SaaS-ifying your enterprise application? A quick-and-dirty guide

Many enterprises see a need to SaaS-enable applications, making them into a product for customers and partners. But most have no clue about what to do

SaaS-ifying your enterprise application? A quick-and-dirty guide

Lots of people called it SaaS-enablement, some call it SaaS-ification of software. Whatever you call it, more and more enterprises are looking to turn some enterprise application into a SaaS cloud application.

There are several reasons to SaaS-enable an internal application. Enterprises need to expose a software system to their partners and/or customers to better automate the business. Or, they are looking to monetize applications they view as having value to other companies.

Whatever the reasons, there are a few things to consider first. I call this the SaaS-ification reality check:

  1. Can you handle the SaaS? Many enterprises don’t understand what’s needed to manage a SaaS cloud service. You have created in essence a product, and so you need a roadmap of improvements you’re going to make, product management, product marketing, product support, etc. for the SaaS services to be any kind of success. If you’re not willing to invest that much, rethink this venture.
  2. Is the application in good enough shape to be made into a SaaS service? The truth is that when applications and databases are designed for enterprise use, they are typically not built with SaaS in mind. So, they may need to undergo significant refactoring, meaning rewriting significant portions of the application code or restructuring the database.
  3. What’s tenant management? Enterprise applications are written to support many users, but not many tenants. Having many users mean that you’re just standing up one instance of the application and database, even if you have thousands of users connected to that instance. Being multitenant means that you’re running many application instances, in their own application spaces, and each must be separated virtually but allowed to share hardware resources at the same time. This takes additional thinking and understanding because new users require their own tenant space, including their own part of the database, as well as the ability to use hardware resources at the same time as the other tenants.
  4. What about security and liability? If you choose to get into this business, you can’t be half pregnant. So, you need to provide sufficient security so hackers won’t run off with your customers’ data. That bring up another issue: liability. There is risk that your new SaaS service could be hacked, lose data, or have an outage that puts your customers’ business in the red. So, you need to ensure that you’re both protecting your customers and yourself.
  5. What about ops costs? SaaS cloud services are rarely built on the enterprise’s premises but are built and run from a public IaaS cloud. IaaS providers don’t give away their cloud services for free so you can charge for yours. So, make sure to understand the costs of the public cloud that will host your cloud. Typically, it’s much higher than my clients think. Also make sure you understand the all-in ops costs, including the people you need to operate the service, do the troubleshooting, and provide customer service.

Good luck!

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