Keeping it real - Finding true SaaS in a world of cloud pretenders | Unit4
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Keeping it real - Finding true SaaS in a world of cloud pretenders

As you migrate to the cloud you want to know that the solutions you are choosing are true cloud solutions that will provide you the full flexibility, scalability and security you expect. But many products currently on the market are not truly “cloud” solutions at all. They are copies of on-prem solutions that cannot offer the flexibility, scalability, and security of truly cloud-native architecture.

At X4U 2021, Unit4 CIO Shiv Gopalan and CTO Claus Jepsen held a session focused on equipping buyers with the tools they need to distinguish between non-native “cloud pretenders” and the true cloud solutions that fully deliver on the promise of the cloud.

This blog contains a few of our favorite highlights from the sessions – which you’ll also find as an on-demand webinar below.

The difference between SaaS and SaaS

Not all SaaS ERP solutions are created equal, and you should be aware of this as you build your business case and plan your procurement process.

Because there’s been such great interest in SaaS in every industry, it’s very common to see vendors marketing their solutions as SaaS solutions when they really aren’t.

These “SaaS in name only” vendors are usually operating on what we call the “lift and shift” model of cloud computing. They’re simply taking an existing on-premises software architecture and porting it directly into a cloud environment.

While this does bring some of the benefits of a “true” SaaS solution (in the form of reduced infrastructure and hardware costs), the burden of software maintenance is still on the customer rather than on the provider.

Forklifted on-premises solutions also lack a great deal of the architectural flexibility that makes improved business agility possible with a “native” SaaS solution. It’s this underlying flexible architecture that makes many of the benefits of SaaS – from automatic upgrades to extensive integration – possible.

So – what’s true SaaS?

True SaaS is cloud native. It’s been designed to run natively in the cloud, and to take advantage of the tremendous amounts of technology designed to allow “hyperscaling” and flexibility in architecture and compute power.

As a buyer, true SaaS can help you to achieve a much higher degree of standardization and business scalability across a range of core business processes. Not only by helping to rationalize your estate and reduce costs both across the solution itself, and the legwork that goes into application management.

If you intend to buy SaaS, make sure you’re getting the real thing. Demo the solution, research the vendor.

Question them closely on how they’ve architected their solution, what their roadmap looks like for future features and integration capabilities, and how it can fit in with the broader IT landscape your organization operates in.

Taking advantage of SaaS security

When it comes to technology, security is a paramount concern. As a buyer, you need to be able to trust that your solution will be secure. The rapid evolution of true cloud solutions now means that – far from being a risk, as many CIOs have traditionally viewed it – a SaaS platform can often be significantly more secure than a solution managed in your own data center.

Cloud security is a huge topic, but it relies on a three-part partnership between vendor, buyer, and the cloud on which the platform runs. Cloud solutions are flexible by nature, which means that whatever your organization’s needs processes and coding can be built in a way that makes true security possible.

To this end, you should be prepared to closely question your vendors on their approach to building security – both as a feature of architecture and as a feature of process and their working model in collaboration with you as a customer. It’s not just about whether their software is secure – can it, or the vendor, provide the proof of this that will satisfy all the necessary risk audits?

True SaaS architecture is different from step one

Architecture is a key pillar in “true” SaaS. The solution must be built around openness, extensibility, and flexibility. As Unit4 has moved its own software into a cloud-native model, we’ve completely rethought the way we think about our solution.

Our benchmarks for “true” cloud have led to our rearchitecting our products to for:

  • Granularity.
  • The ability to deploy innovation faster…
  • In a way that doesn’t require reiterating the whole platform…
  • While also permitting any bespoke customization…
  • And allowing data to be accessed simply through a well-defined API…
  • Supported by a low-code, seamless user experience that allows the people using the solution to use it as they see fit.

Most fundamentally, this has meant shifting from a monolithic model which our customers then modify to their own needs to a model of more discreetly handled microservices that together build into a full solution. Each service feeds into the complete product, but can be activated and deactivated as necessary and which all interface in the same way with other solutions to allow for quick and seamless integration.

As a buyer, you’ll need to pay particular attention to the integration aspect. Grill potential vendors on how their solution will fit into your existing enterprise architecture – and how that integration will be experienced at every stage and level from implementation to day to day management to data access and manipulation by end users across the whole company.

Want to know more?

If you’re interested to learn more about the differences between SaaS and SaaS and how Unit4 has transformed its own approach to developing people-centric ERP software that supports your digital transformation, check out the entire session with Shiv and Claus on demand here.

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