Ensure Best-Possible Performance From SaaS - InformationWeek

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Commentary
8/6/2007
08:22 AM
David Linthicum
David Linthicum
Commentary
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Ensure Best-Possible Performance From SaaS

Those who leverage enterprise applications have two major complaints. First, the apps are too complex and too difficult to use. Second, they perform poorly, which is what I'm focusing on here... Most SaaS-vendors rely on the traditional HTTP/HTML pump-and-pull architecture. Thus, we're really using well-designed, well-delivered Web sites when using SaaS applications, not true, dynamic native interfaces. So, what's a SaaS advocate to do? Here are a few tips:

Those who leverage enterprise applications have two major complaints. First, the apps are too complex and too difficult to use. Second, they perform poorly, which is what I'm focusing on here.

The truth is, it matters not what type of application it is, SaaS, or traditional enterprise systems such as an ERP or CRM; ease-of-use and performance are always shortcomings in the minds of end users.In the world of SaaS, performance is typically a tradeoff. Generally speaking, SaaS applications just can't perform like native enterprise applications, considering how they are delivered. Thus, one of the larger push backs on SaaS is performance, especially now that SaaS-delivered applications are taking the place of traditional OLTP-type applications inside enterprises.

At issue is the architecture. Most SaaS-delivered applications rely on the traditional HTTP/HTML pump and pull method for delivering applications. While great at document delivery, that architecture was never really designed for dynamic user interfaces. Over the years we have learned tricks to make it a better user-interface delivery mechanism, but at its essence it's a document delivery environment made to look like an application. Thus, we're really using well-designed, well-delivered Web sites when using SaaS applications, not true, dynamic native interfaces.

So, what's a SaaS advocate to do? It's a matter of having realistic expectations and learning to manage performance. Here are a few tips:

First, and this should go without saying, make sure the pipe between the user and the server is as wide and short as possible. This means that you are using the data center that's closest to you. Many SaaS providers use several data centers but may not provide the proper routing. In some cases a geographically disbursed company may end up using several data centers to provide the best performance. In some cases the SaaS provider can provide dedicated pipes for key users.

Second, look into buffering and caching mechanisms that can enhance performance by retaining content and data locally, thus avoiding, whenever possible, trips back to the SaaS server. In many cases this may increase performance ten fold.

Finally, talk to your SaaS provider about the direction of its user interface delivery technology. Many are moving to Rich Internet Application (RIA) technology, such as AJAX. While this does not enhance application performance overall, it does provide a more dynamic and rich user experience, such as the ability to process information as it's typed without sending entire screens back to the server for processing.

Will a little planning, performance and SaaS can go hand in hand.Those who leverage enterprise applications have two major complaints. First, the apps are too complex and too difficult to use. Second, they perform poorly, which is what I'm focusing on here... Most SaaS-vendors rely on the traditional HTTP/HTML pump-and-pull architecture. Thus, we're really using well-designed, well-delivered Web sites when using SaaS applications, not true, dynamic native interfaces. So, what's a SaaS advocate to do? Here are a few tips:

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