In the meantime, if you run into integration issues with SaaS, Dobrin offers a simple alternative:
If you find a SaaS system where you MUST have a customization (or an integration, the same logic applies) or it will be literally impossible for you to use the system, don't buy it. Period. The fit is wrong for you, and it will never be right. This, too, is a huge value, both for the SaaS company and the customer. They have fewer customers who should never have bought in the first place, customers that are excessively expensive to support and often likely to sue.
Security questions. Security concerns always rank among the leading concerns cited by enterprises when considering SaaS. Add multi-tenancy to the equation, and the uneasiness only increases as questions arise about how your data or processes stay out of everybody else's data or processes. It's odd, really, because when you think it through, it's like we're concerned about personal space and catching a cold-even in a virtual world.
I've noticed a lot of experts challenging these general security assumptions lately, including many of the data experts I follow on Twitter. InformationWeek's Editor-at-Large Charles Babcock voiced similar skepticism in an October column--on multi-tenant applications, contending that the cloud was actually pretty secure:
Virtual machines operate alongside each other in shared physical memory but are proven safe from the hazards that we know about today; there is no slop-over of data from one virtual machine to another. When we conceive of the data resident in memory of the multi-tenant application, it is assumed that with a slight slip-up, the data of one user might be taken for that of another.
So those are few of the multi-tenancy issues that can affect your organization.
But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one more consideration: virtualization could change all of this. Vance Brown, CEO of Cherwell Software, a provider of an IT service desk application and cloud computing platform, recently told ITBE's Mike Vizard that and he thinks virtualization could shift SaaS vendors toward single-tenant solutions.
Vizard summarized Brown's case:
Application software can now be deployed on shared IT infrastructure on premise just as easily as it can be deployed on shared IT infrastructure in the cloud. As such, the whole SaaS concept is either antiquated, or needs to be redefined for the cloud computing era. There is no real legitimate reason not to give customers the security benefits of a single-tenant application environment even though the underlying IT infrastructure is shared on premise or in the cloud.
We'll see. Ultimately, the question hinges on your needs, your comfort level for giving up control and your tolerance for risks perceived or real. Alok Misra, a cofounder of Navatar Group, compared the multi-tenant versus single-tenant decision to a condo versus a house-repairs aren't done on your schedule, changes aren't necessarily to your standards or likes, but it's low-maintenance and cheaper:
For a customer, there can be trade-offs in sharing an application. Think of it like living in a condo versus a house; one management company serves all the tenants, and you may not be any more special than any other tenant. Everyone gets upgraded with a new version at the same time, for example. But for many types of apps, the cost/value formula of multi-tenancy is the best answer.