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Cloud Computing$

Nayan B. Ruparelia

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262529099

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262529099.001.0001

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Use Case Pattern #2: SaaS

Use Case Pattern #2: SaaS

Chapter:
(p.157) 7 Use Case Pattern #2: SaaS
Source:
Cloud Computing
Author(s):

Nayan B. Ruparelia

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262529099.003.0007

Abstract and Keywords

The general uses of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) service model, together with their pros and cons, are discussed in this chapter using a SWOT analysis. The general uses are described as uses cases; a use case defines the requirements and the sequence of interactions in order to effect a solution. When commonality is detected between use cases that implement a distinct solution, then it is called a use case pattern. These use case patterns can generally be implemented using micro-services. When standardized and implemented in the cloud, such micro-services are referred to as cloud cells. Thus cloud cells implement use case patterns. The following use case patterns for SaaS are discussed: customer relationship management; billing and invoicing; collaboration, instant messaging and email; Bring-Your-Own-Device; office productivity and image rendering.

Keywords:   Cloud patterns, SaaS use case, Use case patterns, Cloud cells, Cloud SWOT analysis

We build on IaaS and PaaS cloud services from the previous chapter by similarly identifying a common theme for SaaS cloud computing in terms of use cases. We consider various use cases for SaaS and follow up with a SWOT analysis of the SaaS cloud computing model from your—the user’s—perspective. We conclude with a key takeaway section that considers some of the questions you would need to ask when deliberating over a SaaS offering from a cloud service provider.

Use Cases for SaaS

Software comprises those applications that are installed on a computer and provide a known function to you, the user of the computer. For the purposes of cloud computing, any software that runs in the background for supporting (p.158) integration and monitoring purposes is termed middleware, and not “software.” A distinct function that you may want your computer to provide for you can be, for example, office productivity (word processing, presentation, emails, analysis functions using spreadsheets, etc.), tracking assets within your home or organization, budgeting and financial planning, and billing and invoicing to clients. These are some of the use cases for software as a service, as figure 24 shows.

Use Case Pattern #2: SaaS

Figure 24 Use cases for software as a service

(p.159) To get a taste of the pros and cons of using software as a service, let us consider some of the use cases of figure 24.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management (CRM) helps you to manage your company’s interactions with current and prospective customers. In a sense, a CRM application is contact management that allows you to describe the client and create a follow-up strategy. Additionally, it provides you with reporting and dashboards to assess various customer growth and attrition metrics. Because it is relatively easy to write CRM code for the cloud and also because CRM can be a standalone piece of software that many businesses have a need for, regardless of their business model, most CRM offerings are SaaS offerings. Commonly available CRM SaaS offerings are Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce CRM.

The major advantages of using an SaaS-based CRM solution is to be able to access customer records from anywhere in the world, be able to track and assess your sales team’s performance in a standardized and objective manner, and have an instant idea of your revenue growth profile. Disadvantages are (1) that you rely on the SaaS provider, and (2) that your customer related data may not be secure. The latter is a risk that arises from the possibility of the SaaS vendor being attacked by hackers or its employees having access to your data. However minimal this risk might be, it is a risk that you will need to accept

(p.160)

(p.161) as a cost to your business. The former refers to your SaaS vendor having an outage or going out of business. You can mitigate this risk somewhat by ensuring that you backup your CRM data regularly with a different cloud provider.

Billing and Invoicing

In the same way as you have IT infrastructure, you have business infrastructure that performs central functions such as human resource management, asset tracking, billing, invoicing, and auditing. These functions are part of your business operations but are not part of your business model. You could effectively outsource these by using an SaaS or a BPaaS service instead. Billing and invoicing is an example use case in this stable.

When your customers place an order, the automated acknowledgment, billing, invoicing, and settlement can be outsourced to a third party. The third party that performs all those tasks as a sequence of events essentially provides a business function. And if that business function is automated and hosted in the cloud, then it is a business process as a service as in the case of PayPal’s acquirer1 service. If, however, you installed your billing and invoicing application on a PaaS platform and your employees then used it as part of their work, then it would be a private SaaS offering. You could even create your own process that integrates your own SaaS based invoicing with PayPal to get an endto-end billing and settlement service.

(p.162) The main advantage of having such a SaaS-based capability is to create efficiencies in your cash flow by automating mundane tasks so that you and your employees concentrate on your main business.

Collaboration, Instant Messaging, and Email

Many people use Outlook for emailing, Lync for instant messaging, and tools such as Lync and Sharepoint for collaboration. From a nonspecialist’s viewpoint, these tools and activities can be categorized as group communication activities. Notice that mostly they are all tools provided by Microsoft for use on a Windows desktop. Likewise, Apple provides comparable tools for the Apple desktop. Of course there are third-party, off-the-shelf, tools available from independent vendors, but these tend not to have the same number of users. With cloud computing, the locus is changing from the operating system, at the device level, to a more distributed landscape. This levels the field. Indeed, relatively new entrants to this field, such as Google, now provide similar tools for free via the cloud as a delivery model. Further notice that all these tools are essentially commodity, everyday use, type of “business infrastructure” tools that your business needs in order to function on a routine basis.

