Software as a service is an entirely different animal from IaaS or PaaS. Implementing the latter two can be done (almost) with platforms available off the shelf and engaging a few consultants: Grab your favorite cloud automation platform (pick any: Eucalyptus, [Elastic|Open|Cloud]stack, Applogic, Abiquo, even HP SCA, throw in volume servers and storage, host on a reliable DC and you are good to go).
On the other hand, SaaS is something you have to:
- Conceive. IaaS and PaaS are self explanatory (infrastructure and platform: Virtual computing and database/application engine/analytics for rent); SaaS is… everything: from cloud storage to CRM for MDs.
- Implement: SaaS is not sold in shops. You have to develop code. This means, finding talented and intelligent humans to write code, and keep them with you throughout the project lifecycle.
- Market: Finding the right market for your SaaS is equally important to building it. SaaS is a service; services are tailored for customers and come in different sizes, colours, flavors. One SaaS to rule them all does not work.
- Sell: Will you go retail and address directly end customers? Advertising and social media is the road to go. Wholesale? Strike a good revenue sharing deal with somebody that already has customers within your target group, say, a datacenter provider or web hosting.
- Add some value to your SaaS. Cloudifying a desktop application brings little value to your SaaS product: It’s as good as running it on the desktop; the sole added value is ubiquitous access over the web. Want some real value? Eliminate the need to do backups. Integrate with conventional desktop software. Do auto-sync. Offer break-away capability (take your app and data and host somewhere else).
- High end branded storage array with FC and SSD disks
- 5-minute snapshots, continuous data protection
- FTP and HTTP interface
- Disk encryption
- Secure deletion
- WebDAV interface
- Data retention
- Daily replication
- Auto sync with customer endpoints
- Integrated content search
What’s wrong with the first approach? It is typical of the IT mindset: Offer enterprise IT features, like OLTP/OLAP-capable storage to the cloud. Potential customers? Enterprises that need to utilize high-powered data storage. Well, if you are an enterprise, most likely you’d rather keep your OLTP/OLAP workloads in house, wouldn’t you? Why bother?
The second approach offers services that are not delivered from your enterprise IT machinery. It’s added value to a cloud storage service and at the end of the day, they are deemed too expensive or complicated to implement in house. Potential customers? Enterprises that have not implemented these services but would seriously consider renting them.
Let’s consider now a cloud CRM for doctors. What would be some value added features for private MDs, apart from a database with customer names and appointment scheduling? I can think of a few:
- Brief medical history of patient delivered to the doctor’s smartphone/pad. Can save lives.
- List of prescribed medicines with direct links to medicare/manufacturer site. Patients can forget or mix up their prescribed drugs; computers never forget.
- Videochat with patient.
- Patient residence on Google maps and directions how to get there