Surfing the cloud tsunami: ISVs reinventing their business beyond SaaS

This first article of the “Surfing the cloud tsunami” series focuses on independent software vendors (ISVs) and their evolution to the cloud.

Flashback to 2007

In 2007, when we created the Club Alliances to help ISVs develop their software as a service (SaaS) or SaaS Canada Dry* (hosted software) business, SaaS and cloud were barely nascent here in France:

  • Salesforce.com was just really starting on the French market and SaaS itself was still a relatively new concept (application service provider, or ASP, was still the word in use).
  • None of the big or small managed service providers (MSPs) and vendors were articulating any cloud strategy.
  • IBM had just timidly launched a cloud initiative called Blue Cloud, but had no real value proposition for ISVs regarding infrastructure as a service (IaaS), let alone platform as a service (PaaS) and the “cloud enablement” of their applications. What we provided to ISVs then was traditional “e-business hosting.”

ISVs going beyond SaaSWe teamed to promote SaaS and “Solutions as a Service”

But in reality:

  • Very few French ISVs were really providing more than a hosted version of their existing client-server application,
  • The few SaaS Pure Players we worked with (TalentSoft, RunMyProcess) ran their SaaS applications on dedicated or virtualized servers, hosted in a traditional datacenter, but not actually on cloud platforms.

Then came Amazon and it all started to change!

I remember facilitating a call between the first (and only one in 2008) Amazon EMEA BizDev Manager and RunMyProcess (RMP), whose founders were relentlessly asking me for a cloud delivery instead of the existing IBM hosting solution.

At that time, IBM did not yet have any IaaS/PaaS platform for ISVs. So RMP was “forced” to leave IBM to run its visionary SaaS application on Amazon Web Services, which, I must say, suited their startup freemium model better.

By 2009, SaaS had gained traction on the French market

The word cloud started to pop up more often in business conversations with my IBM colleagues and partners. But most of them still didn’t really have a clue about what cloud meant and many pronounced it “clud.” Nevertheless, IBM Cloud offerings and partner programs started ramping up and accelerating. 

Fast forward to 2012

In less then six years since Club Alliances started with its Solutions as a Service mantra:

  • Nobody among the ISV community – and the IT Ecosystem in general – has any more doubts that SaaS and cloud are the new standard delivery models for almost any new application, usage or workload.
  • IBM, our IBM Business Partners and all other big vendors are now more or less “all about cloud.”
  • I personally launched the Club Cloud des Partenaires as an evolution of the Club Alliances to help new types of IBM Business Partners (cloud builders, cloud providers, cloud resellers) surf the cloud tsunami
  • ISVs currently have a whole range of solutions to host their applications. As an example, here is a chart showing the options that are currently provided by IBM and IBM Business Partners:

ISVs going beyond SaaSEach ISV may choose its own path 

The path depends on:

  • It’s level of maturity regarding SaaS and cloud: SaaS Pure Players may leverage third party cloud platforms or decide to manage their own infrastructure (less and less, it seems)
  • The ability to “cloud enable” the ISV application(s): ISVs moving to cloud may want to benefit from IaaS or PaaS, even if their software is not SaaS.
  • The need or not to continue to deliver a Canada Dry SaaS solution with a client-server monotenant application hosted on a “traditional” infrastructure, which can be either managed by the ISV (less and less) or by an MSP.

I can now really advise ISVs to focus on their core business

By forgetting about being their own host and relying on specialized cloud (infrastructure) providers to run efficient IaaS and PaaS platforms, ISVs can now really concentrate on:

  • Having their existing applications become “cloud enabled
  • Developing and running new “cloud native” or “cloud centric” applications
  • Reinventing their business instead of rethinking their IT

ISVs going beyond SaaSApplication ISVs should forget about software to deliver business outcomes!

With the cloud, most ISVs have the opportunity to reinvent their business and become more like “Independent (Business) Services Vendors.”  By providing business process as a service (BPaaS) leveraging business content, analytics, human resources as a service, other vendors’ solutions and services; beyond their sole SaaS applications, they can dramatically better help their customers reach business outcomes instead of only delivering them software, be it “as a service!”  

Stay tuned for the next “Surfing the cloud tsunami” articles where we will address:

  • Integrators and CSIs moving to cloud builders
  • MSPs migrating to industrialized cloud delivery
  • Value added resellers and distributors becoming cloud resellers, cloud brokers, cloud aggregators
  • Providers of business services leveraging cloud to displace the IT market

*About “Canada Dry”. In France, in the 80s, Canada Dry’s owner ran successful ad campaigns – that even became “cult” – to promote their ginger ale beverage.

Their angle was: “Ça ressemble à l’alcool, c’est doré comme l’alcool… mais ce n’est pas de l’alcool” (It looks like alcohol, it’s golden like alcohol… but it is not alcohol).

Hence the familiar reference to “Canada Dry”when we want to show that something looks like something else, but does not have all the required qualities to be “the real thing.” As you may imagine, Canada Dry fits perfectly well certain so called “SaaS” or “Cloud” solutions!

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Loic Simon

About Loic Simon

Loic helps IBM business partners reinvent their business and develop partnerships in the Cloud. He leads "Club Alliances" and "Club Cloud des Partenaires" where ISVs, integrators, MSPs, consultants and other cloud providers share experience and expertise, engage complementary partners and accelerate their cloud business with IBM. Loic blogs and shares on Cloud, with a focus on the evolving Cloud Ecosystem.
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