The golden age of SaaS is turning into a nightmare for DevOps

Brought to you by SolarWinds

By Rohini Kasturi

Rohini Kasturi, chief product officer of SolarWinds. PHOTO: SolarWinds

“In the future, all software will be delivered in the cloud.”

Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce and often considered the “father” of the software as a service (SaaS) model, said this in 2011.

It’s easy now to turn around and agree with Benioff, but in the early days of cloud-delivered software, there were many skeptics. Benioff’s old boss at Oracle, Larry Ellison, even received significant flack for what many interpreted as “anti-cloud” comments.

More than two decades after the launch of Salesforce, the cloud has become the distribution model of choice for the world’s leading software companies.

Legacy giants like Cisco and even Oracle have successfully embraced a SaaS model, and cloud-native startups have flourished.

This is because the SaaS model provides significant benefits for both the vendor and the customer—the main benefit being speed. It is often faster (and possibly cheaper) to develop, deploy, ship, and install software delivered through the cloud.

The cloud revolution ushered in a golden age of software and enabled massive disruption in many industries—think Uber, Amazon, and Netflix. The global market for software has reached nearly $600 billion per year and will continue to grow exponentially.

Cloud-native applications like Zoom, Trello, Slack, ServiceNow, and Workday have become some of the most popular on the market. These changes, which have completely changed the way we work and live, would not have been possible without the cloud and the SaaS model.

Large cloud providers have also thrived, as the world now relies on AWS and Azure to run and maintain their infrastructure. An endless stream of data flows through these companies every second to ensure that we can all be productive and efficient while accessing company applications and data from anywhere.

“Why, then, can a man desire too much of a good thing?”—William Shakespeare

While we all wish this was the happy ending of the cloud story and we could go on our merry way enjoying our cloud services as we drift away to an endless SaaS-enabled paradise, sadly it is not the case.

In recent years, we’ve seen that there are significant drawbacks to moving to the cloud, and these drawbacks sometimes make life difficult for the people managing these environments. This is especially true for developers.

The cloud enables faster software development, including microservices to easily add functionalities and build more complex applications. This generally means faster service delivery and optimized performance.

But at the same time, the problem with increasingly complex architectures is that they are, well, more complex. Although developing applications in the cloud is faster, managing them is difficult. And applications are only part of the story.

An organization’s entire stack consists of multiple databases, networks, infrastructure, cloud services, and more. These complex architectures often make troubleshooting issues difficult for developers.

Just as a downpour can bring relief to a parched valley one moment but turn into a deadly flood the next, it is possible for so many good things to happen.

As many developers have learned during the shift to the left of operations, the once hundreds of microservices that facilitate development have become a headache to manage.

With DevOps teams managing increasingly complex software stacks, often relying on multiple cloud service providers, and accessing data in the cloud and on-premises, the operational side of the job takes a significant amount of time for DevOps teams.

Keeping applications running while delivering the best digital experience to end users becomes more difficult, as their bosses breathe down their necks about when they can ship the critical service update needed to beat the competition. .

The result is a very overworked and (perhaps understaffed) DevOps team that is broken and unable to innovate in the same way as before.

Read every site reliability engineering (SRE) survey report out there, and you’ll see that this difficulty is one of the top issues facing DevOps today. Suddenly, the SaaS model can look like a liability instead of an asset that supports product development.

“The true journey of discovery consists not in finding new sights but in having new eyes.”—Marcel Proust

So, what will our poor DevOps team do? Fortunately, there is a solution (ironically in SaaS form) capable of giving DevOps “new” eyes to gain more visibility into their applications.

By transferring from reactive application monitoringwhich usually only tells you when there’s a problem, that is proactive observability with the actionable insights needed to identify and resolve issues, DevOps teams can take one step closer to reaching SaaS paradise.

True observation empowers DevOps teams to achieve optimal performance and great user experience, regardless of the complexity of the application architecture.

End-to-end management of service delivery and component dependencies allows the DevOps team to finally get back to the critical projects their bosses are chasing after them.

In addition to better visibility and service management, observability enables Dev teams to change faster with live code profiling to detect potential user issues or performance bottlenecks before code is shipped. This means better applications delivered faster with less downtime or performance issues experienced by the user.

Benioff also said, “The only constant in the technology industry is change.” The improvements in application development made possible by the cloud are not the beginning and not the end.

Rather, it is another step on an endless road of change—a road that we can make smoother and straighter by observation.

Rohini Kasturi serves as executive vice president and chief product officer and is responsible for the product organization, which includes engineering, product management, and product marketing. Kasturi led the development, launch, and integration of SolarWinds monitoring solutions.

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