The term Independent Software Vendor (ISV) is still commonplace within the IT industry today, but does it make sense any longer? The origins of the ISV were way back in the pre-Internet era of client/server computing, where software publishers offered packages that were 'independent' of the choice of underlying hardware - e.g. the on-premise server. As public cloud becomes pervasive, ISVs are increasingly being referred to as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) firms, or more generally, just platform-based digital ventures or firms. This is where software and hardware elements, at the underlying public cloud infrastructure levels, become more integrated.
Beyond Basic Cloud Architectures
Over time, we have seen SaaS, and its underlying Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) layers become increasingly commoditised around Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure. However, simply moving old software architectures from on-premise computing to Single-Instance, Single-Tenant cloud apps cannot, in the long-term, provide a competitive advantage for niche SaaS solution providers or more widely, platform-based digital ventures. The mass-scale cloud players must take more control, and through ubiquity and scale, offer unrivalled price points for such platforms.
As the public cloud matures, the underlying PaaS and IaaS layers are increasingly growing into a richer set of No-Code and Low-Code Platforms, built with a Multi-Tenant, Single Instance mass-scale architecture. A great example of an established No-Code/Low-Code Platform is Salesforce Lightning Platform. When shifting from a lower-level PaaS/IaaS layer to a prebuilt business logic layer, such as Salesforce, niche SaaS solution providers can now build Configurable Apps, and take advantage of these mass-scale building blocks.
No-Code and Configurable Apps
Creating a next generation app on a No-Code/Low-Code Platform will mean that investment by the niche SaaS solution provider can be concentrated on unique, value-added Intellectual Property (IP), not reinventing components that are common to the majority of enterprise-scale apps. This enables the software design to become more of a Configurable App, rather than relying on expensive, Code-based changes to suit each customer implementation.
When an ISV evolves into a niche SaaS solution provider, the choice of No-Code/Low-Code Platform will determine the boundary between prebuilt business logic used/re-used versus the software uniquely created for a particular app. With the Salesforce Lightning Platform, the software design will utilise a high-level of prebuilt business logic and Objects. This, of course, has a higher level of integration with, and dependency upon Salesforce - including its pricing model and ongoing release map, which here, comprises three releases each year - Spring, Summer and Winter.
If the niche SaaS solution provider unbundles its app from the Salesforce Lightning Platform, then pricing may also be more flexible for each particular app, albeit that the Salesforce element can only be delivered on a per user per annum basis. For other emerging No-Code/Low-Code Platforms, there are none, to date, which offer the sale level of prebuilt business logic as Salesforce.
10x+ Time/Cost Advantage
But overall, avoiding the creation of 'full stack' apps on a raw IaaS/PaaS cloud is the way forward for the niche SaaS solution provider, either as a startup, or if they are transitioning from earlier architectures. The move to creating Configurable Apps, as No-Code built on top of an enabling prebuilt business logic (e.g. Salesforce Lightning Platform), can lead to a 10x+ time/cost advantage in creating a new Minimum Viable App, and thereafter, through its ongoing roadmap and lifecycle.
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