insideBIGDATA Guide to Hyperscaling Your SaaS Infrastructure

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In this new Guide to Hyperscaling Your SaaS Infrastructure the goal is to provide direction for SaaS company thought leaders on ways to achieve higher levels of scalability and performance through use of in-memory computing technology.

This article is the first in a series that explores the benefits that SaaS firms can achieve by adopting in-memory computing technologies. The complete insideBIGDATA Guide to Hyperscaling Your SaaS Infrastructure is available for download from the insideBIGDATA White Paper Library.

insideBIGDATA_Guide_HyperscaleIntroduction: Performance and Scale Challenges of Today’s SaaS Businesses

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software distribution model in which applications are hosted by a vendor or service provider and made available to customers over the Internet. Instead of companies installing software on their own servers, known as the on premises distribution model, application software providers host the software in the cloud and charge customers according to the time they spend using the software, or based on a monthly or annual fee. SaaS is becoming increasingly popular, and as the industry develops, more and more companies are dropping older business models in favor of this rapidly evolving methodology.

Some of the benefits of the SaaS model are that it is easier to administrate, all users have the same version of the software because updates and patch management will be done automatically, and plus collaboration is a lot easier. In addition, SaaS serves to grant global accessibility, making remote work models easier, which reduces costs and improves work performance.

From productivity apps and CRM application suites to software services which manage cloud apps and deployments and even enable the creation of hybrid clouds, SaaS is extremely broad and runs the gamut.

Types of SaaS

There are a number of different types of SaaS businesses and their consumption models of middleware/development tools software. The three most common cloud infrastructure services are: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). There is also a special type of PaaS called private PaaS.

SaaS represents the largest cloud market and is still growing quickly. SaaS uses the web to deliver applications that are managed by a thirdparty vendor and whose interface is accessed on the clients’ side. Most SaaS applications can be run directly from a web browser without any downloads or installations required, although some require small plugins. Examples of well-known SaaS providers include Salesforce, Netsuite, Workday, Google Gmail, Microsoft 365, Citrix GoToMeeting, and Cisco WebEx.

PaaS is used for applications, and other development, while providing cloud components to software. Developers experience real gains with PaaS, specifically a framework they can build upon to develop or customize applications. PaaS makes the development, testing, and deployment of applications quick, simple, and cost-effective. Enterprise PaaS provides line-of-business software developers a self-service portal for managing computing infrastructure from centralized IT operations, the platforms installed on top of the hardware. Examples of PaaS providers include Amazon Web Service (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Compute Engine (GCE).

The enterprise PaaS can be delivered through a hybrid model that uses both public IaaS and on premise infrastructure or as a pure private PaaS that only uses the latter. A private PaaS enables enterprise developers to leverage all the benefits of a public PaaS to deploy, manage, and monitor applications, while meeting the security and privacy requirements an enterprise demands. IaaS is a self-service model for accessing, monitoring, and managing remote data center infrastructures such as compute (virtualized or bare metal), storage, networking, and networking services (e.g. firewalls). Instead of having to purchase hardware outright, users can purchase IaaS based on a consumption model, similar to electricity or other utility billing. Examples of IaaS providers include IBM, AT&T, HP, Cisco Systems, Comcast, EMC, and Microsoft (Windows Azure Infrastructure Services).


SaaS Performance and Scalability

In order to be ready for any level of growth (which translates to business success), SaaS systems need to be able to scale, i.e. grow capacity on the back end to match customer demand without any major changes to the architecture of the application.

Scalability means something quite different in a SaaS environment than for traditional, behind-the firewall software. Prasad Jogalekar and Murray Woodside’s definition of SaaS scalability from their IEEE paper “Evaluating the Scalability of Distributed Systems” is very pertinent.

The typical SaaS business experiences challenges in building a high-performance, hyperscale service. Hyperscale computing is a distributed computing environment in which the volume of data and the demand for certain types of workloads can increase exponentially yet still be accommodated quickly in a cost-effective manner. In contrast to building a SaaS business 5-10 years ago, today you need to make sure the software can scale to millions of users. As a result, the growing demands of big data, software-as-a-service, mobile computing, Internet scaling along with falling RAM prices have spawned a range of new applications accessing and processing data in memory.

In-memory computing (IMC) is viewed as a solution to scalability issues for both “born-in-the-cloud” SaaS offerings, as well as ISV’s converting their software into a SaaS offering. Clearly, not all SaaS companies are running in the Amazon cloud, and “elastic” from day one. Many companies built their own infrastructure—some running cloud VMs, some not. They typically add customers by adding more hardware, but when you get to a certain scale, this model is no longer adequate. There are many SaaS companies with similar themes for how their businesses evolved over time. They grew their architecture to a certain point by buying hardware, solving performance problems as they came up, but once at a certain level they need to entrust a more holistic approach toward performance and scalability.

SaaS companies just building out their own application-hosting environment need to figure out what cloud stack to adopt, e.g. the OpenStack cloud operating system that controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources. An important question to ask is whether you have the scale and performance needed to make your application a widely successful SaaS offering?

Some very compelling SaaS applications are now hitting the market, all with a common need for performance and scale. The goal of this guide is to educate SaaS companies in how IMC can make a big difference in the architecture of their technology. The guide shall be the authoritative cookbook to capitalize on IMC as the vehicle whenever anyone searches “How do I scale my SaaS business?” and endeavor to meet the SLA for customers.


Over the next few weeks we will explore these SaaS infrastructure hyperscaling topics:

If you prefer the complete insideBIGDATA Guide to Hyperscaling Your SaaS Infrastructure is available for download in PDF from the insideBIGDATA White Paper Library, courtesy of GridGain.

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  1. This was really helpful. Thanks for sharing