SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Pat Romanski, Andy Thurai, Liz McMillan, Kevin Benedict, Zakia Bouachraoui

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Open Source Cloud

@CloudExpo: Article

Cloud + Open Source = OpenSaaS

OpenSaaS means you can have all the benefits of a SaaS solution without having to make big tradeoffs

One of Cloud's little secrets is the lack of portability for applications delivered using the "Software as a Service" (SaaS) model. Many companies sign up for SaaS applications with the belief that it'll be easy for them to migrate to another if they need to. But that runs against the plans of the SaaS vendors, who look for long-term agreements to lock customers in by providing no exit strategy. A new model, called OpenSaas, is the answer.

OpenSaaS is software delivered as a service, with open source principles at its core. There's no lock in. When you want to leave, you export a copy of your application - code, database, and design - and move it to wherever you want.

OpenSaaS is about freedom, as in speech -- or, as they say in French, "libre." It means the option to leave has to be more valuable than actually leaving: Services have to deliver tangible value and exceed customer expectations. If it doesn't, customers will (rightly) fly the coop.

OpenSaaS means that buyers can obtain business value from the software delivered as a cloud service, while retaining the control they'd get from running software themselves - but without investing in the hardware, resources and overhead that comes with managing a data center.

Why SaaS?
This lack of portability has existed in software for as long as there have been incompatible file formats. However, it's grown in the last few years with the proliferation of SaaS applications, which have introduced a complication for portability. In the old-style, self-hosted software model, you could (usually) continue using your old software as long as it ran. For SaaS applications, however, you lose the software as soon as you stop paying the host's monthly fee.

Why use SaaS applications at all? Typically they fulfill business needs that aren't easily met in other ways, for example, for accounting, social collaboration, and customer relationship management (CRM). Often they're content management systems (CMS) or web content management systems (WCMS). In some cases the software isn't available or easy to run as a self-hosted package, making the cost and complexity of system administration prohibitive.

Sometimes companies turn to SaaS because they don't want to perform all the updates and maintenance themselves, or need to synchronize data among multiple servers. SaaS applications boast high availability rates, are easy to adopt widely throughout an organization, and are available from almost any computer or device at any time. And they generally have a lower cost of ownership. What's not to love?

The problem arises with proprietary SaaS applications. Because the software is owned by someone else, you usually can't make a copy of it - as you'll probably have to do to run it on your own servers. If you can't run the software, you can't get off of the host and you're trapped.

Further, SaaS solutions are often limited in the amount of customization that can be done. This is especially true in a multi-tenant architecture, where customizations aren't well segregated among tenants.

Once you've invested, you're invested. What will you do when your organization changes or grows? How can an organization both leverage the SaaS applications in the cloud,while still future-proofing their solution? The answer is OpenSaaS.

OpenSaaS
A SaaS model enables accelerated feature delivery, as all users have access to new features the moment they're pushed to the server. But no matter how many features a solution has, none can solve all needs. There may come a time when an organization may need to, in essence, part ways from its provider to achieve its new goals. There is little that is more powerful than having the knowledge that when you choose your SaaS solution, you know that you have options if your requirements change.

And this, at the end of the day, provides a roadmap for scale and for change and a way to future-proof your solution, something for which proprietary SaaS vendors can't always accommodate.

OpenSaaS is software delivered as a service, but the difference is that OpenSaaS uses open-source solutions at every level that could be a pinch point to prevent portability. That means there's no lock-in - when you want to leave, you export a copy of your application - code, database, and design - and move it wherever you want. You then have as much flexibility to use and change it as if it had started on your server in the first place.

Let's look at Drupal as an example of how this might play out.

Drupal
Drupal is one of several open source-based frameworks for creating websites. It's built, used and supported by an active and passionate community from around the globe. Drupal already powers millions of websites and applications in a variety of server environments, from shared hosts to multi-tiered cloud architectures.

Not only is Drupal open source, many of its supporting technologies are as well. Like many server-based PHP applications, it typically runs on an AMP stack, comprising the open source Apache, MySQL, and PHP. Its thousands of modules (listed at drupal.org/project/modules) are all licensed under the highly permissive, open source GNU Public License, as are hundreds of graphic shells ("themes"). Further, Drupal integrates well with accelerator technologies such as Varnish and memcached as well as proprietary systems. Developers have combined such compatible open source projects into packages designed to meet specific needs, such as OpenPublic (http://openpublicapp.com) for government and Drupal Commons (http://acquia.com/drupal-commons) for social business software.

Because the entire stack is open source, cloud providers can choose to allow export of the entire package for hosting elsewhere. However, it takes a special provider, one that recognizes the value of OpenSaaS, to allow that to happen.

Drupal Gardens (http://drupalgardens.com) is a perfect example of OpenSaaS. It provides Drupal as a Service and enables rich web experiences, but also allows for site portability. Organizations can launch a site in seconds, with no software to install and no servers to manage - it's a true SaaS solution. It gives organizations the opportunity to create socially smart websites that help launch a product, promote an event, or engage a community. It gives organizations a way to accelerate their businesses with open source Drupal hosted in the cloud without being locked in to proprietary vendors.

If an organization's website needs change and the feature set provided through Drupal Gardens is no longer robust enough, organizations can easily just export their entire site. That means there's no lock-in. That's the Open part of OpenSaaS.

