The software as a service (SaaS) delivery model has matured to such an extent that there is now an on-demand component to most software applications, whether it is online help, automated updates or the main application engine. At the same time, many vendors are realising that to provide a satisfactory end user experience, total reliance on a web browser is not always enough and a desktop component is often needed. The need to link with on-premise components extends beyond the desktop to legacy software maintained internally and as business processes, that span organisations, are linked together using a mix of on-premise and on-demand applications, expert help is still needed to integrate it all.
- Most consumer and business applications have an on-demand component There is a grey scale between pure on-demand and pure on-premise with few applications being truly black or white. The reality today is nearly always a mix of on-premise software and on-demand services.
- For many applications an on-premise component is needed to enrich the user experience Whether it is iTunes or Flickr; Microsoft Live Meeting or salesforce.com, on-demand applications often have a desktop component that enriches the end user experience and, when necessary, allows off-line use.
- On-demand delivery is attractive to businesses because it helps them manage costs, provides high availability and flexible access Paying monthly fees out of operational expenditure for on-demand applications with high availability guaranteed gives businesses of all sizes the confidence and flexibility to embed them in critical business processes.
- Business processes are only as strong as the weakest link in the applications that support them No organisation wants to be the one that causes a business process to seize up due to IT failure. On-demand applications allow businesses to share resources, with the responsibility for availability being outsourced to a 3rd party managed service providers (MSP).
- Some level of integration of on-demand services with legacy applications and internal workflow will always be necessary Web services with standard interfaces such as SOAP and REST make such integration easier, but as business processes become more complex and span multiple organisations, businesses still need help from integrators.
- Many new independent software vendors (ISVs) are building in on-demand components from the start It is not just getting the technology right but the business model too. MSPs are key to helping with both aspects.
- Existing ISVs are making the move to on-demand too, but they face additional challenges Again, it is not just about adapting code and the security embedded in it, but about adopting new business models and coping with the changes in cash flow and expectations of stakeholders that this entails.
CONCLUSION: The SaaS delivery model is thriving because it can in a way that was not possible 15 years ago, but also because it is good for the users of software, businesses and consumers alike. On-demand components of software applications are now so pervasive that there is less and less need to highlight the fact as it becomes de facto. However, on-demand is not a panacea but an integral part of the delivery of 21st century software applications that will always be a mix of software plus services-both on-premise and on-demand.
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