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Cloud Marketplaces: SaaS or Pseudo-SaaS?

For a true SaaS marketplace, the SaaS customer must have a primary account relationship with the provider of the SaaS app

There is a lot of confusion and hype about the cloud and SaaS (Software as a Service), and at Corent we experience it on a regular basis. One of the things I've been seeing and hearing about is the concept of a marketplace of cloud applications. I've observed that applications sold this way are often described as SaaS even though the key criteria of SaaS aren't being provided to either the application vendor, or the application customer.

While it's true that the cloud is a SaaS product, often the business applications provided on the cloud marketplaces are not.

What's really going on is best described as "pseudo-SaaS." While it's true that most web applications can be configured to run on the cloud, and the underlying cloud is a scalable set of resources (compute, storage and network), and that is just what you need for SaaS, it doesn't happen automatically. What many cloud providers don't say to software providers is that the process of getting that scalability is not inherent in simply moving your application to the cloud, it typically requires either a manual intervention by the administrator or some significant coding provided either by you or by one of the PaaS vendors to implement the necessary monitoring, triggers and dynamic provisioning necessary to achieve truly elastic scalability. That's not a capability that is there automatically when you deploy your application on the cloud. Some cloud vendors are now starting to add or offer these types of auto-scaling capabilities to their own PaaS layer, yet it is still not automatic, and the setup and configuration to enable an application to scale automatically is still substantial.

The key difference between pseudo-SaaS and true SaaS is the concept of the SaaS provider. In true SaaS there is a provider that takes the responsibility for deploying the application on the cloud and managing it and implementing the necessary processes to scale it as needed so that the tenants can enjoy the service levels they expect. The Tenant merely has to sign up for the SaaS application and use it, while all the operational and management responsibilities belong to the SaaS provider.

In the typical cloud marketplace offering, the offer is simply the application pre-installed on a virtual machine image and able to run on the cloud, and marketed as SaaS because the users are charged a subscription fee. The offerings are not truly SaaS because the tenant/customer that signs up for these cloud applications is actually the one purchasing the cloud infrastructure services from the cloud vendor, and they, the customer, are responsible for all the application administration, maintenance and updates, including scaling if their user base and requirements grow. This is often beyond the level of technical involvement that the customer wishes to do, and it's not really SaaS in the true sense if the customer is the one who has to perform the functions of operating and managing the service, rather than simply using the service.

For true SaaS there is a SaaS provider that takes on the operational responsibilities and is the one who has the account with the cloud vendor and pays that cloud vendor for the resources used by all his tenants/customers who are using the application. The tenants have a software application that they can log on to and use, and that's all they have to worry about as the SaaS provider takes care of all the issues around scaling, updates, backup and recovery, SLAs, and paying the cloud vendor for the infrastructure on which it runs.

If the customer is the one with the direct relationship (i.e., Account) with the cloud provider, and is responsible for monitoring, managing and updating all the operating systems, middleware, and application code to ensure the system is running, is up to date and secure, then the solution is not truly SaaS. It's simply an application hosted on the cloud and charged on a subscription basis. That's not true SaaS and it's not likely to deliver the level of value proposition that SaaS customers expect. Customers of SaaS expect to have a SaaS provider managing and operating the application, so that they can simply pay the subscription fee and use the application as a service.

For a true SaaS marketplace, the SaaS customer must have a primary account relationship with the provider of the SaaS application, and the ISV or MSP that is the SaaS provider must have responsibility for the provisioning, operations and management of the application and the customer/tenant relationship. Simply having a subscription-based pricing model is not sufficient if it's really a subscription to a certain cloud infrastructure with a bundled application.

More Stories By Scott Chate

Scott Chate is the Vice President of Partner and Market Development at Corent Technology - the leading provider of Rapid SaaS-enablement and software delivery as a Service.

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