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Cloud Talk

Andre Yee

SaaS Vendors: Not All Created Equal

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It's my pet peeve - industry pundits talking about issues related to SaaS/cloud-based applications in a generalized, homogenized way. They talk about issues like whether SaaS is suitable for "large enterprises" or whether cloud based applications are "sufficiently secure" as though all SaaS or cloud computing vendors are the same.

Here's the problem - which SaaS or cloud computing vendors are you talking about? They aren't all created equal. In a hot, emerging space like cloud computing, you have a number of suppliers falling into three primary categories -

1. The Newbies - think of SaaS vendors that have just appeared on the scene in the past couple of years. They haven't been battle tested on scale, reliability or security. When you're looking at vendors like these, just make sure you're asking the hard questions related to enterprise readiness. If you're one of their larger companies, you'll want to be doubly cautious - it may be that you'll outgrow their ability to scale.

2. The Pretenders - these are on-premise vendors that finally "got religion". After dragging their heels, they have given in to the fact that cloud computing isn't just a fad and they've "reinvented" themselves as a cloud based application provider. Unlike the Newbies, it's a little harder to pin them down since they tend to give the old "hand wave" on what it takes to evolve to SaaS....but the problem is that SaaS isn't just a "hosted application". The idea of SaaS or cloud based applications has far reaching implications related to software architecture (multi-tenancy, etc...), service levels (uptime, performance, etc...), security policies (application as well as organizational), delivery/updates (one version to serve all customers)... the list goes on. As a buyer, you'll want to be sure that one of these Pretenders really understand what it means to be cloud based.

3. The Innovative Leaders - These are SaaS vendors that have been there, done that and continue to push the envelope. They've solved the challenging issues related to gaining scale and reliabilty. They address security comprehensively and are SAS 70 Level II audited. They continue to innovate. As a buyer, when you're checking out established SaaS vendors, you'll need to make sure that they continue a culture of innovation. The problem with some "older" SaaS vendors is that some of them have legacy architectures that need refactoring and user interfaces that need refreshing. The Innovative Leaders tackle these head on and continue to innovate.

If you are a buyer looking to purchase a cloud based application service or simply reading the next industry report, just remember that "not all SaaS vendors are created equal".

Andre Yee blogs about cloud computing, SaaS, Web 2.0 and other emerging technologies that matter to businesses.

Andre Yee

Andre Yee is an entrepreneur and technologist with nearly 20 years of experience in the business of technology.

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