS consulting firm. “Oncebanks stopped lending, companies couldn’t invest in the kinds of softwareinstallations they had traditionally undertaken,” he explains. “SaaS offered thecompanies a way to use software with no infrastructure to buy and no technologyto maintain.” No wonder, Dobbs adds, “that all software companies have had tostart looking at the SaaS model.”Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-28-06:00 2
  3. 3. SaaSify!Another factor driving the new delivery model is the “consumerization” of IT.End users have smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices, and they havealready become accustomed to using cloud applications such as LinkedIn,Facebook and Google. “Now they want the same consumption model for theirenterprise software,” says Roy Pater, Co-founder and Director of InfraServe, anAustralian wholesale cloud services provider that helps software providers launchSaaS offerings. “End users no longer want to worry about how to make it allwork. They just want to use it.”The notion of providing online access to remotely hosted enterprise software productsis hardly new. It first was broached in the late 1990s by a handful of application serviceproviders (ASPs). But because the ASPs did little more than host packaged apps one copyat a time, they were unable to scale. Most quietly faded away.Today, thanks to the ubiquitous Web and powerful virtualization technologies, SaaS isproving much more viable, both technically and economically. The result: Seemingly everysoftware provider is answering the call of the cloud.This, in turn, has inspired many managed service providers (MSPs), telecommunicationscompanies, colocation vendors and hosting providers to beef up their data centers andPlatform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings specifically to deliver SaaS.One major challenge is helping software firms transform their existing softwarepackages into flexible hosted services, and then deliver the responsiveness,reliability and security that their enterprise customers expect. “CIOs want theability to consume apps from the cloud as easily and comfortably as if theythemselves were running those apps,” says Peter Sherr, Senior VP and GeneralManager, Service Providers, at CA Technologies, who is leading the company’sefforts to serve the burgeoning MSP market.Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-28-06:00 3
  4. 4. SaaSify!That desire has IT executives asking some tough questions of potential SaaSproviders, Sherr says. For example: Where is my data being kept? How secure isthe facility where your code is running? How well is my data protected while intransit between your data center and my end users? How reliable is your service?Whom can I call if something goes wrong? And when it comes to successfullydelivering SaaS, Sherr says, “How well service providers answer these questionswill separate the leaders from the rest of the pack.”Small Is BigThe types of software getting SaaS-ified run the gamut. Dan Pellegrini, Directorof SaaS at provider Logicalis U.S., sees opportunity in financial services,manufacturing and healthcare. “Many ISVs [independent software vendors]have the code and the customers, but lack the knowledge and the resources tomove it to a cloud-based solution,” he says. “We can help with that transitionby providing a model that includes sample contracts, billing and financialjustification, even help [the ISV] write business plans.”Regional hosting firms see a big opportunity in SaaS, too. They’re ready tomanage and monitor enterprise-class software services and provide end-usersupport in ways the bigger players do not and perhaps cannot. “We provide amanaged cloud environment that’s dedicated to a particular ISV and customizedto their needs,” says Jason Carolan, VP of Product Development at ViaWest Inc.The Denver, Colo.-based “super regional” hosting firm operates 22 data centersacross five regions, offering colocation, complex hosting, cloud and managedservices. Carolan says ViaWest’s offerings differ from a typical large-scale publiccloud, where many clients are thrown together to share infrastructure, andservices may be offered on a “one size fits all” basis.Regional hosting companies also point to their ability to tailor networkconnections and management services to the needs of SaaS clients. Forexample, ViaWest can connect its data center to a SaaS customer’s premiseswith a dedicated multi-gigabit connection, which outperforms the shared publicInternet typically relied on by larger providers. The regional companies may alsobe physically closer to the SaaS provider’s customers, reducing network latency.Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-28-06:00 4
  5. 5. SaaSify!The regional companies also offer well-staffed network operations centers,enterprise-class IT management systems and 24x7 help desks. They can addressissues of data governance and auditing, which are vital for certain applications,industries and countries, too. “We’re able to provide responsiveness and a localtouch,” Carolan of ViaWest says.Another company, Houston-based StratITsphere, provides hosting services tocustomers in the energy sector. Its recent offering, the Nimbus cloud computingservice, helps customers use the cloud to simplify their operations. “While mostcompanies are looking to cut expenses, our customers are more interested inescaping the complexities and hassles involved in creating and maintaining an ITinfrastructure,” says Stephen Webster, President and CEO of StratITsphere. “It’smuch more convenient and efficient for them to partner with a quality serviceprovider with a good SLA [Service Level Agreement], and pay a monthly per-userfee.”Regardless of their applications or the industries they serve, ISVs moving toSaaS have their work cut out for them. The critical issue, says Dobbs of MontclairAdvisors, is that companies must find a scalable platform. “The last thing theywant to do when adding each new customer is to buy a blade server, load it witha database and operating system, then test it and load data,” Dobbs explains.“That could take three or four months, and they’d need a huge staff to build outtheir SaaS infrastructure.”SAAS PACKS ITS BAGSMoving to Software as a Service (SaaS)  in the cloud promises to help softwaremakers break into new markets, at home and abroad. That’s especially true ifsoftware companies use the CA AppLogic® turnkey cloud computing platform to  host their code.Delivered over the Web, software services can, in theory, reach markets aroundthe world. But in practice, organizations located too far from a SaaS hostingfacility will suffer sluggish response times. That’s due mainly to the inevitablelatency, or delays, in connections made over the public Internet.Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-28-06:00 5
