Packing Up and Moving to SaaS

Published August 24, 2020

If you're packing up your on-premises software and moving to SaaS, you're not alone.

Since the early days of cloud, the bulk of adoption has been (and remains, for that matter) in SaaS. The same software that was once commoditized and packaged up to be sold to enterprises is now being offered as a service via the cloud. This is not new or different. Old timers like me remember well the days of the ASP (Application Service Provider) before it was abruptly recast as cloud because, well, cloud was cooler. And by cooler, I mean hotter.  

But while SaaS is not really all that new, what is new is the range of activities being commoditized and packaged as SaaS. All manner of business functions are joining CRM, SFA, productivity, and communications as SaaS offerings.

And we anticipate that organizations will quickly jump at the chance to offload the operation of such software to a provider.

We aren't alone.

Respondents to IDG's 2020 Cloud Computing survey also "expect in the next 18 months to reduce their use of commercially licensed software (65% currently, down to 50%) in favor of software as a service (SaaS) applications (up from 24% to 36%)."

The big winners are business continuity-related IT services such as backup, recovery, storage, and archive. Unsurprisingly this category is joined by commoditized business functions like CRM, ERP, HR, and other line of business applications. Typically, the applications moving to SaaS are those that do not offer high value returns when customized. A standard operating procedure/process serves the business well enough that resources are better invested in other areas where customization of process will yield higher value results.

This is especially true when the SaaS supports an ecosystem that makes integration a non-issue. A significant amount of development effort goes into integration, which is essentially the technical implementation of stitching together a process. Or, in modern terms, a digital workflow. When SaaS providers do the hard work and enable checkbox integration to establish that workflow, it wins.

The Return of IT as a Service

Another less often mentioned area of SaaS adoption is in the IT infrastructure space. Not the infrastructure itself, but much of the day two and beyond operational aspects of infrastructure like provisioning, configuring, operating, and reporting on application services. As significant percentages of IT professionals continue to work from home, access to data center (and cloud-based) infrastructure has become a critical capability they need to do their jobs. Traditional models that isolate management networks from external access can hinder these capabilities. A more modern, SaaS-based approach maintains the access control and protection required to safeguard these critical functions while enabling IT professionals to operate infrastructure from anywhere.

Too, the workflows are generally not highly differentiated and thus provide little competitive or business advantage. The process of deploying the on average ten application services required to deliver and secure an application is standardized from an application service perspective. While the application services themselves provide differentiated capabilities, the management processes generally do not. They meet the basic requirements for moving to a SaaS-based model.

This isn't a new concept. I talked about this ten years ago in the context of the Infrastructure 2.0 movement (scroll down to the architectural parfait discussion). While many aspects of technology have changed since then, the need to layer operational capabilities across cloud and data centers has not. In fact, the de facto multi-cloud operational model coupled with a new urgency for remote work capabilities has only exacerbated the need for SaaS-based management models that support data center- and cloud-deployed infrastructure with equal alacrity.

Expect to see increased delivery of traditional infrastructure management capabilities via a SaaS model in the coming years as we settle into the new normal of multi-cloud and work from anywhere.