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The Tao of SaaS

The Tao of SaaS

Strategies for SaaS Businesses from

The SaaS Explosion of 2013 -- Part II, "The Server-Side Pull"


We are at the tipping point of server-side capabilities for SaaS that will enable an explosion of SaaS development.  The upsurge of Server-side enablers, in aggregate, will knock down many barriers to building great SaaS applications enabling more and richer SaaS applications appearing in 2013.



Top 5 reasons why Server-side innovation will accelerate SaaS adoption



1)      The Credit Card payment and free trials for IaaS/PaaS services



One of the greatest innovations of Amazon’s AWS was the ease of gaining cloud computing resources through credit card signups and free trials.  Amazon courted programmers by removing financial barriers to creating Cloud applications – with no management financial approval required; skunkworks projects by internal development teams and cash poor entrepreneurs blossomed.  Amazon followed Salesforce's Land and Expand Strategy getting a foothold into a company with a small customer investment and then expanding.  AWS enabled many new SaaS applications to be built enabling Amazon to benefit from these applications' explosive growth. 


Microsoft joined Amazon enables free trials and an easy purchase of computing resources, while some more traditional hosting firms looking to become IaaS/PaaS providers don’t get the value of seeding their use by entrepreneurs and early adopters within an organization.



2)      PaaS Matures



While Amazon made it simple to develop applications on their cloud with IaaS services such as EC2 and S3, PaaS is maturing to raise the level of abstraction reducing the grunge work of getting an application deployed in a production setting.  Major SaaS players, Salesforce and NetSuite, are offering their own platforms, and NetSuite SuiteCloud as PaaS platforms available to other SaaS companies.  Salesforce also acquired Heroku as a second PaaS platform supporting Ruby on Rails.  Microsoft and Google have their own internally developed PaaS platforms with Microsoft Windows Azure and Google App Engine.  All of these PaaS platforms (and many more) are enabling efficient ways to develop new SaaS offerings at lower cost and less time.  



3)      SaaS enabling toolsets proliferate -- The SaaS ecosystem develops



Beyond PaaS, the cloud ecosystem is developing rapidly to accelerate the development of SaaS applications.  For ISVs with legacy Java applications, Corent Technologies provides a platform to enable the essential conversation of on-premise software to a multi-tenant architecture.  Many other new solutions such as RightScale are being offered to the market enabling ISVs to build and scale robust SaaS applications to the enterprise in areas including provisioning, user authentication and authorization, metering and billing of SaaS usage, performance monitoring and exception handling, and auditing capabilities.



4)      SaaS integrations enable SaaS to become part of the IT ecosystem



Integration with SaaS applications (or on premise applications) has been difficult.  Existing EAI tools were complex and best suited for applications behind the firewall.  New tools such as Dell’s Boomi greatly simplify the integration between SaaS and legacy applications.  RESTful APIs are becoming prevalent often replacing the much more complex (though more powerful) SOAP protocol easing the ability to realize the potential of Mashups through simple URL based procedural integrations.  Companies such as Google have abandon SOAP interfaces in favor of the simple REST architecture.   Nearly 50% of Salesforce daily transactions are performed over their API. 




5)      The Cloud ecosystem matures



The crash of 2011 (Amazon’s AWS outage on April 21, 2011) seems like ancient history.  Amazon and the industry has made major strides in reliability and isolating failures that caused the cascading failures we had seen.  While the reliability of the infrastructure has become more mature and reliable, perhaps more importantly, SaaS developers understand the limitations and are building applications more tolerant to infrastructure failures.  Maturation of the platforms and toolsets, and a better understanding of their capabilities by SaaS vendors is leading to the building of SaaS applications that are highly reliable, scalable, secure, compliant with regulatory standards, and auditable. 


These developments in 2012 will lead to an explosion of great new SaaS applications being deployed in 2013.


Coming Next -- Part III, "The Customer Pull"


The SaaS Explosion of 2013 -- Part I, "The Client-Side Pull"

Garner predicted cloud growth would be 21% percent in 2011.  IDC predicts SaaS growth at 25.3% CAGR through 2014.  Forester predicts SaaS will account for 26% of the package software market by 2016, while Deloitte forecasts that only 4.3% of On-Premise software spending will be replaced by SaaS.


