June 9, 2014 | Written by: Frank Bauerle
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I’ve recently been working with a customer on transitioning their software as a service (SaaS) offerings from a data center to the cloud.
In working through some of the challenges this team had with their transition to cloud, it became clear to me that what this team offered wasn’t really pure SaaS but rather what I would call “managed hosting as a service (MHaaS).”
So, what is MHaaS? And why do I believe it’s important?
What is managed hosting as a service?
Many software packages were not originally built to be marketed or deployed as multi-user solutions. These packages began in the previous world where software was sold to customers to be installed on their servers in their data center. The software was relatively simple to package. It was easy to focus on how a single customer would install, implement and support it.
When customers began inquiring as to whether software could be delivered as SaaS, some companies took the simple route. They hosted the software on their own infrastructure in their current data centers and offered it to the customer as a service.
Software companies looked at these customer-specific hosted deployments as another revenue stream and an extension of their on-premises model. They didn’t think through how the package would be supported or how it would scale as more customers adopted software as a service.
These software companies were willing to do whatever was necessary to make a sale. If a customer wanted the software customized, they agreed to it. If the customer had non-standard maintenance window requirements, the company would agree to it. If the customer wanted ten years of backups retained, they would agree to it. While this helped drive the sale and adoption of the product, it also resulted in the fact that growing and scaling the offering became a logistical nightmare.
Imagine how this type of approach complicated support and maintenance of the product!
As a support organization, imagine how this complicated your life. You needed to understand the implementation for each customer. You needed to understand that a new widget was added to the code for product A and that custom integration was developed to integrate product B with product C. Your ability to support these custom implementations required you to essentially scale your support organization linearly.
If you were part of the operations team, you can also imagine how this complicated your lives. When there was an issue, you needed to be able to understand the configuration for that customer completely in order to be able to triage effectively. As with the support team, you also needed to scale your staff according to the number of customers you’ve boarded.
Why do we support managed hosting as a service?
How and why did this happen? After all, if this is so complex, why do we support MHaaS?
We could justify supporting MHaaS because it’s the first logical step from an on-premises solution to a true multitenant SaaS solution. I’m not sure I completely agree with this statement. I tend to give people credit for thinking things through. I believe that software providers understood what they were doing when they delivered software as a service using this model.
My personal opinion on why this happened and why it’s still supported is that it is secondary to their on-premises offering. It is not their primary focus, so thinking about how the application (or application suite) works in a multitenant environment is not considered during the architecture stage of product development. These companies offer MHaaS because they have to in order to stay competitive.
Stay tuned for the second part of this series where I’ll talk about how I believe software providers can transition and transform their offering from MHaaS to SaaS.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @FRBauerle.