Thursday, September 27, 2007

Take a pass on proprietary platform SaaS

Recently there have been a slew of announcements in a category that could be called Platform as a Service. SalesForce launched their new Force.com platform last week, and companies like Coghead and Teqlo have entries in this arena as well.

The details differ, but each Platform as a Service vendor provides roughly the following:
  • Web based development tools: graphical environment for building business productivity apps and deploying them immediately to an on-demand server.

  • Proprietary server technology: the applications and data are locked into a unique SaaS environment. Goodbye any hope of managing IT standards consistently!
Haven't we seen this movie before and doesn't in end in tears? For example, how many people still think SAP's ABAP is a good idea? In return for short-term pleasure (easy to build apps, don't have to worry about deployment), I let myself in for a long-term world of pain (including security, data quality and integration challenges).

Why would any enterprise want another company to have semi-exclusive control of their business logic and data?

To be sure, the SalesForce platform may well be an excellent way to extend existing SalesForce applications, as ZDnet points out here. It does not make sense, however as a stand-alone platform, particularly in comparison to more accepted platforms like J2EE and .NET.

At ActiveGrid, we believe that the whole distinction between on-site and on-demand deployment is an artifact of poor tool design. The next generation of web development tools will make it transparent whether you are deploying to your desktop, to the data center or to a SaaS hosting environment like Amazon's Electric Compute Cloud. Programmable web has a nice summary of EC2 applications here.

The next generation of virtualization will occur when enterprise developers can make on-the-fly decisions about whether to host applications on-site or on-demand. Put succinctly, SaaS manageability goodness is not enough to overcome proprietary badness.

4 comments:

P said...

yeah nice take, very similar thinking here to unreasonblemen.net

ckeene said...

You are right! UnreasonableMen wrote a good piece on this called SaaS, Opensource and Web 2.0 Ben Kepes also wrote a nice piece on this Take the best of opensource and saas

Matt Robinson said...

You have a good point for businesses and IT organizations that can afford to spend money on development and hence have the ability and know-how to use open-source technology and also have the resources to purchase and manage the hardware to go with it. However, the costs to do any of this are out of the league of tens of millions of small businesses and most are not interested in it even if they can manage to afford it especially if it is not core to their business.

For such SMBs, a quick SaaS-based do it yourself approach is very practical and in fact what they are already used to. How many businesses are running large pieces of their operations using Excel and Email? Platform as a service is a much better alternative to many of these kludged together systems business users create on their own, and this is one of the bigger opportunities here I believe.

ckeene said...

Matt - you are absolutely right. Today, the difficulty of knitting together open source products into a SaaS environment is challenging. For example, our upcoming Mavericks products integrates over 20 open source products!

For SMB, the current generation of proprietary SaaS offerings provide a valuable solution. I believe that the next generation of development platforms will provide a simple solution for Enterpresises by doing the open source integration work for them.

You also bring up a great point about the amount of business processing done with poor-man's workflow: Excel and email.