Caveat Emptor SaaS

The Financial Times began its journey into cloud computing a number of years ago and recent years and months have seen an acceleration in the use of the cloud beyond just email and CRM and into core systems of record.

Cloud computing describes any kind of computing hosted online, via the internet.  Software as a Service (SaaS) is one of the many cloud computing terms, describing a software delivery model in which software and associated data are hosted centrally on the cloud.  Other cloud terms include Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).  In a SaaS instance, a single version of the hosted application is used for all customers in a so-called multi-tenant architecture, in which the application scales horizontally to serve multiple customers.

SaaS promises a number of benefits over traditional software, including:

  • reduced costs through outsourcing hardware and software maintenance and support to the SaaS provider

  • usage scaling to meet the demands of the customer, supported by pay-as-you-use models
  • faster feature release cycle and automatic upgrades

I jumped on the FT cloud wagon 2 years or so ago and have been actively involved in selecting, integrating with and managing services with a number of SaaS vendors during that period.  The journey hasn’t always been easy and for some of our requirements, SaaS may not have been the right model.  This post details some of my thoughts, considerations and challenges with SaaS, including non-functional considerations such as performance, latency and availability, the challenges of fitting SaaS around your application development lifecycle and coping with operational restrictions.

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