Saas challenges

In SA the main Saas obstacles are:

Off-shoring of personal data where a global saas provide is used. This raises privacy issues, not wanting to fall foul of legislation, fears of foreign governments having access to personal data, eg the Patriot Act.

Is my data secure? High profile failures like Sony have contributed to this. Even though internal security risks are greater.

Bandwidth still not as cheap and reliably available as developed countries. This gives the impression that SA is not ready for Saas because of bandwidth issues.

Vendor lock-in: no open standards yet so this is a real concern. Even when vendors state that customers can cancel the service and take the data there are real challenges with migrating from one service to another

Depending on the target market and service type monthly service fees can be perceived as high when comparing one saas provider to another e.g. MS CRM online vs salesforce.com vs zoho, etc.

Overhyping and confusing nature of the term cloud computing. Saas is confused with the old ASP model and Iaas is confused with self-provisioned hosting. Again more from a business user perspective, I would say, self-service, quick and easy to deploy, predictable and transparent costs and scales easily whether 10 or 10 000 users.

Agreed that it should related to the new delivery model, you mentioned. The confusion comes in when some vendors jump on the bandwagon and claim a cloud offering when what they’re offering is really just hosting or the old ASP model. The hype problem is around marketing cloud computing as a silver bullet for all IT ills which is disingenuous. Would love to see an agenda which describes cloud computing in business terms, describes the delivery model and then proceeds to list several business issues and how cloud computing can help.

Zaheer Ismail

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(Native) app killer

I’ve never been a great fan of native device apps. They go against the grain of pure browser-based apps, introduce cross-platform compatibility issues, and raise privacy concerns.

Ever since the introduction of iPhone, iPad and Android devices native app development has surged and browser-based web apps have languished. Apple recently announced that 15 billion apps have been served via the AppStore and the Android MarketPlace weighs in at 3 billion apps downloaded. For all the talk of the death of the PC, native apps mean that the basic download and install paradigm is still intact.

If you get past the requirement to download and install the app then the privacy issues start. Why does a power management utility app have a need to take pictures with the device camera or read the phone log? Figuring out what are reasonable terms and conditions of different apps adds to the general time and effort overhead when installing apps. More ominously, there are also concerns about data leakage.

Developers also have to make a choice between iOS, Android or both. (Blackberry and Nokia/Windows have already been written off by analysts). This means greater investment in differing development skills, double the lifecycle management effort and managing different commercial terms.

It’s clear that app market or platform owners have a vested interest in protecting revenue streams emanating from apps sold via their platforms. The market owner has exceptional power to make unilateral decisions on key issues such as revenue share and deemed acceptability. Apple for instance, levies a 30% revenue share fee on app subscriptions. Apple recently forced Amazon to remove links from within the Kindle iPad app directing users to the Amazon website to prevent purchases being made outside of the app environment.

Of course, apps wouldn’t thrive if they were devoid of value. A native device app offers richer functionality compared to a pure browser-based or web app.

But this is all changing with the introduction of HTML5. HTML5 will bring app-like functionality to the humble HTML page.

In fact, Amazon, after complying with Apple’s demand, recently launched an HTML 5 version of the Kindle Reader. This offers similar functionality to the native iPad app. Books can even be saved to the device via the web app to be read later.

There will be a place for native apps but to a large extent I believe web apps based on HTML 5 will become the de facto app delivery vehicle. The web is striking back.

Zaheer Ismail