The SaaS industry is one of tech’s most dynamic markets, forecast to reach a value of $143.7 billion by 2022.
As a delivery model, a license-based cloud SaaS model (cloud-based SaaS) comes with clear advantages, offering ISVs (independent software vendors) or those looking to migrate an on-premise SaaS product a range of benefits:
- Scalability: utilising cloud infrastructure to quickly serve a rapidly growing customer base, and to expand into new territories quickly.
- Flexible payment options: both for users and providers, reflecting the opportunity presented by the pay-for-what-you-use underlying infrastructure
- Simplicity: the capability to update one central version of the application, bringing new features to all users, and obfuscating the tiresome need to maintain legacy versions
- Easy access to great security features: the tried-and-tested security and recovery measures enabled by cloud, such as IaC (infrastructure as Code) and PaC (Policy as Code), which far outstrip those offered by other models both in terms of efficacy and management cost
- The competitive edge in the modern digital space: with many more companies offering cloud-based SaaS products and many customers expecting this as standard
- All the operational benefits of cloud: enabling DevOps and other automation practices, resulting in faster time-to-market, higher reliability, and less costly development
However, the way forward for SaaS providers is far from clear, as there remain obstacles to be tackled and opportunities to capitalise on.
What we cover in this piece: three ways SaaS companies can grow, dealing with issues and opportunities past, present and future
Traditionally, those looking to adopt cloud-based SaaS have faced some entrenched, and largely outdated, opposition. This is mostly a legacy problem, combined with perennial issues in tech around skepticism to new methods, but it continues to this day.
In the present, there is a lot to consider when launching and growing a SaaS business, particularly around which cloud provider you select, the role of the MSP, and the architecture best suited for your application.
In the future, of course, there are the coming SaaS trends of 2020, which any cloud-based SaaS business looking to make gains should be on the right side of.
In this piece, we cover
- The persistent myths which hold cloud-based SaaS back, and how JAM can help mitigate them
- The role of AWS and Just After Midnight in maximising your application’s potential
- Four of the newest trends in SaaS
Past – The SaaS myths which persist to this day (and how we can help)
Despite the clear advantages outlined above, cloud-based SaaS faces push-back both from CTOs looking to adopt and potential clients deciding between SaaS products and other software offerings.
These concerns are largely groundless, but it is important to tackle them head-on.
1. SaaS companies are one-trick ponies
There is a perception, likely rooted in the ‘sexing-up’ of SaaS success stories like Netflix, that SaaS companies are generally small, innovative teams with one great product. Although this is not wholly a negative perception, it does lead to less than desirable consequences, with CTOs not feeling that this image represents their company or fits with their way of working, and potential customers fearing more volatile, less mature business relations and provision. In reality, Computer World now lists nearly 1000 SaaS companies who offer solutions in multiple industries, and this is, to use a cliche, merely the tip of the ice-berg.
2. On-premise solutions are more secure and/or stable
This is not so much a feature of SaaS specifically, as it is a preconception about the underlying technology. It is rooted in the idea that having internet-accessible resources represents a significant threat or failure potential.But again, the reality is the inverse. Responsive to initial (and well-founded) concerns, cloud providers have, since the mid teens, offered some of the most secure, failure-proof solutions in tech, with practices like IaC, PaC and DevOps offering more agile and transparent control, easier testing and fault finding and more reliable deployment. Aside from some teething problems in Google’s initial SaaS product line, there have been no truly significant SaaS failures to date.
3. Tech experts are anti-SaaS
This last point is somewhat a feature of one and two, however, it is also partially explained by, to put it somewhat bluntly, the way in which luddism is sometimes passed off as technical acumen or shrewdness in the industry. The man or woman who expresses misgivings about a new technology being perceived to have some extra power of oversight that their more open colleagues lack. Of course, there are things to be wary of, and the initial, excessive optimism toward the transformative power of microservices is a good case in point, but in the example of SaaS, these aversions are often groundless, as illustrated above.
How Just After Midnight can help
Because we’re made up of both cloud and application specialists, we’re perfectly positioned to consult on and set up the right services for your cloud-based SaaS product. We can come at it from both perspectives.
And going forward we’re there to support you with 24/7 support and Ops management.
Through working with us, you’ll gain well-founded confidence in your offering’s security and reliability, which you’ll be able to project in your messaging and relationships.
Ultimately, many of these misconceptions are likely to fade away, but knowing what to say when faced with concerns about cloud security, having a broad offering or resistance in the industry can help you get ahead of the curve.
Our knowledge plus your relationship with us = messaging which gets to the heart of these issues and lays them to rest.
Present – AWS and Just After Midnight, the right technology stack and architecture
How Just After Midnight can help
In the present, you can use JAM and AWS to develop a cloud-based SaaS offering (or migrate to such from on-prem) which makes use of the best technologies.
The key to this is understanding your context and customers and identifying your needs as a business. Our role is to build around those needs.
The first point to consider is tenancy and isolation, whether you want to opt for a silo, bridge or pool architecture, all of which describe variations on how databases and schemas are shared between tenants. These three models offer trade-offs between security, ease of deployment, complexity, isolation and cost.
