SaaS-MS Perspective



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Subscribing to a SaaS application means housing business data outside the controlled local network, within the Internet "cloud." @ittakessaas


Considerations for Embracing SaaS

For any given application or function, you can determine your SaaS readiness by plotting your organization's needs and expectations on each continuum SaaS influences an enterprise's allocation of resources through a variety of licensing, operation, and management models. The smart enterprise will be able to trade direct control (over service-implementation details) for the additional flexibility, to optimize the strategy and execution of its core mission.

However, the extent to which an enterprise can exploit SaaS is directly related to its ability to transfer and mitigate risks, and getting a good handle on service-level agreement is a key part of the risk-management game. Therefore, expanding the boundary of an IT's service portfolio beyond its firewall signifies another level of business and technical sophistication from the service-centric IT.



 

Licensing: On-premise applications typically are licensed in perpetuity, with a single up-front cost for each user or site, or (in the case of custom-built applications) owned outright. SaaS applications often are licensed with a usage-based transaction model, in which the customer is only billed for the number of service transactions used. In between is the familiar time-based subscription model, in which the customer pays a flat fee per seat for a particular time period—such as a month or a quarter—and is allowed unlimited use of the service during that period.



Location: SaaS applications are installed at the SaaS hoster's location, while on-premise applications are, of course, installed within your own IT environment. In between is the appliance model, in which the vendor supplies a hardware/software component as a "black box" that is installed at your location, instead of the vendor's. An example of an appliance in this sense would be a device that includes a logistics application with a cached and periodically updated database. A shipping company might provide such a device to its large customers, so they can query the device for shipping information instead of hitting the shipping company's servers with thousands of individual queries a day.

Management: Traditionally, the IT department is responsible for providing IT service to users, which means being familiar with network, server, and application platforms; providing support and troubleshooting; and resolving IT security, reliability, performance, and availability problems. This is a big job, and some IT departments subcontract some of these management responsibilities to third-party service providers that specialize in IT management. At the other end of the spectrum, SaaS applications are completely managed by the vendor or SaaS hoster; in fact, the implementation of management tasks and responsibilities is opaque to the consumer. Service-level agreements (SLAs) govern the quality, availability, and support commitments that the provider makes to the subscriber.

As teams wanted to collaborate more, so too must the model be able to accommodate software in team fashion. IT Takes a Team


The enterprise user needs are rudimentarily addressed by a collection of siloed applications.
 The enterprise user needs are better addressed through a service portfolio, each consisting of related applications offering a more complete set of functionalities.
The service portfolio is enhanced with additional options coming from SaaS providers, allowing the enterprise to further optimize its IT strategy and cost-allocation decisions.




 in-the-cloud and on-premise services are seamlessly integrated, offering a platform for composing applications closely aligned with business tasks.



How SaaS Affects IT @ittakessaas

After you've made the decision to pursue SaaS, the next step is to prepare for the transition by assessing how the deployment will affect your existing IT assets, and by taking steps to ensure that the transition can be handled smoothly.



IT Governance Implications

Performing due diligence is a routine part of any successful IT infrastructure deployment project, so the basics should already be familiar to you. Some factors, however, deserve special consideration. Some areas to address in your due-diligence checklist include:

  • Data-security standards. Moving critical business data "outside the walls" introduces a risk of data loss or inadvertent exposure of sensitive information. Assess your data-security needs, and ensure that the provider has measures in place to meet the standards you set.
  • SLA guarantees. The management contract between you and the SaaS provider takes the form of service-level agreements (SLAs) that guarantee the level of performance, availability, and security that the SaaS vendor will provide, and govern the actions the provider will take—or the compensation it will provide—in the event that it fails to meet these guarantees. Ensure that these SLAs are in place, that the guarantees they make are sufficient to meet your needs, and that they provide a sufficient level of mitigation in even the worst-case scenario.
  • Migration strategies. At some point, you might want to migrate away from a SaaS application to another solution, so it's important that you are able to take your existing data out of the application and move it to another one. Ask your prospective SaaS provider about any data-migration strategies and procedures it uses, including any provisions for data and code escrow. (See "Integration Architecture," later in the article, for additional advice on preparing data for migration.)
  • In-house integration requirements. Ensure that migrating to SaaS will meet any functional and data-integration requirements your organization has in place. We'll discuss integration scenarios in greater detail, later in this article.
  • Reporting services. Because SaaS involves giving up direct control of some of your data, accurate and useful reporting is especially important. Determine what reporting services the provider offers, and whether they are compatible with your business-intelligence requirements.

    Integration Architecture

    Subscribing to a SaaS application means housing business data outside the controlled local network, within the Internet "cloud." The integration architecture specifies how you bring this outside data into your logical infrastructure, so that infrastructure components can interoperate with one another (whether they are hosted internally or externally) and each component has access to data it needs, regardless of where the data originates.

    In most cases, implementing a SaaS application involves transferring data from one or more existing applications or data repositories into the new system. Common scenarios might include:

  • "Bootstrapping" the SaaS application with preexisting data from an on-premise source.

  • Configuring a SaaS application to depend on data produced by an on-premise source for part of its functionality (for example, a CRM application that references inventory data managed by an on-premise inventory application).

  • Configuring an on-premise application to depend on data produced by a SaaS application for part of its functionality (for example, an on-premise payroll application that references HR data managed by a SaaS HR application




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