@CloudExpo Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Don MacVittie, Mehdi Daoudi, Shelly Palmer

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog

@CloudExpo: Article

Cloud Computing: It’s Not About the Web Browser

Five reasons why I think the real impact of SaaS goes well beyond the web-based architecture and browser-based user interface

The primary innovation behind software as a service (SaaS) is the web-based architecture - users accessing the system through a web browser rather than, say, a Windows application. Proponents of SaaS have trumpeted the benefits of this technological shift. Meanwhile, vendors with older client/server products have evolved their architectures to offer web-based deployment. Some systems are more elegant than others, but today just about every enterprise software vendor offers a web access option.

Why then is the new class of SaaS (or cloud) application vendors racing ahead with great momentum while the rest of the enterprise apps market ambles along with limited growth?

To put it simply, it's not about the browser.

Sure, the browser makes it all possible. However, what makes SaaS unique - and what's changing the industry - is how SaaS companies are bringing to market new applications that are developed, marketed and consumed in a new way. Here are five reasons why I think the real impact of SaaS goes well beyond the web-based architecture and browser-based user interface.

1. Cloud Companies Have Momentum and Attract Great Talent
SaaS companies have an intangible that's working to their benefit - they're recruiting exceptionally bright, young talent. The culture of innovation at SaaS companies attracts some of the brightest minds from top-tier engineering universities like the Ivies, CalPoly, Carnegie Mellon and Stanford. This youthful talent understands web-based technology in a totally different way than employees from earlier generations. This provides a tremendous advantage given that a software company is only as good as its development team and their ability to innovate.

Why are SaaS companies such a talent magnet? Many of these cloud apps companies are relatively new start-ups and offer recent grads an opportunity to be part of a nimble, evolving company. These talented individuals feel like they can make a bigger difference at a company with a couple hundred employees rather than one with several thousand. It's an environment that gives young people more room for professional growth and the ability to see their ideas implemented. To sweeten the deal, they get to spend their time creating new technologies - essentially from scratch.

2. Multi-Tenet Architectures Enable Smoother Scaling
Most SaaS firms develop on a multi-tenet architecture that's radically different from legacy architectures. With multi-tenancy, every customer operates off the same code base, rather than each having their own implementation. As a result, multi-tenet architecture affords developers several conveniences - such as the ability to roll out a system update to all customers at once - allowing SaaS companies to scale development more efficiently. This drastically changes the way buyers update and customize their software.

Because every company shares the same code, developers are able to roll out their updates to all their customers at once. This turns the process of deploying a software update, which sometimes took years with single-tenant, on-premise systems, into an overnight affair. A further advantage of multi-tenancy is that company-specific customizations are left intact when the system is updated. This is because customizations are made in metadata. For the non-techies out there, metadata is data that defines the settings and customizations for each customer, but is maintained separately from the core application code.

Taken together, the benefits of the multi-tenet architecture greatly reduce the need for professional services and support personnel. And those savings can be re-invested in research and development. The train keeps rollin' rather than waiting for customers to keep up.

3. Cloud Is Changing Enterprise Software Consumption
In addition to shifting back-end development, SaaS companies are also changing the way enterprise software is evaluated and purchased. The typical SaaS vendor's subscription-based pricing model is simpler and makes software more affordable. It changes a software purchase from a capital project needing CIO, CFO and IT approval to a simple budget line item that business users can spend at their own discretion.

However, the shift in consumption isn't just about a different pricing model. I see three other ways SaaS is changing enterprise software consumption. First, most SaaS companies publish pricing on their website - something that was unheard of 10 years ago. This lets buyers know upfront exactly what they can expect to pay and what they'll receive in return. Second, SaaS companies allow buyers to pay for their software license by credit card (gasp!) - and for shorter licensing terms. This makes paying for, and getting out of, a software license much easier. Finally, SaaS vendors can provide potential buyers with a functionally complete trial version of the software to test out - often for free. In the past, this often wasn't possible given the amount of configuration and up-front investment typically required.

4. Great User Experience Equals Happy Customers
Historically, enterprise software hasn't been overwhelmingly friendly when it comes to the user interface (UI) or user experience (UX). It's why a standing army of consultants and professional services firms exist to help buyers customize their systems and learn how to use the software.

For SaaS companies, the UX is an obsession. They're intensely focused on how to make the UI better, faster and more intuitive. More specifically, SaaS companies focus on the look and feel of the software to create the best experience possible.

These companies have learned their UI/UX lessons from the tech giants that have made the web such a user-friendly place - Google, Amazon and eBay, among others. SaaS companies focus intensely on A/B testing, eye tracking and user groups to determine which software design optimizes usability. The emphasis on usability is important because it reduces the need for employee training and helps buyers get more out of their product - which makes customers happy, which is always a good thing.

5. A Younger Workforce Flat Out Gets the Web
It only makes sense to circle back to the importance of the web. Most of the people working for SaaS companies are children of the web. That is, they're part of a generation that grew up with Internet access. Sure, they were around for slow-speed dial up, but the Internet has always been there. As a result of growing up in this environment, SaaS companies are very comfortable using the web for business and understand how it works. This means that they're also much more likely to aggressively utilize the Internet as a sales and marketing tool.

SaaS companies know what users expect from a website about enterprise software. They want web demos, trial versions of the system and user ratings of the product. In addition to providing what buyers want from their site, SaaS vendors are also more likely to take an aggressive approach to online marketing since they lack a legacy marketing environment. These companies are intimately familiar with online marketing strategies, such as search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM) and online lead generation. As more and more buyers flock to the web, SaaS companies are waiting in the wings to deliver.

This is just my opinion on what, beyond the web browser, makes SaaS companies a disruptive force in enterprise software. What impact do you see SaaS companies making on the software world?

"This article originally appeared on the Software Advice blog and can be viewed at: It's Not About the Web Browser."

More Stories By Derek Singleton

Derek Singleton recently graduated from Occidental College with a degree in political science. He writes about various topics related to ERP software and covers the manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain management software markets.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@CloudExpo Stories
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, James Henry, Co-CEO/CTO of Calgary Scientific Inc., introduced you to the challenges, solutions and benefits of training AI systems to solve visual problems with an emphasis on improving AIs with continuous training in the field. He explored applications in several industries and discussed technologies that allow the deployment of advanced visualization solutions to the cloud.
Agile has finally jumped the technology shark, expanding outside the software world. Enterprises are now increasingly adopting Agile practices across their organizations in order to successfully navigate the disruptive waters that threaten to drown them. In our quest for establishing change as a core competency in our organizations, this business-centric notion of Agile is an essential component of Agile Digital Transformation. In the years since the publication of the Agile Manifesto, the conn...
"MobiDev is a software development company and we do complex, custom software development for everybody from entrepreneurs to large enterprises," explained Alan Winters, U.S. Head of Business Development at MobiDev, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
Vulnerability management is vital for large companies that need to secure containers across thousands of hosts, but many struggle to understand how exposed they are when they discover a new high security vulnerability. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, John Morello, CTO of Twistlock, addressed this pressing concern by introducing the concept of the “Vulnerability Risk Tree API,” which brings all the data together in a simple REST endpoint, allowing companies to easily grasp the severity of the ...
"NetApp is known as a data management leader but we do a lot more than just data management on-prem with the data centers of our customers. We're also big in the hybrid cloud," explained Wes Talbert, Principal Architect at NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
"We're focused on how to get some of the attributes that you would expect from an Amazon, Azure, Google, and doing that on-prem. We believe today that you can actually get those types of things done with certain architectures available in the market today," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.