Cloud has the proven promise of great opportunities and agility for ISVs. Modern cloud platforms have low entry barriers and huge array of service offerings beyond traditional enterprise application requirements. Cloud services provide intact environment to SaaS applications with features such as cutting edge innovative services, intelligence as services, continuous integration and continuous delivery, computation and storage scale for the global reach.
The current digitized environment, device proliferation and the span of intelligent cloud services give the best mix of social, technical and business aspects for SaaS products to emerge and prevail with high success.
Cloud enables equal opportunity to every SaaS player – technical and business domain skills and expertise are vital elements in order to succeed in the SaaS playground, knowing the business and knowing the technology are two utmost important facts.
From a SaaS consumer point of view, a customer has ample number of choices available to choose from list of SaaS providers. Having the right mix of features, availability, security and business model is important. Choosing the right tools at the right time at the right cost is the skill to master.
Figure 1: What customers expect from SaaS providers.
Source: Frost & Sullivan, 2017
In order to deliver successful SaaS application, ISVs should have attributes such as – concrete DevOps practices to deliver features and fixes seamlessly, responsible SaaS adoption models concerning Administration & Shadow IT, trust and the privacy of Data & Encryption, promising service Uptime and many more.
DevOps with Azure Tooling
Azure tools bring agile development practices and continuous integration & continuous delivery. Code changes take immediate effect in the build pipeline with VSTS build definitions and deployed to the respective environments in Azure.
Figure 2: The simple DevOps model with Azure tooling
Environment and resource provisioning is handled via automated ARM template deployments from VSTS build and release pipeline. The model depicted in Figure 2 vary based on the context and complexity of the project with multiple environments, workflows and different services.
Centralized Administration and Shadow IT
Customers have the concern of how the SaaS enables the centralized organizational access management can be performed. On the other hand, SaaS providers require frictionless approach in the adoption of the services and enable more users much as possible.
Azure based organizational SaaS implementations often utilize Azure Active Directory (AAD) based integration and Single Sign On (SSO).
Data Security and Encryption
Customers trust the SaaS providers with their data. It is the most valuable asset SaaS providers take responsibility of in delivering value and helping the business of the customers. Data security and encryption is a prime concern and growing rapidly with complex and fast evolving regulatory and complaince requirements.
Azure has great compliancy support, tools and services in data protection. It offers many out of the box data encryption and protection services like TDE, DDM (Dynamic Data Masking), RLS (Row Level Security), In-built blob encryption and etc.
In certain cases, built-in security features do not provide the sufficient protection and compliance. In those sensitive environments we can leverage additional Azure services which provide high degree data security.
Figure 3: Advanced data security implementation in Azure
Azure Key Vault based encryption with SQL Database Always Encrypted, Blob encryption (envelope encryption), AAD based access control and MFA can be implemented in such cases. Also, this provides new models of Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) in encryption where customers can provide and manage their keys.
Service uptime should be considered not only during unexpected failures but also during updates.
Azure provides inbuilt geo replication for databases, storage and specific services. Application tier redundancy is implemented with the use of Traffic Manager. Configuring geo replication and redundancy introduces concerns like geographic regulatory concerns of data, synchronization issues and performance.
Azure tools like Application Insights for application monitoring & telemetry, auto scaling, geo replication, traffic manager and many others are mixed with architectural practices to deliver required uptime for the SaaS application.
Apart from the technologies and tools, SaaS application development on a cloud platform requires expertise on the platform of choice, in order to achieve cost effectiveness, business agility and innovation.
How SaaS application is bundled and sold is a crucial decision in technology strategies like cache priming, tenant isolation, security aspects, centralized security, multi-tenancy at different services and etc.
This article provides a high level of view about the considerations customers look from SaaS providers and how Azure tools and services can help in achieving them.