Nov 4, 2009

Design Criteria Defaults: SaaS

Yesterday I wrote about vendors making mobility a primary design criteria when developing collaboration platform interfaces, today I want to focus on the SaaS.

Still in it's 20o9 rage, the Cloud continues to pose issues for customers and vendors alike. Since late 2006 we've seen traditional software vendors, including IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Cisco, throw their hat and products into the Cloud and offering SaaS-based delivery of many of their popular solutions. Spurred on by Google's ambitions in the the enterprise market, each vendor has come up with their own approach to SaaS and the Cloud. Some have made it out of beta to deliver ready for prime time offerings (Microsoft Online, LotusLive), some have pulled back to only providing private offerings (Oracle), others are emerging through building on top of consumer-based acquisitions (IBM Lotus and Cisco), and others are working on configuring the right architecture (Cicso).

Bottom line, updating existing products and systems and building a hosting operation is not simple. It's not easy to transform an installed, on-premise system - like e-mail or collaboration - into a multi-tenant, scalable, and secure SaaS offering. The migration of back-end servers to support larger loads and parsing out multiple domains can take time. Once that's in place modifying other supporting services like Directory or Search to support the complex security and permissions also takes time. Finally, designing the presentation layer to provide secure functionality also requires a change in attitude and development assumptions.

As with mobility, vendors need to consider hosting capabilities as an primary design criteria for all new system software. Microsoft has done well in coming closer to this goal in its SharePoint and Office 2010 designs, but still some of their forthcoming BI servers are still treating the hosting part as a follow-on job. IBM Lotus on the other hand appears to be approaching things differently, developing on-premise solutions separately from it's LotusLive offerings, many of which consist of acquired hosted products like Outblaze's e-mail or the Unyte hosted meetings.

It's not a foregone conclusion that all on-premise platforms need to be retro-fitted or upgraded for SaaS delivery. Designing for hosting will likely help in the integration department and make hybrid on-premise/Cloud delivery easier for both the vendor and the customer.

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