Which cloud is best for ISVs?

Which cloud is best for ISVs?

Summary: A bewildering choice confronts ISVs pondering which platform to use as they start to roll out SaaS offerings to respond to growing market demand for cloud offerings. Here are some pointers to help make that choice.


Cloud applications are increasingly becoming a mainstream choice for businesses, and that means a lot of ISVs are pondering which platform to use as they begin to roll out SaaS offerings to respond to that market demand. Unfortunately, the choice that confronts them is bewildering, with any number of established and start-up vendors and providers touting everything from conventional software platforms to managed hosting to platform-as-a-service. It should come as no surprise therefore to find that the opening morning of next week's SIIA OnDemand Europe 2010 conference in London has not one but two sessions on this topic — and I'm moderating both of them (see disclosure).

This is a topic I've given a lot of thought to over the past couple of years, arriving at a framework for evaluating cloud platforms that consists of four components, as set out most recently in my post Defining the true meaning of cloud. You can hear my advice on how developers can use this framework in the video below, which I recorded earlier this year while attending the SIIA All About Cloud conference in San Francisco.

Page 2: A framework for choosing cloud platforms »

« Page 1: ISVs face a bewildering choice

There's also a diagram I use to illustrate the framework, reproduced here, which first appeared in a posting back in January, when I wrote: "Where cloud platforms differ crucially from conventional software platforms is that their native capabilities have to extend into three additional, distinct elements beyond the core functional scope. This is mapped out in the diagram alongside."

On the horizontal axis, the breadth of infrastructure extends beyond the traditional development functionality of conventional platforms to embrace the entirely new element of service delivery capabilities, which are a crucial element of any SaaS or cloud offering. Of course some ISVs may feel they'd prefer to build or select these capabilities themselves rather than being tied into a platform provider's predetermined offerings. But whatever they do, they shouldn't underestimate the complexity of the requirement.

Then, on the vertical axis, there's the concept of platform bandwidth, which embraces the notions of multi-tenancy and all the attributes of a collectively shared operational platform, along with the notion of cloud reach or cloud scale. These platform bandwidth components I've discussed in my recent posting on the true meaning of cloud, so I won't reiterate that here apart from repeating my conclusion:

"A computing architecture can have all the other attributes of cloud, but without this cloud scale dimension, it will not be able to keep pace with the operational demands, the overwhelming connectivity and the continuous rapid evolution of the cloud environment."

The problem for ISVS is determining where exactly on that four-way matrix do they want their offering to sit. It may be premature to deliver a fully cloud-scale offering on day 1 (it may take too long to build it, for example). On the other hand, if they simply host their existing software on an Amazon EC2 or a Microsoft Azure instance, they'll have something in the market rapidly, but as a single-tenant implementation it'll have very limited platform bandwidth and poor as-a-service infrastructure (remember that, while the underlying infrastructure is multi-tenant and delivered as-a-service, your application doesn't have any of those features if you don't build them in). The ramifications of decisions like these will be much in our minds as we discuss the topic of cloud platform choice next week.

What questions would you like to put to the platform providers speaking at next week's conference? Post them to Talkback.

Topics: Emerging Tech, Browser, CXO, Cloud, Data Centers, Software, IT Employment

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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  • RE: Which cloud is best for ISVs?

  • Incomprehensible sentence

    Phil - good article, quite interesting. Probably due to typos, a sentence I really wanted to understand was just incomprehensible. Could you kindly clarify this?

    they?ll have something in the market rapidly, but it as a single-tenant implementation it?ll have very limited platform bandwidth and and poor as-a-service infrastructure.

    • me too

      @chrisfalter, I had trouble deciphering this as well although the typing wasn't my main issue - I thought Amazon and Azure solved those very issues for ISVs, and how would it be that an ISV can build better bandwidth and SaaS infrastructure than those two??
    • RE: Which cloud is best for ISVs?

      @chrisfalter, @walteradamson: I've corrected the errors and added an extra explanation in brackets. I think many ISVs think that putting an app on a cloud infrastructure makes it a cloud app, but in reality it's still the same old software:

      Unfortunately, a cloud platform doesn't automagically turn single-tenant, client-server software into a cloud-scale SaaS application. Sure, the underlying infrastructure is going to be much more powerful and robust than the typical ISV could do on its own resources, but there's still a lot of work to be done to add the three extra components into the app itself.
      phil wainewright
  • Make Sure the Cloud Provider Doesn't Eat Your Lunch


    I like the framework. For ISVs that build on a platform provider there is another very important consideration. Their success is intertwined with the provider since there is a lot of dependency. What if the provider decides to change their pricing or reduce features? What if the provider decides to compete at some point? Oracle is notorious for undercutting their partners. ISVs that have built on force.com are finding that Salesforce makes their lives miserable by stealing customers directly. The point is that if the platform provider is not invested in the ISVs success, the ISV may be wasting their time. SOmeone also sent me a good relevant post:

  • RE: Which Cloud is best for ISVs?

    Timely article. Agree with you on the framework. Building high quality software on time and on budget is a complex challenge. That challenge is magnified if you dont have a scalable, flexible and cost effective cloud computing solution. Skytap enables hundreds of developers within a company to build and use new and existing enterprise applications in the cloud. Check us out at http://www.skytap.com
  • Does this matter ?

    I assume that the answer is `of course it matters`. I wonder if signing a contract with a qualified cloud management vendor that will take full responsibility on your OnDemand offering include making even those type of decisions will work.