Directions on Microsoft (Aug 2012) recently released a nice document on why ISVs should seriously consider Windows Azure for their SaaS-based applications. Windows Azure has been a predominately PaaS-based model until its IaaS Preview release this past summer. ISVs should consider the risks and benefits of using Windows Azuare to develop SaaS-based offernings for their customers.
There are risks that come with the SaaS model for an ISV. For instance, their income stream can be unexpectedly broken by customers deciding to drop their service (vs. buying a licensed version of their software in a traditional sales model). The Cloud platform, as does any hosting platform, has potential of short periods of downtime (it has SLAs to support this however).
But the benefits for ISVs using Windows Azure far outweigh the negatives. ISVs can get immediate insight into the usage patterns of their customers via 3rd party tools that monitor their actions. Their costing model can be improved due to multi-tenancy where more than one of their customers can share the cost of using their SaaS service, thus opening them up to a wider range of customers. An ISV does not need to invest large amounts of capital expenditure up front to get their app up and running. This is huge since if the app is not successful they can just cancel their subscription to Windows Azure, close up shop, and go home. They are not stuck with a bunch of servers they now owe money on that are no longer bringing them any revenue. Release cycles and sustainability are simplified and immediate since rolling out a new version of their SaaS app means all customers are now running on the most current version. When developing their SaaS apps an ISV can focus on what they do best – build apps to support their specific business, and not have to worry about hardware or software purchase, installation, and maintenance. Their apps are reliable, available, and scalable – and they have to do very little additional work to ensure this.
One of the purposes of Microsoft’s recent IaaS offering was as a quick on-ramp to Windows Azure for customers. But in addition to this path, ISVs can embrace Windows Azure in their application architecture in a number of ways. Hybrid apps allow you to split your processing between on-premise and the Cloud. Windows Azure Web sites provide quick migration, uploading, and hosting of an ISVs existing Web app. Or they can invest a bit more up front and build their app specifically for Windows Azure taking advantage of many of its cloud-based services.
The Windows Azure SaaS model makes sense for ISVs in most cases. If you are an ISV waffling about if the Cloud and Windows Azure is right for you, take a look at the rest of this article at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/itanalyst/docs/08-2012DirectionsAzureISV.pdf.