How Cloud-Native Development Benefits SaaS

For many organizations, SaaS and commercial off-the-shelf software are at best an 80% solution to the business need. Find out how cloud-native development can help close the gap.

3 Min Read

Many businesses embrace software-as-a-service (SaaS) or commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications to modernize business capabilities and replace aging core applications and systems of record. While these solutions offer benefits like improved cost and reduced complexity when compared to custom development, their customization potential is limited, which can erode any built-in advantages as you diverge further from the core supported use cases of the commercial product. Also, integrations with existing systems and databases are often necessary but are usually clunky and may require specialized skill sets and familiarity with first-party patterns and tools from the SaaS provider.

For many organizations, these added complexities are not optional. SaaS and COTS are often at best an 80% solution to the business need, with costly and complex customizations necessary to bridge the gap. Scalability can also be a concern, as customizations or use cases that are outside normal usage patterns for the product introduce additional variables that are difficult to mitigate.

Customizing Commercial Apps Is Expensive, Limited, and Complex

In addition to the "80% solution" problem, it's also common for an organization to have to adjust key business or customer-facing workflows to align with the constraints of a commercial platform. One recent example of this issue is the US Department of Defense's healthcare modernization program. When the DoD selected Cerner to replace its in-house-developed electronic health records software, patient care providers had to adjust their workflows to align to those within the Cerner system. Before the DoD and its providers could benefit from the modernization that it had purchased, they needed to wrangle with right-sizing, customizing, adjusting business practices, preserving critical interfaces, and migrating patient data. This added up to a multi-billion-dollar and multi-year engineering and product management effort. The US Dept. of Veterans Affairs, following a similar approach, encountered major challenges, as well.

Related:AI-Assisted Development Tools vs. Low-Code/No-Code: What to Use When

Cloud-Native Patterns Enhance Extensibility

Systems and business processes are far too complex in today's dynamic business environments for "make vs. buy" to be viable. Today, a better framework is "customize or compose," and this approach to managing business technology is greatly enhanced by investing in organizational maturity in cloud-native development. Cloud-native patterns and technologies don't belong only to custom development or bespoke in-house applications. In fact, the benefits of these approaches to software development go beyond the cloud, allowing organizations and their development teams to focus on delivering support for adaptable, feature-rich use cases while also ensuring scalability and resilience.

Related:Cloud-Native Goes Mainstream as CFOs Seek to Monitor Costs

Cloud-native practices, patterns, and technologies enhance the benefits of SaaS and COTS while reducing the inherent negatives by:

  • Providing an extensible framework for adding new capabilities to commercial applications without having to customize the core product.

  • Leveraging API and event-driven architecture to bypass the need for custom data integrations.

  • Still offloading the complexity of most infrastructure and security concerns to a provider while gaining additional flexibility in scale and resilience implementation.

  • Enabling opportunities to innovate core business systems with emerging technologies such as generative AI.

Enterprises relying on SaaS or COTS still need the flexibility to meet their ever-evolving business requirements. As we have seen with advances in AI over the past year, change and opportunity can arrive quickly and without warning. Chances are that your organization is already on a journey to cloud-native maturity, so take advantage of this effort by implementing technologies and patterns, like leveraging event-driven architectures and serverless functions to extend your commercial applications rather than customizing or replacing them.

Learn More

Want to learn more about this? Join us at this year's Technology & Innovation Summit North America to find out how to implement this technology strategy in your business. I'll be presenting a session titled "Why Compromise? Transform SaaS Into Competitive Advantage With Cloud-Native Development." I'll review specific ways to do this in your organization and provide an understanding of how high-performance technology organizations are working through these scenarios today.

— Devin Dickerson, Principal Analyst

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