I had a chance to see David Chappell speak at the Microsoft offices in Downers Grove this past week. If he is coming anywhere near you to talk on Software + Services, I recommend that you go see the talk. I’ve got a summary of what he covers here, but you’ve got to see him in person to get the talk. The man is an amazing communicator and helped me connect some dots that I hadn’t quite connected in a while-whether that was due to sloth on my part of great speaking on David’s part, I don’t knowJ.
Anyhow, here’s a few hundred words explaining some of what I got out of it.
Training Date: May 20, 2008, 1-4 PM
Location: Microsoft offices, Downers Grove, IL
Presenter: David Chappell, http://www.davidchappell.com/
The reliability of the Internet, relatively low cost of connectivity, and widespread presence of high bandwidth connections has provided a path for application architectures to evolve. Specifically, this set of changes allows application vendors to provide common applications to end users. Today, these common applications include e-mail, CRM, storage, web site hosting, mapping (ex. 1 Main St., Mundelein, IL), and database hosting. Providers host these services on the Internet, also called the ‘cloud’ by the software services community. These services commonly provide the following features:
- Data mobility: Consumers own their data and can change providers or move the data in house as needed.
- Application integration: The service in the cloud is part of a larger application used at the enterprise.
- Application customization: The service in the cloud may allow the consumer to customize the application to handle special business needs.
Two terms describe the different business models for the services in the cloud: Software as a Service, SaaS, and Software + Services, S+S. SaaS offers a complete software package in the cloud. SaaS instances may allow for integration and customization. SaaS does not provide much of a role for corporate IT departments outside of application development. S+S describes a hybridization between today’s common model of self-hosting applications and the SaaS world. SalesForce.com offers an example of a SaaS application. SalesForce.com manages all the data, the application uptime, etc. An S+S example is a bit more involved, but probably more common for businesses as it allows for control of the perceived competitive advantages of a business.
S+S includes the types of applications that use cloud services as well as custom, in-house services. For example, a business could host Exchange Server locally but make use of a service provider to handle advanced Exchange functionality such as Outlook Web Access, web calendaring, or discussion lists.
With terminology and ideas covered, what else does a business need to look out for? The business should evaluate the service provider in the same way that they would evaluate a packaged, installable software. Beyond that the consumer needs to decide if the service meets their needs.
In both packaged software and services, one must look at how the vendor is trying to lock in the consumer. This lock in happens in different ways. They may lock down data, making it difficult to move to a new vendor. They may also create a platform type of lock in. The platform lock in can cause many different kinds of problems. If the lock in is through the tooling and programming languages, a consumer may find it difficult to port customizations to equally good platforms. Likewise, it may prove difficult to find reasonably priced developer talent. For example, SalesForce.com uses the Apex programming language. Apex is specific to SalesForce.com and isn’t commonly available elsewhere. Other tools, like Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Google Apps, use common extension languages, allowing for a larger developer pool. Microsoft Dynamics uses .NET based languages and Google Apps uses Python.