ZDNet | February 28, 2011

The OEMing of SaaS: build or buy?

I recently spoke to two vendors offering such solutions [and I should disclose that I’m working on a white paper about the topic with a third]. One was Corent Technology, whose platform is suitable for Java applications. The other was Apprenda, whose Apprenda platform is designed for .NET applications. Both these platforms offer the ability to ‘inject’ multi-tenancy into an existing single-tenant application. It sounds like that didn’t ought to work, and it does depend on how the app was written in the first place, but it’s surprisingly effective, and certainly a huge advance on merely hosting an app on Amazon, Azure, or some other cloud infrastructure service. Part of the reason why it works is that these vendors also provide infrastructure components — such as provisioning, entitlement management and usage monitoring — that provide the as-a-service capabilities that are crucial to a successful SaaS deployment. Corent has a useful article on the IBM DeveloperWorks site that digs down into some detail on how its platform works.

The enterprise market is now opening up to these vendors because, as Apprenda’s CEO Sinclair Schuller explained to me recently, “There’s no point in building the infrastructure from the ground up … You’re either going to take 18 months building those things or you’re going to use us.”

The vendor has encountered three principal use cases within an enterprise:

  • Branch-based software for branch or franchise networks: “That’s where the private saas model absoutely makes sense,” Schuller added.
  • Internal horizontal application delivery: “The ability to send out a URL and say, ’sign up’.”
  • External facing applications, for example a benefits management portal from a payroll provider, or customer support from a consumer goods manufacturer.