Everyone believes the SaaS market is growing; some more rapidly than others.  


I believe the inflection point for adoption of SaaS will come in 2013 -- We will hit the infamous knee of the curve and the acceleration of SaaS adoption will reach an all time high.


This post discusses forces impacting the client side applications and devices that will help drive SaaS adoption.  Half of the road to SaaS is moving the user interface from an old style/client server to a modern browser interface.  


The drive to web and mobile app interfaces, and web services accelerates the drive to SaaS.



Top 5 reasons why client interfaces will accelerate SaaS adoption


1)    Client/Server architectures are dead - long live HTML5


April 8, 2014 == January 1, 2000


Windows XP's market share was 45.3 percent in February of 2012.   On April 8, 2014, Microsoft drops support for Windows XP resulting in the end of updates to resolve malware issues.


Without Microsoft support, you will no longer receive security updates that can help protect your PC from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software that can steal your personal information.


The migration from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8 will accelerate dramatically around April 2013 when CIOs realize they need to move their base off of Windows XP long before support is discontinued.


Windows XP does not support IE9, the first Microsoft Browser with (basic) HTML5 support.   More complete HTML5 support from Microsoft will come with the general release of IE10 later in 2012.  IE9 is also the first Microsoft browser to support auto update pioneered by Google with Chrome, and later adopted by Firefox.  This is crucial since auto updates keep browsers current and avoid the problem of the old, dated browser requiring browser based applications to support old versions.  


We need Windows XP to die so people will move off of their old browsers to modern browser with HTML 5 support and the move to new browsers with auto updates to keep up with the rapidly evolving HTML5 implementations.  The the client base moving from Windows XP to Windows 7 or 8, the user based will also migrate to some modern browser.  


This migration to modern browsers will end the most typical reason why CTOs cling to their old client/server architectures (and Silverlight and WPF) rather than build new project on HTML5.  There will finally be a very high percentage of the user base running on an update-to-date browser with far fewer inconsistencies between browser versions than in the past.



2)    Client side programmers are moving to HTML5


HTML5/JavaScript/CSS3 is nowhere near as good as WPF, Silverlight, Flash, Flex, etc.  
Get over it!

Yes, I know JavaScript is significantly flawed, making it harder to write and maintain large projects.  It is getting better with new frameworks making HTML5 based development much better.  A major problem has been the inconsistent browser support that is getting better with modern browsers as discussed above.  


But the war has been won (or is about to be won) by HTML5/JavaScript/CSS3.  This will result in most new clients apps being written for a browser further driving the adoption of SaaS.  The most telling sign of this is the rapid adoption of HTML5 by the development community with over 50% of client side developers now becoming fluent in HTML5.



3)    Mobile devices are SaaS consumers 


Are Virtual Desktops on an iPad really a Cloud application?


It is hard to believe the iPad was first announced two years ago.  Mobile devices drive SaaS adoption because legacy client/server applications don't (really) work on mobile devices. Virtually all companies I work with are furiously fleshing out their mobile strategy.  Increasingly that means building HTML5 applications rather than a unique application for each mobile platform.   When a mobile application, be it browser based, or an iOS or Android application are built on a web services interface, you are half way to a SaaS implementation.  



4)    The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) revolution 


Saying "Bring Your Own Device" is an IT Trend is like saying peanut butter in school lunches is a trend.
Paul French, "ReadWrite Enterprise"

The end-user has won, and the traditional IT control of the user's device is quickly ending.  It is no longer just a Windows PC and a Blackberry, but now also iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and Macs.  The adoption of these new platforms is another pull to move away from client/server and their VPN interfaces and to a world dominated by Web Services provided by SaaS applications.



5)    The Facebookification of the User Interface 


"That looks like Windows 95"
A doctor commenting on a (client/server) Electronic Medical Records GUI


Business users expect modern interfaces.  That means no Windows95 style, 3270 redux, or Citrix interfaces.  Users expect a modern look and feel with a user experience like they experience as consumers.  Client/Server interfaces are getting very dated very fast.  


The Consumerization of the UI drives business applications to browser-based applications.


Coming Next -- Part II, "The Server-Side Pull"



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