Cloud Native Solutions Open New Doors for SaaS Providers

December 14, 2020

Cloud native is the next step in the digital transformation journey, and a critical path towards edge enablement for SaaS providers. As more and more developers adopt cloud native principles when building their applications, the demand for SaaS providers to flexibly fit into microservices-based architectures continues to grow. And while many SaaS providers today offer cloud-based deployment options, a large majority have yet to take the next step towards edge enablement that will allow them to create better digital experiences.

Take a web application firewall (WAF) provider, for instance, who offers a variety of deployment options, including on-premise and cloud. While the cloud solution undoubtedly offers ease of deployment, users will still suffer latency penalties based on the geo-location of that cloud instance versus distributing the solution across a global edge network to sit closer to end users.

Before edge computing can truly deliver on its promise, however, the challenge of distributed databases at the edge needs to be solved. To date, edge computing workloads have been mostly stateless, but changing edge workloads are driving the need for persistent data at the edge. Using cloud and on-premise databases is not the ideal solution. We need to figure out the most efficient way to process the tsunami of data at the edge.

Section has helped multiple SaaS providers, such as next-gen WAF technology providers Wallarm and ThreatX, by providing turnkey edge deployment solutions.

Looking Ahead to Cloud Native Tech in 2021

The demands of an all-remote workforce over the past year have overwhelmingly proven the benefits that public clouds offer for apps, development services, tools, and infrastructure. Without the cloud and the edge, these services would have largely stopped, unable to handle the overnight surge in usage of SaaS, PaaS, and the other cloud tools necessary to motor us through the overwhelmingly digital life required by the pandemic.

Looking ahead to 2021, it doesn’t look as if workforce patterns will be returning to “normal” any time soon. Forrester is predicting that remote work will sustain a lasting increase of 300% compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. On top of that, emerging latency-sensitive and latency-critical applications, such as in IoT and gaming, are requiring application architects to rethink where they run their workloads.

In its Cloud Computing-focused report, Forrester predicts that 2021 will see “a spike in global demand for both multi-cloud container development platforms and public cloud container/serverless services.” They add, “cloud native tech will continue to power digital transformation strategies: By the end of next year, 60% of companies will leverage containers on public cloud platforms and 25% of developers will leverage serverless.”

By the end of next year, 60% of companies will leverage containers on public cloud platforms and 25% of developers will leverage serverless.

The Benefits of Cloud Native at the Edge

Applying and benefiting from cloud native principles is not confined to the cloud, however. It extends to the edge, indeed enabling an even greater array of benefits.

The next step into the future is cloud native. We are seeing many companies choosing to move their application development entirely to the cloud or the edge using cloud native principles. SaaS providers that want to not only survive, but thrive, need to embrace cloud native.

Cloud Hosted vs Cloud Native

Many SaaS providers promote their products as “cloud hosted” or “cloud enabled”. However, this is known as “cloudwashing” because it markets existing software that exists on a cloud platform but doesn’t leverage the full benefits of cloud computing.

Let’s look at an overview of the differences between cloud hosted and cloud native.

Cloud Hosted

Cloud hosted allows you to host your applications in the cloud. SaaS providers manage, monitor and maintain the majority of the tech stack necessary to operate the software. The opportunity to scale horizontally and control costs are reduced and flexibility is limited to the deployed environment.

Cloud Native

Instead of being about where applications are deployed, cloud native is about how apps are created and deployed. Cloud native impacts the design, implementation, deployment, and operation of your application.

Cloud native can also be defined in terms of the tech it involves: serverless, containers, orchestration, microservices, etc., and the benefits that these technologies bring. Benefits include helping companies build, migrate and modernize customer-facing applications more easily, at scale, from the data center to the cloud to the edge.

“Taking advantage of cloud services means using agile and scalable components like containers to deliver discrete and reusable features that integrate in well-described ways, even across technology boundaries like multicloud, which allows delivery teams to rapidly iterate using repeatable automation and orchestration.” - Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate, Splunk

Benefits of cloud native solutions include:

  • A more straightforward application lifecycle management
  • Faster (and more flexible) deployment
  • Greater and more efficient scalability
  • There can be significant cost efficiencies in cloud native tech, reducing the monthly bill of your cloud provider.

It is also worth considering that it can be challenging to integrate on-prem software with cloud environments and SaaS solutions. Cloud native applications, however, easily integrate with cloud vendor environments from the get go.

Available Paths to Cloud Native

To begin your cloud native journey, first you must construct a solid strategy. As part of this, lay out your objectives and the benefits of choosing a cloud native model. Determine which applications can be easily migrated and what can be refactored (adapting code without changing functionality i.e. enabling applications to run in containers). Next, decide whether you want to train your existing developers in cloud native, hire new developers experienced in cloud native, or leverage an edge platform partner.

Upskill your existing developers or hire new developers experienced in cloud native.

Constructing a journey toward cloud native can be quite complicated and involves several important steps, including:

1. Design your cloud native microservices architecture.
  • Decide which cloud native services you will deploy and why: e.g. microservices, containers, service meshes, continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD), edge platforms, etc.
  • Determine the cloud native code based on your specific use cases. Developers have three main ways to package and deploy their code:
    • Leverage containerization
    • Deploy as a serverless function
    • Deploy on a virtual machine. NB These approaches can be (and often) are combined.
2. Build cloud native-specific security considerations into your planning from the outset.

The concept DevSecOps is built around the idea that security should be a key part of the planning at every step within the app development journey.

3. Ensure you have observability tooling.
  • Visibility into your environment is essential before, during and after cloud migration
  • Observability gives you the chance to catch problems early on in the process and benchmark performance.
4. Enthuse the wider company.

Without buy-in across the org and an overall movement towards DevOps, a cloud native strategy will fail. Cross-team collaboration will be essential to successfully changing the operating model for the organization.

Leverage an Edge Platform Partner

An alternative approach to training your developers or hiring new developers is to leverage an edge platform partner.

Section offers a fast, easy way for SaaS providers still in on-prem or cloud hosted solutions to benefit from a turnkey edge network that handles all the infrastructure provisioning, workload orchestration, traffic routing, and scaling to automate delivery of your SaaS solution. We can help you move your product to the edge without expensive rebuilds or ongoing management. That way, your IT team can benefit from improved performance, scalability and security, and focus instead on bullet-proofing your core competency.

Our platform thrives on cloud native tech. Find out how yours can too.