Software development — once the domain of hard-core techies who worked in a world apart from the day-to-day operations of the business world — has become democratized. Newer business models now bring tech, development and business together, and line-of-business managers now have a hand in developing programs that were once relegated to a windowless back room staffed with the mysterious high priests of code, working late into the night and guzzling energy drinks.
Those days are gone, thanks to a new generation of software-as-a-service development platforms that simplify app creation, along with new cloud and as-a-service innovations that have brought IT out into the daylight in a new “dot-cloud boom” era of easy access and development for the masses.
Cary Landis, founder and CEO of SaaSMaker, has been on the forefront of the cloud movement from the very beginning when he assisted with defining the NIST reference architecture for cloud computing and implementing SaaS at NASA as early as 2008. “As-a-service platforms are part of the natural evolution of technology,” said Landis. “We’ve gone from needing highly specialized programmers to create a thousand cardboard punchcards fed into a hopper just to execute a single task, to an environment of ready-made, do-it-yourself components and drag-and-drop development that puts routine programmatic execution in the hands of line managers. The result is faster execution, greater innovation, and more efficiency than we ever dreamed was possible.”
Ushering in a new wave of entrepreneurship.
Technology-driven innovation has come in waves. From the dotcom boom of the 1990s, to the more recent onslaught of mobile and smartphone apps, each successive iteration of innovation has become more accessible. The ease with which these apps are developed, and the convenient platforms for selling them, has led to more than 2.2 million apps currently available on Google Play, 2 million in the Apple store, 669,000 in the Windows store, 600,000 in the Amazon app store, and 234,500 on BlackBerry world, with BlackBerry apps expected to skyrocket after the company’s recent shift away from its iconic hardware platform to being a software company.
“The cost of launch often ran in the tens of millions of dollars in the early part of the dotcom boom,” said Landis. “All software was custom-made and time-consuming. There were no small projects. As the cost of launch moves towards zero, a new era of dotcloud boom has already begun. We’re seeing a new type of startup today in the post-dotcom world, which we call dotclouds. These new agile startups use cloud-based infrastructure, so they don’t need a data center. They use SaaS development platforms, so they don’t need huge programming staff. And they take advantage of things like existing app stores, so marketing and selling is as simple as posting the app in the online store with a creative description.”
I wanna start a software company!
There will always be great ideas. The difference today is that those ideas are a lot simpler to execute, and more small-scale app companies will be launched not by technologists, but by business users and innovators. Landis launched SaaSMaker in recognition of the continuing evolution of tech innovation and entrepreneurship. “The evolution of cloud computing has brought us to a point today where entrepreneurs can create anything from a prototype to a full-scale free system, on a single ‘idea to revenue’ platform that allows for prototyping, development, hosting, and marketing.”
The new dotcloud era will be marked by developers looking for dramatically reduced time-to-market, taking advantage of cloud infrastructure and services to avoid the costs inherent to on-premise operations, and drag-and-drop development that bridges the gap that has traditionally existed between business and IT.
Unlike traditional development tools, Landis defines a SaaS development platform-as-a-service (PaaS) as more of an entire ecosystem rather than a single utility. “It’s not a hammer; it’s the whole toolbox,” he says. These types of platforms will be especially important in the next wave of entrepreneurship.
Related: 5 Ways to Reduce Your SaaS Churn
With development traditionally representing the majority of IT costs, new product launches have often been prohibitively costly to new entrepreneurs, often running into the millions of dollars. Independent software vendors stand to gain a lot with the PaaS model. According to a Frost and Sullivan report sponsored by Cisco, “As the cloud matures, providers who have invested in cloud infrastructure will look to evolve today’s Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) offerings into new sources of revenue and competitive differentiators. They will leverage their current cloud infrastructure, services, systems and expertise to take on the next great opportunity in cloud services — Platform as a Service.”