Many legacy enterprise software vendors are jumping on the cloud computing bandwagon and position their legacy software offering as a SaaS solution. We at SAManage have been long advocating that not all SaaS offerings are created equal and that there are significant benefits to customers that understand why its important to explore if the SaaS vendor they consider offers a “true SaaS” or not (hint- its about the cost structure and your TCO).
Multi-tenant (or as I refer to as 1 product, 1 version) – ALL products are running on the same code base, leveraging the exact same infrastructure stack with ALL customers running the SAME version AT ALL TIMES.
This is important for customers as it demonstrates that the vendor is focusing his resources on a single code base and does not have to support multiple releases/different products. Its also happen to be the product YOU use and not one of the other products you don’t care about.
Seamless upgrades – New enhancements are automatically available (in the Cornerstone case, on a quarterly basis). Nothing is required of the customer to install, deploy or take advantage of the updates.
Anyone who has been administrating enterprise software products knows the pain involved with continuously upgrading to the latest version. When using a “hosted” offering (aka fake-SaaS) someone still has to upgrade the product to the latest release, and even if the vendor takes on that responsibility, it means that the cost of that effort would eventually find its way into your subscription fee. And when that cost goes up, so does your subscription fee.
Fully configured – Any modifications or changes are managed through configuration and not via changes to the actual code (also known as customization)
Fully managed – The vendor manages all aspects of the infrastructure including backup, disaster recovery, etc.
Self-provisioning – Simply stated, the customer can deploy and change the system without dependency on the vendor to make changes (to be clear, most customer still require some level of service from the vendor to accelerate deployment and leverage best practices)
To me this is the easiest way to separate the man from the boys. If your SaaS vendor can not offer you self-provision and online free trial, and if they have to “onboard” you by manually setting up an “instance” or a “hosted account” for you, than its because they don’t have a Multi-Tenant architecture. Again, its not about the technology or architecture, but about the cost involved with setting up and operating that instance, which will find its way into your subscription fee.