For legal tech companies with a large budget and high-security needs, a silo approach may be best advised, whereas a young app business with no such constraints may favour the pool model to increase deployment speed.
In each case, we’re here to advise.
The second option to explore is whether you opt for a traditional monolith architecture (all services being housed within the same application) or a microservices approach (an aggregate of modular services). Microservice applications can facilitate specialisation, lower costs in the long run, and allow you to combine best-of-breed services. However, there’s a lot to manage, and the number of API connections involved increases the risk of network failure. Monoliths are simpler to build, but they can be more costly down the line.
Again, there are multiple considerations, which is what we’re here to deal with.
Why AWS is the right choice
The benefits of running any of the big three cloud platforms are those covered in this article’s beginning: scalability, security, global reach, etc. And although AWS does excel in all three, where they surpass the competition is in a comprehensive, SaaS-focussed offering keenly attuned to the needs of the present moment.
AWS offers a range of tools for supporting any of the architectures mentioned above as well as guiding resources in the form of the AWS SaaS Enablement Framework and the AWS SaaS Factory, which also gives you visibility to AWS and fellow SaaS companies. And these are just some of the benefits of the APN (AWS Partner Network) In addition, they offer services uniquely capable of tackling key SaaS pain points, such as Cognito, which makes securing your mobile SaaS offering much easier (more on that below).
As an MSP, and an AWS partner, what we see in AWS is the strongest, broadest, and most responsive platform on which to build, maintain and grow a SaaS product, with excellent options for monitoring and optimising.
That’s why we put our partner AWS in the ‘present’ section – it’s a gift!
Future – four technology trends heading for SaaS that competitive businesses need to get out in front of
1. Using AI to help automate processes which can’t be traditionally scaled
The ease of scaling enabled by cloud-based SaaS often means that providers lag in the provision of tertiary services, such as customer reports, and business operation services, such as onboarding.
With the capability of natural language processing and ML, AI is able to plug the gap, automating these processes and scaling all aspects of the offering in tandem. Tools like Amazon Comprehend and Amazon Connect are key examples here, allowing you to meet the demands of a growing customer base while avoiding the costs of traditional expansion.
Our role is to consult on how best to achieve this and implement the right solution.
2. Using analytics to tailor pricing
Although a simple pay-for-what-you-use approach has been a mainstay in SaaS for some time, increasingly, SaaS providers are finding that more varied models can help meet customer needs, with studies showing that experimenting with pricing lead to positive results among 98% of providers.
Key to this is the use of business intelligence tools to determine what customers are really looking for.
Although this may appear an internal issue, JAM has a large part to play. To enable varied pricing models, the underlying infrastructure must be configured in such a way as to make these innovations profitable. For example, using the AWS Spot Pricing Model to enable customer discounts.
Pricing is often a reflection of the costs of the technology powering the service, and that’s our forte.
3. Riding the mobile-first wave via Amazon Amplify, Device Farm and Cognito (and more)
A trend not confined to SaaS, but highly relevant to it, the mobile-first attitude comes to SaaS in the expectation for a mobile device functionality in any strong SaaS offering.
This is particularly the case in business analytics, where clients want ready access to their data OOO (without an impact on functionality) and indeed any SaaS offering which fulfills a business need related to OOO activities.
This trend is also driven by the ‘always-on’ culture which we here at Just After Midnight consider a core value.
Again, our role here is to ensure you’re responsive to this trend where necessary via the use of best-practice tools like Amazon Amplify, Amazon Device Farm, and Amazon Cognito.
Amazon Cognito especially is indispensable, providing a cloud-security backed method for easily managing and authenticating sign-ins and sign-ups to your SaaS product’s mobile element.
4. Protecting your brand and service with 24/7 support and managed operations
In 2020, the demand for 24/7 support will increase rapidly.
Downtime has always been a major issue in terms of its impact on brand perception, and, ultimately, your bottom line, but, as the ‘always-on’ mindset proliferates, this expectation is set to grow.
Similarly, as more and more ISVs employ the services of nimble, cloud-native MSPs, the expectation for faster and faster times to market, bug-free deployments and all the features associated with professionally managed Ops will become standard.
Our role here is to provide you with truly outstanding 24/7 support and operational management, taking you beyond what’s expected.
- As a deployment model, cloud-based SaaS has clear advantages, it’s scalable, secure, enables flexible payments and fast, reliable deployments as well as central management
- There are still, however, issues SaaS providers need to address, the myths which persist about cloud-based SaaS, the choice of architecture, and how to capitalise on the trends that will shape SaaS’s future
- JAM can empower ISVs and those looking to adopt cloud-based SaaS through technology and knowledge sharing to augment their messaging and dispel these myths
- JAM can also guide you to the right architecture, and help you take advantage of the powerful offering from AWS
- SaaS is due for some transformation in 2020, and having the right partner could make all the difference
While we’ve got you…
If you want to get the latest thinking on SaaS, why not take at look at our examples of ‘perfect’ SaaS architecture on AWS.