Is SaaS Killing the Appliance Business?

With SaaS (software as a service) adoption continuing to increase, some have postulated that appliance-based network analysis and troubleshooting is in jeopardy. In a SaaS model, an application is hosted by a provider and then offered as a service to enterprises across the Internet. In other words, no on-premise hardware is required. This type of software delivery is attractive because it removes the requirements to download, install, and maintain software on-premise. Not having to buy the IT infrastructure is also on obvious financial benefit.

SaaS is taking off. In fact, Gartner recently forecasted that SaaS’ worldwide revenue would surpass $8.5 billion in 2010. That doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for everything, namely network analysis and troubleshooting. We believe network analysis is difficult and complex and the process cannot be effectively transitioned to a service via the cloud. We believe that network analysis and troubleshooting is still best handled with on-premise software and hardware appliances. Here’s why:

1.  You still own the network

Just because you’ve outsourced the application, doesn’t mean you’ve outsourced the network. And odds are your internal network has grown to be quite complicated, and your users are relying on that network for access to your SaaS provider. Ongoing monitoring, with a capability to drill down into suspicious issues and quickly achieve root-cause analysis, remains as important as ever. Perhaps even more so, if the issue is with the SaaS provider and they do not own up to it.

2. Independent (and in-house) verification is key

You have the vested interest in the performance of your overall network design, whether that design is totally within your control or involves third parties like SaaS providers. Relying on a third party to monitor your network is like ignoring your vehicle’s check engine light. You know the light is on; you have no idea what’s wrong and no ability to dig in and figure out the problem.

3. Multiple SaaS vendors, then what?

Once you start down the SaaS track, you’ll likely work with multiple application providers for best-of- reed applications. It’s imperative that network monitoring, analysis, and troubleshooting remain within your control. What if applications interact? Who will notice, or care, besides you? And what about network latency, between you and your SaaS providers or perhaps between the SaaS providers themselves? The best location to measure latency is within your own network, right where your users are. This will give the most accurate latency measurements and constant monitoring will ensure acceptable end-user performance.

Network speeds are constantly evolving and the arrival of 10G brings a whole new set of challenges for network managers. Proper network analysis and troubleshooting is key in this high-speed world as our networks become even more complex. While SaaS may be convenient and inexpensive, appliance-based network analysis and troubleshooting is the best way to ensure organizations continue to meet critical operational practice needs. We do believe, however, that the future of enterprise computing is not going to just be on-premise or SaaS. Instead, they will likely exist in symbiotic harmony.

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