There is yet another disruptor of communication. Often the end-user devices are not specified by the IT department, and instead there is a drive to encourage you to (p.163) bring your own device (BYOD) to work. The combination of cloud computing, thin or zero clients, and BYOD effectively means that the traditional form of group communication is undergoing a systemic shift to the cloud and to a more distributed computing model. And increasingly the trend is to use the cloud-based tools in preference to the desktop ones. However, you need to be conscious of the reasons to migrate to the cloud, away from the desktop, when adopting these tools because they are vital to your business. Below are four core principles that you will need to adhere to when considering a cloud model.

  • Security: Trust Your Employees Rather than restrict your employees by specifying technologies they should use in order to enforce security, you trust them to be honest and responsible. Of course, you could stipulate that they store your data in an encrypted or sandboxed environment on their own device in the case of BYOD. That way, any malware they pick up on their personal devices will not affect your business.

  • Dependency or Lock-In: Have an Alternative, Just in Case If possible, store your documents on an IaaS storage platform provided by a third party instead of the productivity tools vendor. Make sure that you backup your documents to a different location and with a different vendor so that you are not entirely dependent on any (p.164) one vendor. The best practice is to store your documents in an open file format, such as RTF or ODF, so that other applications will be able to access them.

  • Cost: Consider the Total Cost of Ownership Just considering the application license costs is not enough. You need to consider costs related to application packaging, distribution, and maintenance as well. Maintenance relates to ensuring that the current versions and service packs for the applications are installed. As such, you will most likely find the cloud based solution to be more cost efficient.

  • Focus: Concentrate on Your Business Model If your business is not in IT and you do not need to have a large IT department as an overhead, then it makes sense for you to use SaaS as a means to concentrate on your core business values and drivers.

The advantages of using cloud-based SaaS offerings are obvious: cost of ownership is low and you get the freedom to concentrate on your core business offerings without being distracted by IT infrastructure or business infrastructure related matters. But you could go one step further. Instead of having a mail server for emails that use your business’s domain, you could just use commercial mail offerings (e.g., Google mail or Yahoo mail) for your emails. Thus your company email address would then be, (p.165) for instance, <employee name>.<company name>@[yahoo, gmail, or whatever].com. And if you definitely did want to have a business domain, then you could point your domain to route mails to the commercial mail offerings. (People would then email you at yourbiz.com, your domain name, but you would retrieve those emails at Google or Yahoo.) This would then be in the true spirit of BYOD and cloud computing.

Office Productivity

As the locus shifts from the desktop to the cloud, the same considerations apply for office productivity tools as they do for group communications. Office productivity tools encompass word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet software. These applications have been installed in the cloud by various companies, such as Microsoft and Google, and are available to you as SaaS offerings. Microsoft provides Office 365 for you to use from the cloud, and Google provides Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides that let you create online documents, work on them in real time with other people, and store them in your cloud storage online. As most of the computing power is expended in the cloud, it stands to reason that you need less powerful client devices to work with online documents. As such, intrinsically related to SaaS are thin-and zero-client devices. Chrome Books (thin-client laptops) and Chrome Boxes (thin-client desktops) are examples of such devices. (p.166) Zero-client devices, such as the HP 410t, additionally allow you to use application virtualization should you need to use a single device to access your fat-client applications that you host in your private cloud as well as access office productivity applications that are hosted by third parties in a public cloud.

Image Rendering

Recall that we considered image rendering as a possible use case for IaaS in the preceding chapter. If you were to install the image rendering software on the IaaS platform and make it available as a cloud service, then it effectively becomes SaaS because the users of the software then just use it in the cloud. This is an example of building on IaaS by installing software that is available to others in a multi-tenant environment to create an SaaS offering. You can go up the abstraction stack from IaaS to PaaS to SaaS to INaaS to BPaaS by adding greater value at each stage—think of it as an abstraction-value ladder.

SWOT Analysis

Figure 25 shows a SWOT analysis of the SaaS cloud computing abstraction from the point of view of the cloud user. (p.167) (p.168)

Use Case Pattern #2: SaaS

Figure 25 SWOT analysis for software as a service

Table 6 Key takeaway: software as a service (SaaS)

Scope

Private, community, public, and hybrid clouds

Common uses

Commodity applications; applications that are used commonly by most people or businesses

Examples

  • Email services

  • Office productivity suite (Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365)

  • Customer relationship management (salesforce)

  • Image rendering (HP Cloud solutions for media)

  • Content Management (Box, SpringCM, and Microsoft)

Questions to ask

Similar questions to IaaS and PaaS:

  • Is there a minimum term applicable contractually?

  • Is there any element of CapEx?

  • Are there any penalties that apply to the service provider if SLAs are not met?

  • How transparent are the SLAs? What metrics will be monitored and reported?

  • How often are the reports updated?

  • Are there any business continuity or disaster recovery measures in place?

  • What are the end-to-end transaction times? Do these degrade during peak usage?

Common price models

Usually OpEx on the basis of volumetrics such as number of users, mailboxes, or storage consumed by email

Notes:

(1.) Also known as an acquiring bank, an acquirer processes payments to merchants for products or services.