Organizations then have the option to move the entire site to a Drupal optimized PaaS such as the Acquia Cloud or to some other third-party hosting platform, or even choose to host it themselves. Wherever it ends up, they can then freely customize their sites - add modules or custom code, and integrate with enterprise systems to best achieve your organization's goals. It's software delivered as a service, with open source principles at its core.

At last, a SaaS solution with options, OpenSaaS.

The Payoff of OpenSaaS
Regardless of industry, organizations must always ask themselves: Are they in the business of managing servers, or something else? If the former, they need to understand website operations in addition to their "day jobs" as entertainment companies, publishers, technology developers, or public servants. If the latter - as is true with most organizations - they still have to guard the solutions living in the cloud to ensure portability.

OpenSaaS lets them do that. It enables organizations to focus on their core competencies, without sacrificing control over the web experiences that propel their business.

OpenSaas is about freedom, as in speech - or, as they say in French, "libre." It means the option to leave has to be more valuable than actually leaving - services have to deliver tangible value and exceed customer expectations. For business buyers, OpenSaaS means they can obtain business value from the software delivered as a cloud service, while retaining the control they'd get from running software themselves - but without investing in the hardware, resources and overhead that comes with managing a data center.

OpenSaaS means you can have all the benefits of a SaaS solution without having to make big tradeoffs around flexibility and futureproofing.

More Stories By Bryan House

Bryan House is VP of Product Marketing at Acquia. He came to Acquia from EMC, where he managed product and outbound marketing for Documentum’s knowledge worker business. Prior to EMC, he worked in product marketing and product management in the social business and collaboration technology space, after brewing beer professionally for seven years. Bryan is an ardent Red Sox fan and earned his MBA at Harvard Business School.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Latest Stories
"NetApp's vision is how we help organizations manage data - delivering the right data in the right place, in the right time, to the people who need it, and doing it agnostic to what the platform is," explained Josh Atwell, Developer Advocate for NetApp, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Sold by Nutanix, Nutanix Mine with Veeam can be deployed in minutes and simplifies the full lifecycle of data backup operations, including on-going management, scaling and troubleshooting. The offering combines highly-efficient storage working in concert with Veeam Backup and Replication, helping customers achieve comprehensive data protection for all their workloads — virtual, physical and private cloud —to meet increasing business demands for uptime and productivity.
"Cloud computing is certainly changing how people consume storage, how they use it, and what they use it for. It's also making people rethink how they architect their environment," stated Brad Winett, Senior Technologist for DDN Storage, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
While the focus and objectives of IoT initiatives are many and diverse, they all share a few common attributes, and one of those is the network. Commonly, that network includes the Internet, over which there isn't any real control for performance and availability. Or is there? The current state of the art for Big Data analytics, as applied to network telemetry, offers new opportunities for improving and assuring operational integrity. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jim Frey, Vice President of S...
A look across the tech landscape at the disruptive technologies that are increasing in prominence and speculate as to which will be most impactful for communications – namely, AI and Cloud Computing. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Curtis Peterson, VP of Operations at RingCentral, highlighted the current challenges of these transformative technologies and shared strategies for preparing your organization for these changes. This “view from the top” outlined the latest trends and developments i...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In their Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, and Mark Lav...
Historically, some banking activities such as trading have been relying heavily on analytics and cutting edge algorithmic tools. The coming of age of powerful data analytics solutions combined with the development of intelligent algorithms have created new opportunities for financial institutions. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Sebastien Meunier, Head of Digital for North America at Chappuis Halder & Co., discussed how these tools can be leveraged to develop a lasting competitive advantage ...
@CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX, two of the most influential technology events in the world, have hosted hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors since our launch 10 years ago. @CloudEXPO and @ExpoDX New York and Silicon Valley provide a full year of face-to-face marketing opportunities for your company. Each sponsorship and exhibit package comes with pre and post-show marketing programs. By sponsoring and exhibiting in New York and Silicon Valley, you reach a full complement of decision makers and buyers in ...
According to the IDC InfoBrief, Sponsored by Nutanix, “Surviving and Thriving in a Multi-cloud World,” multicloud deployments are now the norm for enterprise organizations – less than 30% of customers report using single cloud environments. Most customers leverage different cloud platforms across multiple service providers. The interoperability of data and applications between these varied cloud environments is growing in importance and yet access to hybrid cloud capabilities where a single appl...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound e...
"At the keynote this morning we spoke about the value proposition of Nutanix, of having a DevOps culture and a mindset, and the business outcomes of achieving agility and scale, which everybody here is trying to accomplish," noted Mark Lavi, DevOps Solution Architect at Nutanix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
In his keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Sheng Liang, co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs, discussed the technological advances and new business opportunities created by the rapid adoption of containers. With the success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and various open source technologies used to build private clouds, cloud computing has become an essential component of IT strategy. However, users continue to face challenges in implementing clouds, as older technologies evolve and newer ones like Docker c...
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessio...
In today's always-on world, customer expectations have changed. Competitive differentiation is delivered through rapid software innovations, the ability to respond to issues quickly and by releasing high-quality code with minimal interruptions. DevOps isn't some far off goal; it's methodologies and practices are a response to this demand. The demand to go faster. The demand for more uptime. The demand to innovate. In this keynote, we will cover the Nutanix Developer Stack. Built from the foundat...
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...