Monday, May 4, 2009

Why the Akamai-OpSource Mash-Up Is Important -- to SaaS Vendors AND Users!

You may have missed it in all of the recent SaaS-related hullabaloo, but back on March 30, Akamai and OpSource announced a joint relationship that had actually been in place since late 2008. The companies have been working on joint solution offerings that combine OpSource's Web operations management and optimization services with Akamai's high-performance, highly reliable application and content delivery services and worldwide facilities. (If you're a quick and focused reader of your Web browser's status bar or its equivalent, you can see many major Web sites actually pulling content from Akamai servers as those sites load.)

Now, other SaaS infrastructure solution providers are focused on making the technologies work and keeping them working – incredibly worthwhile goals, make no mistake. However, the Akamai-OpSource alliance is really focused on providing a more business-centric infrastructure. The two companies are offering the delivery, hosting, and operations services that let SaaS solution providers focus on what they (should, at least) do best – delivering good software.

Akamai also announced access control and customer visibility enhancements to its Web Application Accelerator service. The improvements are intended to ease access to Akamai-hosted SaaS and Web-based solutions from behind corporate firewalls, and to tell SaaS solution providers more about what their users are and aren't doing with those solutions.

Taken together, I think these announcements address two parallel sets of needs in ways that are quite effective. Akamai, especially in concert with OpSource, is helping to deliver levels of visibility into SaaS solution delivery that makes that process more reliable and easily manageable. At the same time, that visibility is reducing the “FUD,” or “fear, uncertainty, and doubt” still plaguing some SaaS skeptics. You can not only see when and where things break or go wrong (a technological focus), but you can see how well things are working when they are working well (a business focus).

I'm a big fan of both Akamai and OpSource. I think their alliance is a harbinger of good things to come for SaaS vendors and users. If you're one of those users, or considering becoming one, by the way, you should start immediately questioning current and candidate vendors about their use of or response to the current and likely forthcoming results of the Akamai-OpSource alliance. Those taking advantage of alternatives such as the alliance's offerings may stand a better chance of avoiding problems that can cause disruptive or fatal challenges to all but the strongest SaaS vendors – as I've warned here previously. (To see what I said, please see “Enabling the Inevitable: Selecting Strong SaaS Providers” and “Are Your SaaS Vendors in Trouble? And If So, What Can/Should You Do?” -- and let me know what you think.)

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