Software as a Service (SaaS) based Service Management
There has been a significant amount of hype surrounding SaaS based Service Management software in recent months. We thought it would be opportune to share some of our experience in this area and assist people in deciding whether this is a viable option for their organization.
Firstly, lets talk about the naming conventions. Before there was SaaS we had ASP hosted services. These terms still exist, but have all been replaced by SaaS, predominantly due to the success of products like Salesforce.com. Indeed, most Sales Force Automation (SFA) tools are now offered this way, and tend to work very well. However it is important to understand that SaaS is not a good fit for every organization. As a completely Web based system since 2002, LiveTime has been offering SaaS for many years and understands that every organization has different needs.
The problem is not necessarily with the technology itself. Everything can be done over public and private clouds quite easily using secure channels and web services. The problem is the security, performance and scalability.
Different SaaS Models
SaaS comes in many different forms. LiveTime has focused on SaaS 3.0, or the hybrid approach, recognizing that larger installations require more than a simple hosted environment. Early approaches focused on providing SaaS using legacy client server systems. We have seen many failed attempts offering SaaS using a combination of client server software, VPN tunnels, Citrix servers, and even WebEx based access. These approaches to SaaS have all but vanished from the landscape. This model was designed by the legacy vendors so they could claim they had a SaaS based offering and were still new, innovative and relevant. However, putting lipstick on a pig does not change the fact that it is still a pig, and most of these systems went away just as quickly as they came. This is not much different to what happened when vendors such as LiveTime were selling web based service management in 2002, and all of a sudden everyone was claiming they were web based too. When in fact, what they were really doing was web enabling their software. Essentially providing limited access to the system via the web, usually providing some sort of client portal at best and exposing less than 10% functionality of the software.
Fast forward to 2009 and the growing interest from analysts and organizations in SaaS based offerings. With the increasing cost pressures and economic downturns, organizations are looking for ways to ease the burden of installing, implementing and managing large software projects. However, it is important to understand what the different offerings provide.
On Demand Hosted Model
Recognizing that organizations need to not only get up and running quickly (which can be handled easily in the on premise model as well) but also need to eliminate hardware costs, the on-demand, or hosted SaaS solution is perfectly suited to organizations with limited infrastructure and integration needs, typically the SME market. While there is no technical reason a fully hosted model cannot integrate seamlessly to other enterprise systems, the problem is the level of security and performance as the system scales.
In fact, LiveTime On-Demand is exactly the same product as the On-Premise solution. It’s just that the system will be limited in how far it can scale due to the number of touch points required back into the enterprise. For example, lets focus on just one integration, the authentication of users. Most organizations will require seamless support into their central directory servers, so that users only require a single login. This works fine up to a few thousand users, but becomes a law of diminishing returns. At some point the hosted system will need to synchronize to the authentication server and ensure all the mapped attributes match the server. Most systems do this nightly. Once you hit over 10,000 users this becomes very difficult across encrypted channels, to a point where the sync will never complete within 24 hours. In addition, each time a user logs in there will be a round trip back to the authentication server. Now depending upon how busy the network, the host and the bandwidth is, this could lead to significant delays.
We should point out this is only a single integration, of which LiveTime provides many. If we were to implement a full service management solution with integrations into ERP and Asset Management, each with tens of thousands of devices and services you can already see the problem. This is where organizations need to consider the on premise model.
Since LiveTime’s on demand multi-tenancy model is based on lightweight instances, users can move to an on premise model very easily. Organizations can start with an on demand model and move to an on premise model as their needs grow.
On Premise Model
In the Hybrid SaaS model, LiveTime provides various choices, from a full installation, through to a plug and play hardware appliance. These solutions sit within the enterprise and allow more seamless integration and scalability within your environment.
This model is suited to larger enterprises, with a large number of technicians (>50) and end users, typically with multiple points of integration that require sub-second response times.
While there has been a significant amount of hype surrounding SaaS in the last year, these discussions have been predominantly focused around the pure-play SaaS solutions, what we call the SaaS 2.0 model (hosted only). These solutions have often failed to deliver in the ease-of-use and level of integration required in the large enterprises for many of the reasons outlined above.
A survey conducted by Gartner in December 2008 found that, among users and prospects of SaaS solutions in 333 enterprises in the US and the UK, the apparent acceptance of SaaS as a viable model has not entirely translated into satisfied users of SaaS. Vendors of these on demand solutions will point out that 60% of respondents will maintain their current levels. If you have just spent a lot of money on integration and choosing a new solution, it is highly unlikely you are going to roll this back any time soon.
Gartner’s 2009 Hype Cycle for SaaS reflects the evolution of SaaS in IT Operations and places it within the first segment of the curve, in the Technology Trigger segment. Representing approximately 1-2% of the overall market to date, this is clearly an area that is poised to explode in the coming years in what is already a $1 Billion dollar market segment.
Whether it is On-Demand or On-Premise, LiveTime’s solutions reflect the cohesive design of all core ITIL processes. Each approach combines different levels of security, performance and scalability which when designed and implemented correctly can provide a highly successful Service Management system for any size organization.