Monday, September 25, 2006

GP and FC: SaaSing it up

(if you missed my previous post, that rhymes with "jazzing it up")

P and Fred Chong gave their typical, very informative session about SaaS Architecture this afternoon. My only complaint? Too short. Attention, SaaScon: 45 minutes is not long enough for substantive technical sessions! It's fine if the business track sessions are only 45 minutes, but any technical session worth its salt will need more time than that. Still, GP and Fred powered through, leaving us hungry for more.

Along the way, GP asked an interesting question: How related are SOA and SaaS?

My opinion: of course they are related, but there are some fundamental differences. Similarities? Obviously, they both have a service-enabled interface. Both have a great need for scalability. You may need to be able to provide some sort of metering and billing for each.

But the differences are big, too: SaaS implies multi-tenancy, and that's a big deal. That means writing something that's configurable/customizable for different tenants; for SOA, you don't have multiple tenants. Well implemented SaaS also means defining meta-data so that your customers can have customized data (or some other mechanism for running on different schemas)--SOA doesn't require this.

So it feels as though SaaS has all of SOA's needs, along with a whole lot more complexity.

Back to GP & Fred's talk: they talked about the their three headed beast of SaaS: Scalability, Configurability, and Multi-Tenant Efficiency. These guys have done a ton of work on this (see their white papers), and it is really good content.

By the way, one other thing I'd like to call out about their session: I think, in their 45 minutes, they said the word "Microsoft" exactly once. This wasn't a thinly-disguised commercial presentation: this wasn't a commercial at all. This was an honest, platform-independent discussion of architecture for SaaS. It wasn't specific to the platform, nor did it contain veiled references to the platform--the concepts could be implemented on any platform. I commend them for knowing the difference between a commercial opportunity and a technical session, and I congratulate them for doing it right. An earlier talk from Buell Duncan from IBM contained way too much IBM, and it came across as a commercial.

Back to SaaS: I'm still looking for the best way to exploit grid computing as a means to provide the scalability solution to that three-headed beast--and it looks like my opportunity is coming.

In October, Microsoft is going to release a CTP of a reference architecture of a SaaS application. This will be a living, breathing set of code, implementing a production-quality SaaS application. I can't wait for this. When I talked to GP after their session, he made it clear that they're hoping to release a final version of this code early next year so that people can branch, add their own improvements, etc.

It will be a great opportunity to show how SaaS can take advantage of grid computing to provide the tool to attack the scalability head of the three-headed monster.

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