Software-as-a-service, or SaaS, development has accelerated to a dizzying pace. This is mostly due to the cloud, which makes it possible for SaaS developers to easily spin up resources on demand to test and roll out new features for their users. However, cloud deployment for SaaS applications comes with its own set of challenges—namely, maintaining SLAs, and designing for high availability, resiliency, and storage efficiency.
How can you ensure your SaaS overcomes these challenges? The pace of SaaS development and delivery in the cloud depends to a great extent on the underlying storage layer. Cloud Volumes ONTAP delivers an enterprise-class data management solution that runs AWS, Azure, or Google Cloud block storage disks, making it possible to meet the high-performance storage demands of SaaS-based applications while significantly cutting time to market.
In this blog we will explore some of the challenges faced by organizations while building SaaS applications and how Cloud Volumes ONTAP as a storage solution helps address them.
SaaS Development in the Cloud: Key Considerations
What customers look for in a SaaS application is reliability, high responsiveness, security, and value for money. To deliver on this expectation while ensuring ROI, the underlying infrastructure for SaaS-based applications—especially the storage layer—should be reliable and highly available while still being easy to manage and operate.
There are some key factors that determine the success of SaaS software development in the cloud. The most important aspect is ensuring that the application ecosystem is robust to honor the SLAs. Applications should be highly available and resilient from any kind of planned or unplanned cloud outages. Additionally, as the user base grows, the storage should be scalable on the fly to meet the increased demand while being cost effective in the process. All these should be achieved without compromising on the application performance. Any snags or delays in accessing the application could negatively impact the user experience.
The faster you can release features to your customers, the more successful your application will be. Agile development cycles demand highly flexible storage systems that are available on demand. Setting up the infrastructure shouldn’t become a bottleneck during any phase of developing and shipping the application. If a new feature demands new environments to be created for the process of “rinse, repeat” before the delivery, your cloud storage solution should be agile enough to support that requirement. Reduced time to market means happy customer base and increased profits.
Choosing the Right Storage for your SaaS Applications
Storage is an integral component of your SaaS application architecture in the cloud. It can make or break the efficiency of your SaaS development. Any bottleneck at the storage layer will act as a success inhibitor in the SaaS development process. Let’s look into some of the desired characteristics to be taken into consideration to avoid the common pitfalls while selecting a storage solution for your SaaS applications in the cloud.
High availability: SaaS applications are bound by SLA commitments, often very stringent ones, like 99.999% availability. That means the high availability of cloud storage used by the application is non-negotiable. The storage your SaaS uses should be capable of overcoming both data center and regional cloud outages. In the event of a failure, seamless failover and failback should be supported by the storage so that users will be able to access the application as if nothing was wrong.
Data protection: A SaaS’s storage service should be capable of protecting the application from unexpected data loss and corruption. Additionally, disaster recovery is another key consideration. Application-aware, point-in-time backup and recovery is crucial here. The data protection and DR should be planned to adhere to agreed RPO and RTO. Ease of failing back after recovering from a disaster is another deciding factor for the storage. The storage service should also have the capability to support non-disruptive testing of your recovery strategy for the SaaS application.
Performance: There is a general misconception that cloud storage solutions are not as good as their on-premises counterparts. However, with the right performance planning for the SaaS application and mapping against available cloud storage SKUs, high-performing cloud-based storage can easily be achieved. The location of the service, size, the tiers/SKU, and throughput offered by the storage are some of the factors to be taken into consideration along with the tradeoff between cost and performance.
Agility: Faster time to market is a key differentiator for a SaaS-driven business. The underlying storage solution should be agile to meet demands of fast-moving SaaS development where dev/test environments should be spined up on the go before rolling out new features. This should also be achieved without significant cost overhead. However, this can be a challenge as the high number of test copies—sometimes hundreds per automated test cycle—can drive up storage costs and take considerable amounts of time to create.
Storage efficiency: Cloud storage uses a pay-as-you-go model. The more cloud resources you consume, the higher your total costs of operation. Storage sprawl can burn a hole in your monthly cloud bill and eat into the SaaS application profit. While storage should be agile to support fast-paced application development, it should also be efficient to keep costs in check. Cloud service providers deliver low-cost storage solutions like cold and archive tiers for object storage that should be effectively leveraged to bring in storage efficiency. However, tiering from block storage to object storage is not natively available in leading cloud platforms and might need specialized solutions.
