In a move that will horrify purists but bring a smile to the face of many conventional ISVs desperate to launch SaaS offerings of their own, platform-as-a-service provider LongJump is today making its platform available as customer-installable licensed software.
The move is designed to meet demand from enterprises and ISVs that want to run their own cloud development platform rather than entrust their fate (and a monthly per-seat subscription) to a cloud provider. But it will prove controversial with rival platform-as-a-service providers such as Salesforce.com and Zoho, whose argument has always been that the unique benefits of their multi-tenant platforms can only be realized by running on the cloud provider's own shared infrastructure.
LongJump takes a different view, and will offer its software for customers to install under either single-tenant or multi-tenant licenses, for an annual fee ranging from $60,000 to $240,000 per CPU. Customers will also be able to choose their preferred degree of multi-tenancy, for example whether to assign an individual database to each downstream customer, or how many different application instances they operate (allowing them, for example, to operate regional instances to cater for variations in data privacy requirements). LongJump is restricting support to its preferred operating environment of Red Hat Enterprise Linux and the mySQL database, and customers will have to keep pace with the company's quarterly release cycle, as it will only support the current and most recent version.
The most unique element of LongJump's proposition lets developers adopt a hybrid strategy, using LongJump's servers as a development or pilot platform while maintaining larger-scale production applications on their own in-house servers. This means an enterprise can standardize on LongJump as a custom development platform both for small-scale hosted PaaS applications and for larger in-house deployments. LongJump will also optionally host a customer's instance as a managed service, or if the customer prefers to host on Amazon, there's an EC2 AMI option that I've been told can be up and running within 30 minutes.
In my view, LongJump's hybrid offering plugs a gaping hole in the market today, both for ISVs and for enterprises. No conventional software vendor offers a fully equivalent hosted PaaS alternative to its on-premise platform (the closest parallel is startup Apprenda's multi-tenant SaaS platform for .NET applications). With the exception of Bungee Labs, no PaaS provider offers the option of a licensed installable version of its platform. And as LongJump's CEO Pankaj Malviya gleefully points out, none of the others can point to a five-year track record of serious customers running business applications on its platform. "There is only one other company [customers would consider]," he told me. "That is Salesforce.com. We are not afraid of them."
"Corporate IT is still not willing to put every bit of information they have into the public cloud," he said, adding that companies dislike having to pay the subscription Salesforce.com charges for every new user brought onto a custom application. As for ISVs, he said, "ISVs want a platform like Force.com — they love it — but they're not ready to lose control to Salesforce.com."
I am somewhat concerned however that many ISVs will leap on LongJump's solution as a means of adding a SaaS offering to their solution set without properly understanding what they're getting into — especially as having an on-premise version panders to the commonly stated belief that SaaS is 'just a deployment option.' Malviya himself explicitly rejects that view: "Software vendors who think this is just a delivery option don't understand the model," he told me. But LongJump won't be offering any SaaS enablement advice to ISVs beyond supporting the software.
"As far as go-to-market is concerned, we leave it to them," said Malviya, recommending that ISVs work with consultants such as Scio Consulting to help define their SaaS strategy. Helping ISVs be successful is not LongJump's role, he insisted. "They will have go-to-market challenges irrespective of which platform they're using," said Malviya. "Our core competence is to provide the platform.
"We see ourselves as a software platform company rather than a pure on-demand company," he added. "We want to appeal to companies that believe in our software but who might not want to believe in our infrastructure capabilities."