In the Age of SaaS, Lessons Can be Leveraged from the Past

With the introduction of the Riverbed SaaS Accelerator service it gives us a reason to consider where we’ve been, where we are today, and the opportunities ahead as enterprises make a full shift away from old-style technologies toward modern cloud-based architectures and SaaS applications to drive greater businesses outcomes. 

Today, enterprises have many more choices available to offset the accumulating expense of managing and maintaining massive data center architectures at scale, and on-premises applications. Today’s enterprise has multi-cloud environments deployed to address different workloads, and a massive insurgence of savvy SaaS applications driving the functions that were previously dedicated to on-premises apps. 

Today’s employees are on 24×7, accessing SaaS apps in the office, from home, coffee shops, airports or client sites on the other side of the world. These changes make the benefits of SaaS applications undeniable. SaaS is easy to deploy and scale. The business no longer assumes the financial burden of owning and maintaining the hosting infrastructure. However, there are serious challenges with SaaS in the enterprise. One of the most significant is around application performance.

42% of enterprises report that at least half of distributed or international workers suffer consistently poor experience of the SaaS apps they use to get their jobs done. (ESG Enterprise SaaS Survey, March 2019)

When application performance suffers, the ability for an enterprise to stay agile and competitive, to build customer relationships, to build pipeline – that ultimately suffers too.

Let’s look at reasons why SaaS performance may suffer by looking at the network variability that can lead to wildly inconsistent user experiences.

Here are a few typical scenarios:

  1. Direct to Net at a Nearby Branch: Sometimes SaaS users are working from a branch or Headquarters located very close to a cloud point of presence (pop). In those cases, most of the time, SaaS should run okay. 
  2. Direct to Net at a Distant Branch: Another example though, are places in the business that are more remote. Many enterprises are global in nature these days. If branch offices are in remote locations where latency is going to be higher, this is going to cause performance slow-downs – and a less than productive user experience. And in some places in the world, bandwidth is not so cheap, so traffic going through the affordable pipes slows down. Even in areas where bandwidth is relatively inexpensive, a change to a SaaS-first approach can be cause for alarm, since new pipes will need to be significantly beefed up for application performance.
  3. Backhaul: There are still a large percentage of enterprises backhauling SaaS traffic through a data center because of compliance with a security posture, and evolving from this won’t happen overnight. Distance is distance and the speed of light doesn’t get any faster. Backhauling creates more distance and causes longer delays, and that hinders performance. 
  4. Mobile Workforce: And as discussed, now we have dynamic and mobile employees logging-on and accessing SaaS applications from different places and networks on any given workday, making application performance completely unpredictable. This particular scenario is only growing in intensity.

Of course, most enterprises have a combination of these scenarios impacting SaaS performance – and therefore, workforce productivity. At scale this could be quite serious.

So how do get in front of this?

While we want to help IT leaders maintain that ease and scale they get from SaaS, we also want to make sure they’re in the driver’s seat controlling how users experience the apps they use to perform their jobs well. We want IT leaders to be armed with visibility, and we want to give them an easy way to proactively turn up the performance on SaaS applications to drive business anywhere a user may be.

So how does this tie back to the foundational principles that made WAN Optimization so critical 15 years ago?  It’s not dissimilar at all – just evolved.  For those who understand the principles that made sure on-premises applications could perform over distance, it can be opportunistic to apply those to the complexity of maintaining the performance of cloud workloads and SaaS applications today. Riverbed leveraged these founding principles to create the world’s first, cloud-based SaaS Accelerator service that can be spun up in minutes and used as an enterprise insurance plan for getting business done in today’s digital workforce.

And in today’s fast-paced, world where seconds and minutes count and can make the difference in millions of dollars, to reputation, client confidence, and more—why wouldn’t companies want to take advantage?

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Author's Bio

Alison Conigliaro Hubbard

Vice President, Riverbed Technology