This year's AWS re:Invent event was organized on November 28. - 2.12. in Las Vegas. I attended the event focusing on software as a service (SaaS)-related presentations and workshops and meeting members of the AWS SaaS Factory team. This was my task, because our company's passion is to build more and better SaaS services for our customers, in connection with which Skillwell has also been selected for AWS's SaaS Factory development program.

There is enough detailed information about the presentations of the event for several articles, but in this text I will first try to summarize the overall picture of what things AWS considers essential in the development of SaaS services and in SaaS business.

SaaS is the business model

AWS's SaaS Factory team has, first of all, a business model and a software delivery model.

Software as a service (SaaS) is a business and software delivery model that enables organizations to offer their solution in a low-friction, servicecentric approach at scale. The SaaS model relies on agility and operational efficiency as pillars of a business strategy that promotes growth, reach, and innovation.

In the presentations and Chalk Talk discussions I attended, these key points of the above crystallization formed the context through which the special features and technical details of the implementations were explored in more detail.

In addition, I felt that after the presentations there were surprisingly many discussions, where companies still operating with a more traditional software product offering were looking for support and information to change their business and product offering to a SaaS service.

Customer focused

In my opinion, the most central concept of SaaS services is tenant. This is a customer who has used the service, often an organization whose data is processed in the service. One thing that was highlighted in re:Invent's presentations was that all customers in the SaaS service should have the same version, and there are no customized customer-specific application versions. This does not mean that the SaaS service cannot have different features for different customers, but only that this should not be implemented in different application versions. The two implementation methods recommended in the presentations are feature flags and extensions implemented internally or by partners.

Shared and own resources

A significant motivation in switching to a SaaS business model is the opportunity to offer a service from common resources to all customers of the service. The SaaS presentations at AWS re:Invent first emphasized that SaaS does not necessarily mean sharing resources. In addition, there are many different possibilities for sharing resources, such as, for example, separating a certain part of the load based on the customer's service level into a customer-specific one, while the other resources are shared.

Control center

The thing that was most emphasized in the SaaS presentations at the re:Invent event is that for the successful development and operation of SaaS services, a so-called Control plane is needed alongside the actual SaaS application's Application plane.

Application plane and Control plane

This control center includes customer-specific functions, e.g. related to commissioning, changing the service level or invoicing, as well as information about the use of the service's features and resources on a customer-specific basis. The AWS SaaS Factory team has implemented a reference implementation of the control center called SaaS Boost.

Successful migration to SaaS service

One of re:Invent's SaaS presentations presented a way to convert an old customer-specific separately installed service into a SaaS service by first building the above-mentioned control level and enabling customer-specific installation of the service using a so-called silo model. If this is compared to the other method, where the old service is replaced completely from scratch with a new SaaS service, then the time presented here is significantly shorter for the SaaS service to be operational and to get the right experience. If done well, development work towards common resources etc. can then be done on a microservice-by-microservice basis.

A new service for managing access rights

At AWS re:Invent, dozens of announcements about new services or significant features were made. From the point of view of SaaS services, one of the most interesting new services is Amazon Verified Permissions, which is still released at the introductory level. It is a new service that can be used for in-app access rights needs.

To sum up

The journey to Las Vegas is long, and in my case, moving through the shows held in five different conference centers was at least tiring on the legs. However, the end result of the trip was inspiring and valuable. AWS's view on the development and operation of SaaS services corresponds to our own thinking, and thus this strengthened the perception that we are heading in the right direction.

If you want to hear more about the design and implementation of SaaS services, you can contact Jari Ikävalko or Harri Ilvonen. We will be happy to answer your questions.

Harri Ilvonen +358 400 830 660

Jari Ikävalko +358 50 386 5590

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