You will agree that software as a service (SaaS) has opened up a whole new world of opportunities and is becoming the preferred delivery platform for Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). The promise of economies of scale and substantial cost benefits are the main reasons behind the increasing adoption of SaaS by ISVs worldwide. But why is it that, in reality, only a few have been successful in transitioning to a services model and display operational agility as SaaS leaders like Salesforce.com?
The shift to a SaaS model requires fundamental business and operational changes that can have a significant impact on aspects such as licensing, billing, metering etc. In this context, the use of an underlying Service Delivery Platform (SDP) is gradually gaining momentum. SDPs are typically designed to allow ISVs to install, integrate and then manage a wide array of applications, OSS and BSS elements in a much easier way and pave the way for a smooth transition into the SaaS business. A robust SDP enables ISVs to launch new services quickly, reduce service deployment complexity, simplify customer interactions, and ease service management - positively impacting revenues and reducing operational costs.
This brings us to a question - How can ISVs determine the best SDP for their businesses? Based on our experience, here are some key factors that ISVs need to keep in mind while selecting an SDP solution:
- Service Catalogue /Subscription Management: A robust SDP helps define a service catalog and enables end-users to directly subscribe or procure a service through a shopping cart experience - translating to better customer experience and quick acquisition. It must also support the full service lifecycle for the subscriptions.
- Entitlement management. Entitlement management is about deciding 'who' can access 'what' resource and for 'how' long and for 'what purpose'. It ensures that ISV services over a SaaS model are delivered correctly. The core architecture of an SDP should allow an ISV to manage these entitlements in a flexible manner and help them define attractive service bundling capabilities.
- Tenant Management/User Management: The SDP should offer multi-tenant capabilities that make it fast, efficient, and secure for ISVs to manage services for multiple tenants. It enables ISVs to easily manage the tenant meta-data and tenant specific subscription and entitlement details. A robust user management capability further allows ISVs to effectively manage these tenants and their access to the multiple subscriptions by creating user groups and assigning role based access control.
- Metering/ Billing: The ability to provide usage based metering is one of the core features of a mature SaaS offering and considering that ISVs typically adopt different monetization schemes, it is critical for the SDP to be accurate and sufficiently flexible in recording and billing service usages. A robust SDP should be able to quickly generate the necessary billing data (Service Data Records or SDR) for the subscribed services and feed them to a 3rd party billing engine along with the rating information to create bills for each tenant.
- SLA Management: SLAs agreed upon by the ISVs typically include important features such as availability, reliability, response time, Disaster Recovery (DR), service outage resolution time, scalability, etc. and these need to be constantly monitored and managed. An effective SDP provides automated SLA monitoring which helps manage the SLAs effectively.
SDPs represent an exciting opportunity for ISVs to create world class offerings with optimal operational efficiencies. It is therefore crucial for ISVs to select an SDP with all the necessary features as discussed above, that enable optimized service delivery and operations, which in turn effect a smooth transition into the SaaS business. We would love to hear your views and your experience with SDP.