Understanding the Ecosystem of SaaS in Cloud Computing
When Software as a Service (SaaS) vendors become well-established brands in the market, they attract an ecosystem (a set of partners that works directly with a key vendor, both in technical and go-to-market terms) that sees the value of linkage.
This is how it works: A SaaS vendor with thousands of paying customers opens up its programming interfaces to other independent software vendors. These vendors create software that sits on top of the infrastructure of the SaaS vendor.
Therefore, they can get to market quickly because they only have to write their industry-specific code. They don’t worry about messaging middleware, or business process services, or other complex programming. In addition, they can market their software to the SaaS vendor’s happy customers (either through the SaaS vendor’s portal or through the partner’s direct sales force). This has become a standard model used by SaaS vendors to build their brand and power in the market.
If you’re a customer who has licensed an SaaS application, you’ll probably find another application that’s built on the same infrastructure that easily integrates with what you already have.
It’s important to understand that SaaS is a special instance of an enterprise application designed to support many different customers safely and securely with enough scalability to support changing situations.
This foundation then becomes the anchor for a rich partner ecosystem. Salesforce.com’s partner ecosystem is called Force.com. It is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) that allows complementary software companies to use this infrastructure and a set of tools developed by Salesforce.com to build on top of this customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
This isn’t a new phenomenon. Companies have built partner ecosystems for decades. These leading vendors have encouraged independent software vendors to build their applications on top of their enabling software. Companies including IBM, HP, Microsoft, and VMware have used this approach to build success in the market. The difference with SaaS is that the ecosystems of partners are an essential part of the business model.