Software developers love to challenge themselves with things that make them feel good and the trickier the problem, the merrier it is to find the solution. In some cases, this could obviously be the killer innovation that nobody else has ever done, but if it is something that already exists and can be purchased from a third-party organization, it is waste of time and money to rebuild something that is already available. Do you remember the saying “ it can’t be good as it was not invented by us?”. I do remember vividly and have been the witness multiple time during my career.
Ten years ago software developers had to work on basic infrastructure before getting the solution built, but today, the focus should be mostly on innovating and assembling solutions that bring something new to the marketplace. I still see SaaS ISVs to claim that they need to build a billing solution as part of the solution, but there is plenty of other solutions already on the marketplace that do that well an can be integrated to the overall solution scenario.
I happened to view Microsoft Windows Azure homepage today to see if there was something new and was very happy to see the homepage to include the same statement that I am bringing here: “Focus on your application. Not the infrastructure”. A good place to start looking at other SaaS components/solutions is to visit Windows Azure marketplace that includes listings of different solutions that the ISV can use as part of their solution delivery. If you are a system integrator, you should also spend time understanding what the software ecosystem has to offer so you can become a trusted advisor to your clients.
I do recognize that in some cases there is a need to build “glue” components that can be regarded as infrastructure components, but at the same time, the ISV needs to realize that those components will be replaced by commodity software whereby the original solution needs to be reengineered in some way or the other. In the past, as a leader of a software development team, we had to spend lots of time creating infrastructure for our solution to even work. I used to be the lead for several business intelligence solutions and at that time, there just weren’t enough components or infrastructure that would take care of the basic functionality. I still remember vividly our fight in going from 16-bit Windows to 32-bit technology and we had to support APPC communication between the mini computer and the Windows desktops. The bad news was that IBM decided to redo most of the router software with a pace that we as an ISV had really hard time to follow and we run into pressure from our clients to upgrade our 16-bit technology. You typically do not want to be the first one on the planet to test new technology, but in this case we did not have a choice. We spent multiple months “running against the time” when trying to get our solution to work with the latest Windows router technology and it was not fun and it was very expensive.
I mentioned that SaaS ISVs should look at other SaaS solution to bring functionality as billing and organizations such as Zuora, Inc is an example of an organization that brings subscription billing and commerce platform that can be used by other SaaS vendors.
My message to cloud ISVs is simple: learn your cloud ecosystem, learn what there is that you can consume as part of your solution and focus on innovation on the solution and not on the infrastructure.