It makes a lot of sense for independent software vendors (ISVs) to move to a managed cloud model for software-as-a-service delivery. However, ISVs should know what to look for in a Software-as-a-Service infrastructure services provider and what types of questions to ask.
Security : When it comes to cloud, most of the questions I receive are around security. In short, cloud can be as safe as any other form of IT infrastructure: It’s as safe as the security measures you have in place.
Ask potential service providers whether they can filter out threats at the network level – it’s a much more powerful method of protecting your IT infrastructure than doing it on site. Ask how they minimize exposure to common threats. Ask how they identify and assess system and application vulnerabilities. Do they offer 24/7 monitoring, management and response?
Service Levels : Single service-level clouds may not fit all applications. As an ISV, you either offer a standard service level to customers or have varying service levels based on your software tiers and other factors. Be sure to review your cloud provider’s capabilities carefully. Remember: SLAs you offer cannot exceed what your service provider is capable of providing. Also explore your service provider’s standard and emergency change windows and procedures. Things do go wrong from time to time, and how your service provider responds to those issues will affect your SLAs to your customers. Lastly, how redundant is your cloud environment? It doesn’t start and stop at the hardware, network and storage layers but also continues into the facilities (i.e., power, battery backup, redundant and varied paths for network into the building). There’s nothing wrong with asking for a data center tour.
Hybrid and Flexible Solutions : ISVs running in the cloud may want to tap into their legacy IT environment to get to market faster. The availability of hybrid cloud solutions – which can tie private and public clouds to each other and to legacy IT systems – is important to solve IT issues related to temporary capacity needs (i.e., bursting) and to address periodic, seasonal or unpredicted spikes in demand. Ask if the potential vendor’s assets work together to fully embrace the cloud model and deliver a combination of colocation, managed services and network that best suits your immediate and future needs. This capability enables the flexibility you need to both maintain your traditional licensing business and transition into SaaS. Your vendor should help you navigate the transition, no matter what your scenario entails.
Pricing : Vendors tend to price their clouds differently. Make sure you compare “apples to apples” and not just what vendors market; an instance of computing in the cloud may mean different things across vendors. To get the full picture, compare and contrast solution pricing versus individual element pricing. Ask about what features (i.e., storage fees) are included in data center services. Are backup, security and support services included? What are the costs to add network connectivity options?
SaaS Expertise : In the end, the ultimate factor – in some instances even a deal-breaker – should be SaaS expertise. Look for a service provider with experience building solutions specifically for ISVs. Ultimately, the vendor should be able to help you figure out the right solution and roadmap to meet your business needs. If they don’t specialize in offerings for SaaS companies, look elsewhere. Cloud enables ISVs to implement their offerings in any market in record time. However, true cloud computing for ISVs needs to go beyond just an array of flexible storage and processing capacity. Be sure to conduct research, ask questions and find a solution that meets your needs.