Cloud
Commentary
6/18/2007
11:32 AM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
Commentary
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The Synergy Between SaaS and Appliances

In my past life I was CEO of Bridgewerx, a company providing integration both as an appliance and as SaaS. Bridgewerx used a pretty sophisticated model for its time, and it's a good approach since both models sell the notion of convenience and economy. Therein lies the synergy... I suspect we'll see more of the appliance model for SaaS or SaaS-like business applications in the years to come.

In my past life I was CEO of Bridgewerx, a company providing integration both as an appliance and as SaaS. Bridgewerx used a pretty sophisticated model for its time, and it's a good approach, since both models sell the notion of convenience and economy. Therein lies the synergy.

Indeed, Phil Wainewright, ZDNet blogger, agrees with me in his posting of June 15."Delivering software as an appliance brings many of the same benefits as delivering software as a service. In fact, in recent weeks and months I've spoken to some people who've talked as if the two models were interchangeable. I wouldn't go that far, but I would say that they're different facets of the same trend towards making software easier to install and use, and I would also add, perhaps controversially, that if you believe in using the Web to deliver software functionality, then like it or not you're probably going to end up delivering software appliances within your range of offerings."

The notion is this: If people are using your software in the SaaS model, it's not a huge honking leap to place your service on an appliance and sell it that way as well. Instead of hitting servers in your data center, you hit the appliance in the customer data center, but the core value proposition of SaaS remains intact. The vendor is responsible for the installation, configuration, and, indeed, quick delivery of the software, whether via SaaS or an appliance. "It's this 'black box' profile that brings about the comparisons to SaaS. It means that the software vendor takes full responsibility for the implementation, rather than leaving it to the customer to get the software up-and-running. Another factor to mention here is that the underlying operating system and other infrastructure components are typically open-source software, so the total up-front cost to the customer is also a lot lower than with conventional proprietary software."

I suspect we'll see more of the appliance model for SaaS or SaaS-like business applications in the years to come. Why? Because many who otherwise like the value of SaaS have resisted, typically due to security concerns. Thus, those who need to hug the server -- or, in this case, the appliance - and who absolutely insist on never sending data outside of the firewall will find appliances to be attractive. They're also appealing to those who are looking for something between enterprise applications and SaaS.

Considering the disconnected nature of an appliance, just make sure that sure that the vendor is able to - somehow, someway - get those patches, fixes and upgrades out to the device as needed. This is something that's automatic in the world of SaaS. You'll also have to make sure that the appliance is really maintenance-free, including operational issues such as backup, restore, and other recovery operations.

The combination of SaaS and appliance offerings is an emerging trend. As SaaS providers find they are saturating their markets, they'll turn to appliances to provide the same code using a different delivery mechanism. It's just another way to get the value from an application, and it should open up the world of SaaS to those of you who are not quite there yet.

Application integration and service oriented architecture expert David Linthicum heads the product development, implementation and strategy consulting firm The Linthicum Group. Write him at david@linthicumgroup.com.In my past life I was CEO of Bridgewerx, a company providing integration both as an appliance and as SaaS. Bridgewerx used a pretty sophisticated model for its time, and it's a good approach since both models sell the notion of convenience and economy. Therein lies the synergy... I suspect we'll see more of the appliance model for SaaS or SaaS-like business applications in the years to come.

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