Data migration: SaaS applications may not always be born in the cloud. Seamless migration of existing data from on-premises deployments to the cloud is another desired feature of the storage ecosystem. Most often, the migration process will be done in stages, starting with non-live DR and backup data to test the waters. The storage solution should also help avoid vendor lock-in once the data is migrated to the cloud and hence should align with your planned exit strategy.
Security: When data is moved to cloud, you need to ensure that data is as protected as it was on-premises. Security of the data during a migration, i.e., in transit, and at rest once it is moved to cloud should be taken into account. The right cloud storage solution should also support the data privacy and compliance requirements of your SaaS application. For example, having built-in ransomware protection to prevent data theft is a desirable feature.
How Cloud Volumes ONTAP Enhances SaaS Development
NetApp Cloud Volumes ONTAP helps in addressing the cloud storage requirements for SaaS applications mentioned above by delivering the trusted NetApp ONTAP storage management capabilities in the cloud. In addition to cloud-native applications, Cloud Volumes ONTAP also fits into hybrid cloud deployments by providing a dependable storage layer for your SaaS deployments. The built-in efficiency, performance, high availability, and security features of Cloud Volumes ONTAP helps in meeting the requirements of SaaS applications using ONTAP’s mature and proven storage technology. It is delivered as a cloud native solution in leading cloud platforms like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud and can integrate seamlessly with your application ecosystem irrespective of the platform where it is deployed.
Cloud Volumes ONTAP brings together the elasticity of the cloud and NetApp’s trusted data management capabilities to deliver the enterprise features required by SaaS applications. Cloud Volumes ONTAP can be mapped seamlessly to your SaaS application environment through the common storage protocols. With multi-protocol support, it can fit into your application architecture irrespective of whether your deployment is Windows or Linux based. It also gives you the flexibility to use the same storage system for heterogeneous SaaS application landscapes. Cloud Volumes ONTAP also comes packed with features that help overcome the many challenges often associated with SaaS development in the cloud:
- Ease of migration: With Cloud Volumes ONTAP you can easily lift and shift your SaaS application from on-premises to the cloud with minimal disruption. The NetApp replication engine that leverages SnapMirror® can be used to achieve this without refactoring the application to suit the cloud.
- Enhanced Performance: Cloud Volumes ONTAP has features to ensure that there is no dip in performance levels while migrating workloads to cloud. With intelligent NVMe caching, Cloud Volumes ONTAP helps to enhance the performance of workloads in EC2 by caching IO to NVMe storage for faster reads.
- Assured high availability: Cloud Volumes ONTAP leverages the cloud-native availability features of AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure to ensure storage high availability for your SaaS applications in multi-AZ deployment. Using this dual-node configuration, automated failover and failback process assures RPO =0 and RTO<60s for the storage layer of SaaS applications.
- Cost optimization: Storage efficiency features like thin provisioning, compression and deduplication help to achieve high levels of storage efficiency, thereby reducing your monthly cloud data storage costs for storage by up to 70%. Plus, Cloud Volumes ONTAP uses FlexClone® data cloning technology for creating instant clone copies of data volumes with zero-cost overheads. The storage tiering feature of Cloud Volumes ONTAP tiers SaaS application data between high-performance block storage and low-cost object storage based on demand, so data is always stored on the most optimal storage tier.
- Faster Testing and TTM: Cloud Volumes ONTAP data cloning technology creates instant clone copies of data volumes that significantly speeds up the testing and releasing of SaaS development Provisioning data volume copies that would otherwise take days or even weeks can now be done in just minutes.
- Protect customer data: NetApp Snapshot™ technology creates point-in-time copies of data volumes that can help to recover SaaS customer data in the event of data corruption or loss. For DR and backup, SnapMirror creates secondary copies seamlessly. In addition, the immutable, write-once read-many (WORM) feature enabled through SnapLock acts as the first line defense against protecting data from ransomware attacks.
- Single pane management: NetApp Cloud Manager acts as the centralized management pane irrespective of whether volumes are deployed on-premises or in the cloud. It helps to prevent vendor lock in after migration by providing the flexibility to move data across all of these environments. And developers can save time as all of Cloud Manager’s functions can be easily automated through RESTful API calls
SaaS application demands are fast paced and require more features and flexibility than the native cloud storage solutions can offer. Cloud Volumes ONTAP enhances SaaS application development by going one step further than the capabilities offered by native cloud storage options. The enterprise class features of high availability, high performance, data protection, security, and reduced costs make SaaS development in the cloud safer, faster, and less expensive.
Watch our on-demand webinar to learn more about how to overcome storage challenges while achieving the best performance for your SaaS application with Cloud Volumes ONTAP.