Pluses and minuses of the app model on cloud, SaaS computing
Early versions of SaaS served from the Internet cloud looked a lot like time sharing applications. In other words, each and every web visitor looked like just another terminal on a remote server. The use of small form factor computing devices had not yet occurred, and the browser options for clients to consume services were all working in pretty much the same manner.
But with the advent of the app model, the client side of these solutions is a lot more complex, and, potentially, more difficult for organizations to manage. There are a few very important positives motivating cloud, SaaS ISVs to promote, and even require the use of apps:
- Apps are a promising method of attracting the interest of developers. App stores exist for every prominent cloud SaaS offer. Developers sell their apps, and ISVs can charge a premium for clearing transactions through their app stores
- As long as secure development procedures are followed, there is no limit on the range of new functionality developers can add to SaaS platforms. ISVs benefit from zero capital expense for the creation of new functionality. End customers benefit from a wider range of possible applications
- By transitioning processes from the server to the community of clients consuming a SaaS solution, it can be argued processes are more secure. Server maintenance costs are also likely to be substantially reduced
But there are minuses anyone studying cloud, SaaS product marketing must, in this writer’s opinion, keep in mind. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how one looks at it) most of these minuses are specific to apps:
- Transitioning potentially harmful processes off the server and over to client side apps shifts the security burden over to individual consumers, and groups of consumers. Since it is not likely to be possible to estimate just who will opt to consume SaaS and, therefore, purchase and implement apps, the task of ensuring a uniform quality of service (and basic data communications security) is very difficult to manage. Neither ISVs, nor enterprise organizations can claim complete responsibility for this job.
- Opportunities for malicious activity geometrically increase as the number of SaaS consumers grows. There is no way ISVs can ensure the security of computing devices enabled with apps. So the potential for hacks should be assumed to be high. As of the time of the writing of this post, Dropbox, the latest SaaS to notify the public of a security breach, actually blamed app developers for the security hole used for the exploit
- Enterprise businesses with a formal BYOD policies may see a dramatic increase in the need to support users. When apps are running on a set of dissimilar computing devices (Android, and/or Apple smart phones, tablets, etc) the need for expertise on multiple platforms arises. It can be costly for enterprise IT to provision the support required to ensure SaaS consumers can get the services they need
Given the factors just presented, we think it likely Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) solutions like Windows Intune will become very popular across enterprise business customers.
Ira Michael Blonder
© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved