Control Versus Flexibility in a SaaS/Cloud World

To add to Colin’s points around the VentureBeat blog post below, what hit home the most to me in that discussion was the differentiation between “control” (or the lack of it) in a Cloud scenario versus “flexibility” as defined by the ability to scale quickly in a Cloud environment.

I am not sure I agree with the distinction that the two blog authors make. Control and flexibility are much more inherently linked in my opinion. The term flexibility here should be changed to “fast scalability” or scalability on-demand. Because of the “Non-portability” factor described in the cons sections, the flexibility concept is a bit flawed.

I think we need to stop equating SaaS applications wih “the Cloud” – because really, the Cloud can be a great way to discuss compute power but not necessarily application delivery. The true commidity nature of processing makes sense in a cloud definition. But there is too much customization, changing needs, and licensing issues associated with SaaS applications to really fit the Cloud bill in a neat fashion.

Maybe if SaaS vendors start pricing their apps in a more usage-based fashion. (I know Salesforce.com has done this for a small part of its portfolio, but do the number of logins really reflect how much an application is “used?”)

But back to control/felxibility. I think too many of the early SaaS providers, building these monolithic multi-tenant infrastructures do limit flexibility and portability (you can’t take a multi-tenant SaaS app in-house) as well as control. We are seeing more hybrid type SaaS environments that offer decent customization capabilities, but more important greater control and flexibility for the user. It is easy to take a non-multi tenant SaaS app in-house, or make major changes to an individual appliation instance to boost productivity (say, add a slave database for reporting to reduce performance lags for other users) if you are not running in a multi-tenant scenario.

Ultimately I think that the Cloud (whatever it finally comes to be known as) will act more as a power plant for SaaS and other applications. The providers than can run their own datacenters, leverage the cloud providers directly or through partners, allow their partners to host vertical versions, and offer options like on-site versions, will have the most to offer and win in the end.