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Future-Proofing Your SaaS Infrastructure

By Devon Rutherford, pre-sales manager, Leaseweb USA

From remote work and distance learning to online retail and telemedicine, the pandemic has dramatically accelerated the move to the cloud, with Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) organizations leading the charge. According to the latest predictions from Gartner, global spending on cloud application services will reach $145.5 billion this year, growing to $172 billion in 2022.

This presents a significant opportunity for SaaS providers that can keep pace with ever-changing customer expectations. SaaS companies are increasingly recognizing that to support future demand and stay competitive, they need infrastructure that enables them to rapidly scale their solutions in an efficient and easily adaptable manner.

I recently had the privilege of presenting to the SaaS community at SaaStr Annual about the key challenges many companies face in choosing the right infrastructure for long-term success. Through the course of numerous conversations at SaaStr, I've curated some additional insights below that may help SaaS providers plan for the future.

Building on Public Cloud

Most SaaS companies begin their journey in the public cloud due to its low cost of entry and ease of use. The Big 3 cloud vendors - Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP) - want to build long-term relationships with startups. These companies will offer major incentives, such as free credits, education, and customer support to attract and keep their business.

Unfortunately, as SaaS companies grow, their infrastructure needs often change, and many find that it isn't as easy to scale on their current cloud platform in a cost-effective way. They may need to develop applications or services on other platforms because their own clients demand it, or because they want to take advantage of a technology that other infrastructure providers specialize in. On the other hand, the companies may have plans to grow in geographic regions where their current vendor doesn't have availability, or they simply want to avoid falling into the trap of vendor lock-in.

This is when evolving to a multi-cloud or hybridized strategy makes sense and why more SaaS companies are adopting it.

Scaling for Growth with Multi-Cloud

When it comes to making choices about their IT infrastructure, one of the questions that I tell every SaaS company to ask themselves is, "If we needed to, could we pick up and move our workloads without any issues?"

Public cloud providers are a solid jumping off point, but if SaaS companies place all their eggs in one basket, it becomes much more difficult for them to migrate to different platforms as their needs change and evolve. Unaware of this risk at the onset, startups later find themselves stuck on one platform, struggling to meet surges in demand while watching their costs rise - sometimes steeply.

To mitigate these dangers, SaaS companies need to ensure their technology choices not only meet their current needs, but also set them up for future growth.

For instance, it may be logical for them to continue using their existing public cloud for static workloads, but they may want to take a multi-cloud approach to gain access to specialized tools, while also allowing for the migration of transient workloads. As startups mature, it may even make economic sense to move certain workloads out of the cloud and into a more traditional IT stack - like using dedicated servers in a data center or colocation facility, or even creating their own private cloud solution using virtualization software and a pile of bare metal server hardware.

Future-Proof with Capacity Planning

Capacity planning can be more like an art form than a science, but it remains a critical part of futureproofing SaaS infrastructure - particularly for those that are planning on hybridizing or using traditional IT infrastructure. Proper planning will help ensure the more cost-effective, static loads have ample room for growth, while keeping costs low. It also allows for the ability to maintain consistent performance throughout the entire growth cycle. 

Although capacity planning is a key component of infrastructure solution design, it's generally not something that SaaS companies have had much experience with. This is because the vast majority of them have been utilizing cloud-based services, which allows for near-unlimited scalability. The following are three basic steps to help ensure that planning estimates are in alignment with actual utilization:

  1. Assess historical and current resource usage to plot a growth curve for predicting future patterns.
  2. Extrapolate the data to estimate for the next 6 to 12 months of growth.
  3. Reserve some budget for unanticipated growth.

Putting It All Together

For those SaaS companies that started their development on a pure IaaS/cloud platform and are now finding themselves struggling to keep up with costs, a multi-cloud or hybridization strategy can provide the optimal set of tools, compute, and bandwidth while maximizing value. Whereas, for the more mature SaaS providers, capacity planning can ensure they're staying ahead of the curve in both performance and availability.

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Published Monday, January 24, 2022 3:39 PM by David Marshall
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