By Larry Steele, Vice President of SaaS, SAVVIS
The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery model is undoubtedly changing the
way software vendors sell and market their software. While many vendors understand
what it means to host an application and provide it to customers via the Web,
few fully recognize the transformational elements that are necessary to fully
and successfully implement their SaaS offering.
A SaaS hosting provider is the foundation to meeting your specific SaaS needs.
The right host is one that has expertise in running a standard, global enterprise
infrastructure, as well as new, cutting-edge features -- such as end-to-end
software development capabilities and cloud-based platforms -- to enable fast,
economical and reliable deployment of your SaaS applications. Additionally,
they can also provide advisory and consultative services that will be essential
as you continue to strategically grow your SaaS offering.
How do you know if you need a SaaS hosting provider? What are the characteristics
of a reputable SaaS hosting company? The following considerations will help
you determine when to turn your SaaS infrastructure over to a managed hosting
service and how to find the best host to meet your unique SaaS needs.
You do not have the necessary resources available to quickly and cost-effectively
SaaS has made it easier and more cost-effective to create, distribute and manage
software; however, software vendors looking to adopt a SaaS delivery model must
ensure they can still meet their customers' availability and security demands.
This necessitates a secure, reliable, enterprise-grade infrastructure that can
support and quickly scale to host the vendor's growing number of Web-based software
To do this, many rely on SaaS hosting providers. The SaaS hosting provider
you select to host and manage your SaaS offering should have a reputation for
successfully implementing hosted services. They also must be focused on addressing
specific SaaS requirements, including capacity planning, compliance, visibility
and new technology integration. In short, SaaS should be a natural extension
of the host's core business and expertise, not just a loose grouping of services
packaged together to capitalize on the SaaS trend.
You find it harder to differentiate your SaaS offering in the marketplace
The early days of SaaS were plagued by system downtime and potential security
flaws. A high-performing, reliable technology infrastructure often distinguished
the leading software vendor from its competitors. Today, managed hosting providers
have arrived at effective processes to develop, deliver and refine many of the
essential enabling elements of SaaS, including consistent uptime, SLAs, scalability,
and rapid system response time. Although these factors are still critically
important to a reliable SaaS offering, they no longer create significant differentiation
among software vendors.
A SaaS hosting provider that offers consultative assessment services in addition
to reliably operating a SaaS infrastructure is essential to helping facilitate
a transition to a SaaS model. A SaaS hosting provider should demonstrate a willingness
to help you grow your business, which includes assisting with a go-to-market
strategy and providing access to global markets. The right SaaS hosting provider
can also help extend your brand by offering additional avenues for growth, such
as collaborating with you to create clearly differentiated solutions, developing
services that increase marketing and integration options, and granting access
to their customer base, giving you greater exposure to new prospects.
Your customers request more than just basic SaaS functionality
Customer demands for improved SaaS functionality continue to evolve beyond
consistent uptime, rapid system response time and broader solution capabilities.
Next-generation functionality, improved internal and external collaboration,
and other leading-edge technologies are now expected as part of any SaaS solution.
Vendors may be capable of temporarily supporting these new features, but the
required modifications needed to adapt to the rapid rate of change in the SaaS
space can make it difficult to keep pace with the technology. One of the key
factors enabling these major and rapid changes is the strength of your SaaS
As you develop your SaaS offering, you should regularly evaluate whether your
SaaS hosting provider has the physical and technical resources to anticipate
and address future SaaS delivery challenges that your business could face. Additionally,
the provider should understand how to package, price and promote profitable
managed services. Selecting a hosting company that has established credibility
in running a standard global enterprise infrastructure is essential to ensuring
smooth and successful transitions as SaaS requirements and features change.
You spend more time managing your SaaS infrastructure instead of developing
Ideally, software vendors want talent and resources focused on their "core,"
or the projects and activities that create differentiation for them and result
in more revenue, market share and margins. In reality, however, vendors spend
an unnecessary amount of time maintaining and enhancing network capacity and
support, security, storage, backup, and disaster recovery. These capabilities,
known as "context," are required and essential, but they provide no
additional value to you or your customers. Further, they can detract from your
Finding a trusted, highly capable SaaS hosting provider will help to free you
from the responsibility of managing your SaaS solution and enable you to focus
on software development to create greater value for your customers. Your SaaS
host should have ownership over essential, high-quality SaaS assets, including
data center facilities, networks and other IT components. Additionally, they
should be able to demonstrate that they have established vendor relationships
and service agreements already in place, offer performance SLA monitoring to
cover critical elements of service -- from network performance to response times
-- and provide comprehensive security credentials. The ideal hosting candidate
should also have a professional services team and 24/7 reliable and dedicated
support to assist with any technical issues.
As SaaS continues to proliferate, software vendors are adopting this new delivery
model to satisfy their customers and maintain a strong competitive market lead.
As decisions around how to implement the most appropriate SaaS solution become
more complex, vendors may find it difficult to determine a strategic and cost-effective
path forward. In these cases, a SaaS hosting provider can help vendors address
their business, marketplace and technical needs; however, not all managed hosting
providers have the infrastructure or expertise to support the SaaS model. Therefore,
it is important to select a host that offers more than just technical capabilities.
End-to-end software development ecosystems, cloud-based platforms and advisory
services are also critical components that vendors should consider as they 'SaaS-ify'
their offerings and create new value for end-users.
About the Author
Larry Steele brings more than 18 years of experience in technology to his role as vice president of SaaS for SAVVIS Inc. Steele leads the overall global strategy in delivering SaaS solutions to meet client needs. Prior to joining SAVVIS, he was the CTO for Edward Jones, a leader in the financial services industry. He holds an MBA from Washington University, St. Louis. He is also a frequent participant in CTO advisory boards and industry speaking events.