DevOps Systems

Beyond IaaS, Cloud for the SMB, the Enterprise, and Beyond!

Beyond IaaS, Cloud for the SMB, the Enterprise, and Beyond!

We come to you today with a late-breaking breaking postscript! When we last left our IT hero, they were asking themselves deep and probing questions like Will I Save Money by Moving to the Cloud and I’m Still On-Premises, Is That OK? As they go about modernizing their IT organization, they cry out, “What if IaaS isn’t not for me?” Never fear—SaaS is here!

As we laid out in our previous reports from the data center, a SaaS solution is broadly defined as:

  • SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) You subscribe to, access, and consume software that lives and is managed elsewhere.

What Does It Really Mean?

Do you like running an email server? A sales platform? Chat? Antivirus? Security software? File sharing, help desk? The list goes on and on. Let’s cut to the chase. With a SaaS platform, you get to offload many of the traditional management aspects of IT management (is the solution up? Does it need more space? How do I upgrade it?) to someone else and take advantage of all the benefits.

Seems simple enough, right? And maybe it is, but as with any other solution or architecture, you need to ask yourself a few questions. This analysis is especially important if you work in the SMB space as your resources are almost certainly constrained in some way, whether that be people, time, money, leadership, etc. If an enterprise wants to test the water on something like a SaaS solution, where they spend several million dollars and it just doesn’t work out, the decision may end up being immaterial. If you spend weeks trying out a solution (any solution!) while spending tens of thousands, or even hundreds of dollars in some cases, and the solution tanks, the vibrancy of your organization can be negatively impacted.

OK, so you want to give this SaaS thing a chance. That SaaS platform sure looks appealing at first glance, but what questions do you need to ask within your org to help ensure success when you’re looking to adopt a new cloud offering?

  • Efficiencies. As always, what’s driving you to look at a cloud-based offering? Are your people driving sales or A/P off a spreadsheet or perhaps spending hours swivel-chairing data from one place into another? In short, can you derive value from simplifying your activities and increasing efficiency? Yes? Congrats­­—you’re ready to continue exploring SaaS solutions for your business.
  • Costs. People are expensive. Software is expensive. People managing software is EXPENSIVE! With Software as a Service, you can kick the non-value add parts of the equation out the door and just consume the solution.
  • What do you want to work on? At first glance, this seems very similar to the above, but with a slightly different spin. This speaks to the heart of your organization and your mission. If you run a custom cabinetry business, do you really care where your CRM lives? Of course not. You just want to make some fine woodwork, and you could care less how the nuance of your application is architected as long as you can keep track of your pipeline, materials, billing, and receivables. In circumstances like this, as long as you find the right provider, you’re likely to derive the biggest benefit from a SaaS.

So, after asking yourself questions like this and looking at what makes your organization unique, SaaS still sounds appealing to you. But it’s not all lilacs in the springtime. As with anything in this world, there are trade-offs. Let’s quickly tick through a couple of the typical stumbling blocks for IT organizations looking at SaaS solutions.

  • Connectivity. I’ve seen SMBs run their business off consumer-grade cable connections. Not everyone can have carrier redundancy and multiple legs of dark fiber. If you’re a small shop and you’re going to heavily consume a SaaS application (or anything) requiring lots of data, you need to look at your connectivity. And if you realize you don’t have the network capacity, that needs to roll up into your TCO and ROI calculations to determine if the solution still makes fiscal sense.
  • Lock-in. This really isn’t any different from a traditional on-premises solution, but needs consideration nonetheless. Are you OK hitching yourself to a SaaS provider, potentially for the long haul? Where other type of cloud offerings may provide an easier way to transition between providers, moving from one SaaS platform to another is likely to involve considerable people-hours and dollars. When asking yourself if you want to be married to a SaaS provider for the long haul, make sure you evaluate their strategy, motivations, and fiscal health to ensure a long and happy relationship. Again, this is no different from evaluating an on-premises solution, but since you’re going to be spending vital organization dollars, the evaluation needs to be completed regardless of direction.
  • Loss of control. This can take several forms. When you partner up with a SaaS provider, you’ll likely lose ability to control maintenance windows, patching, upgrades, and so on. Are you OK if the API you use suddenly changes parameters? These are solvable problems, but you need to evaluate your organization’s unique tolerance for some loss of control.

In our last cloud exploration, we asked the question “I’m Still On-Premises, Is That OK?” Yes, it is. If you’re feeling a little bit left behind, a SaaS platform can be an easy way to dip your toes into the cloud. By simplifying how you manage and approach commodity services, with a SaaS solution, you may find your IT superhero has transformed your business in ways unimaginable just a few years earlier.

 


Scott is a 20-year IT infrastructure professional with a focus on virtualization and scripting. Based in Vermont, Scott has spent time running the gamut from small local firms to some of the largest international corporations. When time allows, he tries to give back to the community that has meant so much to him through his blog, involvement with VMUG and speaking about PowerShell and PowerCLI.