  6. 6. SaaSify!The obvious answer: Host the SaaS code in, or at least closer to, overseas markets.Unfortunately, that takes time and effort. Potential hosting partners must be evaluated.SaaS software must be installed in multiple locations. And billing procedures must be setup in local currencies.But software makers working with the CA AppLogic platform should find the goingmuch easier. Currently, more than 400 hosting companies run CA AppLogic-equippedinfrastructure grids in Europe, the Middle East, China, Australia and elsewhere. All thesefacilities are, by definition, potential hosting sites for CA AppLogic-based SaaS offerings.To enter a new market, all a provider has to do is identify an appropriate hostingfirm, negotiate a hosting contract, and then send its CA AppLogic-ready app-service “appliance” to that firm’s grid. More or less automatically, the appliancewill be configured and ready to provide its business application service toorganizations. That will be true whether those are local enterprises or branchoffices of enterprises headquartered elsewhere.Each CA AppLogic grid offers a stable, well-defined and highly agile platformthat’s ready to host any properly packaged appliance. In essence, it’s apreconfigured collection of virtualized resources. This platform, in turn,connects the guest appliance to locally supplied services such as billing, servicemanagement and identity management, each of which will be localized.As part of an effort to encourage such remote hosting of business application services,CA Technologies has launched Cloud Commons®, an online cloud community, developerstudio, test grid and marketplace. There, CA AppLogic-ready hosting companies andindependent software vendors (ISVs) can find, evaluate and do business with each other.In fact, the Cloud Commons ecosystem not only supports CA AppLogiccustomers, but also offers a wide range of other cloud-based solutions fromboth CA Technologies  and third-party companies. And its Developer Studiocomponent enables developers and ISVs to quickly create, test and certify cloudservices designed to run on the CA AppLogic platform. – J.W.V.Virtually a ServiceAlthough virtualization technology helps with the Saas-ifying process, eachinstance still needs some amount of server, storage and networking capacity —not to mention firewall, load balancer, app servers, Web servers and a databaseserver or two. Each instance also will need to call on services, such as identitymanagement and billing, and perhaps connect to third-party apps or contentsources. In other words, simply virtualizing an application is just the beginning.Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-28-06:00 6
  7. 7. SaaSify!That’s where the CA AppLogic platform comes in. This comprehensivevirtualization platform encapsulates in a single, well-defined collection ofvirtualized resources not only a business application itself, but also all thesoftware, hardware and IT services it may require. This collection, called avirtual appliance, is then ready to run on a grid of servers and other hardwareresources. This grid is controlled by a layer of CA AppLogic software that createsa well-defined platform. All this means an app is ready in a matter of minuteswith all the needed performance and specific features.Each virtual appliance typically contains multiple virtual machines (VM) — onefor each of the application, compute, Web and database servers that the corebusiness application requires. Just like a standard VM, this virtual appliance isactually just a computer file. That means it can be copied, backed up, deleted,moved, stored and retrieved as easily and rapidly as any other file. What’s more,Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-28-06:00 7
  8. 8. SaaSify!all of the virtual appliance’s most important operating characteristics — itstransaction-processing capacity, the size of its database and more — can becustomized simply by adjusting a set of parameters.This level of agility makes the CA AppLogic platform particularly attractive asa way to instantly turn current enterprise software into highly scalable SaaSservices. In part, that’s because these virtual appliances can be reconfiguredand provisioned as many times as necessary. This is possible because the CAAppLogic virtualization scheme effectively decouples the application from itsunderlying infrastructure, thereby eliminating the need for human intervention.“AppLogic is a very elaborate product that makes deployment of any softwareinto the cloud very simple,” says Pater of InfraServe. “It also enables ourpartners to add capacity as needed, one slice at a time.”That’s in contrast to the traditional provisioning of hardware, Pater adds. Thatapproach often results in buying too large a physical server — “just in case,” isthe common thinking — then seeing much of its capacity left unused.Most important, Pater adds, “With our AppLogic platform we get software firmsinto the SaaS market without them having to re-architect their code to be amulti-tenancy product.” Also, software firms can assure their customers of highlevels of data security; in effect, each instance uses its own dedicated copy ofthe application, running on its own virtualized platform, and with its own firewall.At the same time, maintaining the software is greatly simplified. Changes madeto the master copy of the software get automatically pushed out to all the otherinstances on a CA AppLogic grid.And so, the SaaS revolution has begun. How it will ultimately change the delivery and useof IT is difficult to predict. But two things look certain: First, CIOs are about to have a long-standing prayer answered: better service with less effort on their part. And second, thesoftware industry will likely never be the same.John W. Verity writes about technology from Santa Rosa, Calif.Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-28-06:00 8
  9. 9. SaaSify! Smart Enterprise Magazine View the full digital edition here »Generated by Jive SBS on 2012-03-28-06:00 9