- ISVsurvival.com retired: A blog for ISVs on Software as a Service
ISVsurvival.com was a blog about what Software as a Service (SaaS) means to ISVs who will be forced by the market to adopt a new business model that exposes them to the financial and reputational risks of running production applications.
Writing ISVsurvival.com was an opportunity for me to refresh my technical skills and get hands-on with HTML4, CSS2, PHP, Expression Engine, WordPress and RSS. Local testing was with a LAMP-stack running under VMware Server. I used Subversion for change control.
- Cloud monitors: Peeking behind the curtain
It is important to know how reliable your cloud provider is. The SaaS community heavily criticised Amazon when they had outages in their S3 storage cloud. As a direct result Amazon rolled out a comprehensive Service Health Dashboard. This gives a good insight into what is going on with the Amazon cloud services.
Any dashboard provided by a cloud provider opens the door to tainting the truth on performance and availably. It could therefore be useful to have an independent source of metrics to refer to.
- Status widgets: Keeping an eye on things
Many subscribers use widgets to extend their desktop. There are thousands of good-looking free widgets to download, with many more to come.
Cross-platform support for Windows, Mac and Linux with tools such as Yahoo’s Widget Engine, Adobe’s Flash-based AIR and Microsoft’s Silverlight make building widgets easy. They run outside the browser; just park widgets where you can keep an eye on them.
- Status pages: Something to hide?
Your SaaS subscribers expect you to make your live service status easy to find. If you are not open and honest on this point, then you take the risk your subscribers will think you have something to hide.
Trust is critical to winning at SaaS. Adding your live status to your Web site home page is a quick and easy way to build trust. Why then do so few SaaS ISVs show their live service status? Do they have something to hide?
- Reputation management: Handle with care
Akafuku was founded in 1707 and is Japan’s most famous sweet company. Their sweets are the traditional gift for visitors to the Ise Shrine, Japan’s holiest religious site. In autumn 2007 a story broke that shook Japan. Trust in the Akafuku brand built up over 300 years was not enough to protect them.
Akafuku makes bean-jam sweets (rice cakes wrapped in red-bean jam), claimed to be freshly made every day with any sweets not sold that day thrown out. This was not true. Akafuku had been lying for more than 30 years.
- Reporting uptime: It’s down if I can’t login
Amazon S3 was down last week. A lot of blogs covered this, discussing the need for 99.999% uptime. A lot of people invest their time improving hosting uptime. Even so, 5 minutes and 35 seconds downtime per year is very difficult to achieve.
The thing is, 99.999% hosting uptime does not matter at all to your SaaS subscribers. What matters is that they can login. If they cannot, then no matter what the reason, your SaaS system is down.
We must stop focusing on hosting uptime. Instead we need to start thinking about the total user experience. End to end uptime is the only thing that matters to SaaS subscribers.
- Service dashboards: Show and tell
My last post was about learning from Friday’s Amazon S3 downtime. The main point is that you must keep your subscribers informed. A live service status dashboard shows the key data your subscribers need.
Amazon did not have this for S3. Subscribers were left to guess if there was a problem, and when it would be fixed. They have now said they will release a live service status dashboard soon.
Let’s have a quick look at some live service dashboards. Look what others are doing to get ideas to improve your own dashboard.
- Failure feedback: Make sure we keep talking
Early on Friday the Amazon S3 cloud storage service crashed in a big way. Lots of websites, some very well known, could not access their data.
Amazon quickly found and fixed the problem. It was not a hardware or network problem as many assumed. Amazon said that the issue was a web service at one of their 3 data centres. The service checks all user requests and SSL links. It was slowed by a sudden peak in SSL requests. Non-SSL requests were blocked. The whole of Amazon S3 stopped.
- 10 Laws of SaaS: Surely you can’t be serious?
In his recent blog post, Philippe Botteri from Bessemer Venture Partners lists the “10 Laws of SaaS” from their recent invite-only event for CxOs. I agree with 9 of the 10 laws, but disagree with law 6:
6. One Datacentre. Invest early in backup and disaster recovery, but stick to one data centre, at least until well after IPO.
How many data centres you have does not matter. What matters is your SLA, and there’s no mention of service level agreements in the “10 Laws of SaaS”.
- Service credits: Show me the money
Web news is talking about the
2 3 45 fibre optic cable breaks in the Middle East. While the net was designed to be up all the time, there will always be faults.
How do you react when a fault impacts your subscribers? Do you tell them it is not your fault? Do you tell them they must just put up with it? Today many ISVs are doing just that.
With no or very weak SaaS SLAs, at best customers might get a refund for that month’s service fee. Because no real cash is at stake many ISVs have not invested.