Thursday, September 17, 2009

How to Become the Next Salesforce.com

I put together an article a few months back for the DM Review(with a little help from my good friend Avigdor Luttinger, our Business Development VP) that may be useful if you're a small ISV with an 80's or 90's era Magic Software application - here's the article again in full..

Staying Alive! How to Morph your 80's Era Apps into Rich Internet Applications (RIA) and Software as a Service (SaaS)

The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business application market is now in accelerated growth phase and is set to conquer both the SME and Enterprise space. Salesforce.com is one of the largest and most successful of these SaaS vendors to date and represents the driving force behind today's SaaS trend. So what's now preventing other Enterprise vendors from replicating the success of Salesforce.com and becoming leading SaaS providers themselves?

An important reason could be that they have not yet conquered the dual challenges of Rich Internet Applications (RIA) development and SaaS delivery that would enable them to attract small ISV's and their applications in great enough numbers to offer a full application portfolio. And for good reason:

The RIA Development Hurdle

One of the main conditions for successful Web-based SaaS delivery is RIA orientation. This means that the SaaS application must provide a user-experience at least on-par with traditional client/server applications and the delivery must be via a very thin client that doesn't require any explicit installation and management.

A number of solutions such as Adobe Flex and Microsoft Silverlight have the toolboxes and platforms for RIA that provides the degree of user experience demanded today. However, the level of performance comes at the expense of a heavy development effort - meaning that you have to create separate client and server tiers and the in-between communication layer. And to do this you need a workforce with at least 2 different skill-sets. The result is a more complex project than the prevailing approach that uses a single Java-type development paradigm.

The SaaS Delivery Hurdle

To add to the difficulty of RIA development is the problem of SaaS delivery. One of the major advantages of SaaS (unlike ASP's) is their use of a single application image that can be applied to multiple users. However, while great for usability, this creates a huge challenge when using code-based applications - where your multi-user capability must be built-in to the code. For example, how do you keep track of which user is using what, and when? How do you limit their use in a tailored subscription plan? And how do you work out how much to bill them?

Overcoming the Legacy Application Business Barrier

Salesforce.com is the only player who's effectively answered both the RIA and SaaS challenges by developing their offering from scratch. Today, Salesforce.com has a very nice application, and a series of ISV partner-created add-ons. However, what happens when a small ISV partner, wanting to add-on his application to a major vendor, finds he can't do so easily because his application was built using a traditional programming language? Even players such as Salesforce.com have found themselves with less content than they would perhaps like - because their new proprietary platform is simply unable to assimilate the type of applications built using traditional programming language.

As a result there is a business barrier to ISV's joining SaaS providers in greater numbers -And this barrier is now preventing more Enterprise vendors from replicating the success of Salesforce.com. The challenge of creating a well-rounded SaaS offering based in part upon successfully assimilating ISV's legacy applications remains the primary stumbling block for SaaS providers today.

The Solution - Metadata Driven Application Platforms

Magic Software has perfected the art of the metadata driven application platform. This enables you to migrate and carry over business logic across successive generations of operating system and hardware. So you can easily take a DOS or Novell based Magic Software application and render it into an OS400, Windows, or Web environment - without having to modify the application, and while fully conserving the business logic of the application.

As a result, Magic Software's ecosystem, consisting of perhaps tens of thousands of applications, many of which are packaged and sold by small ISV's, can now be rendered into RIA and SaaS mode without great expense, and without acquiring a workforce with multiple skill-sets.

All of this means that if the big Enterprise players want to successfully build a SaaS portfolio and attract ISV partners and their applications, then they should look no further. Metadata driven application platforms represent a phenomenal opportunity, allowing vendors to harness the potential business logic within an ISV's legacy application. Enterprise vendors can now transform 80's era applications quickly, easily and cost-effectively into the types of products demanded by today's customers and expose new markets to the benefits of the SaaS and RIA revolution.