For SaaS Development, AWS is the Leading Choice

May 07 2020

It’s a good time to get in on the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market. The global SaaS market is forecast to reach $157 billion in 2020 — more than double the size in 2014.

The average spend for SaaS applications per company has steadily risen each year over the last decade. A number of trends, such as AI-empowered SaaS and vertical SaaS, are expected to expand opportunities even more.

Front-end Decision-making for SaaS Projects

So, let’s say you’ve decided to pursue a SaaS application development project. You’ve built a business case. You’ve identified your target audience and their needs. You’ve defined the project’s business requirements, specified the number and types of features, and selected a monetization model. But what about actually building and deploying the app?

Do you have in-house resources to handle the entire project, including app development, prototype building, quality assurance, testing, and deployment? Does your team have the expertise to determine if you should go with single-tenancy or multi-tenancy architecture? What about integration with other services using APIs?

What programming language will be used? You’re also going to need a secure, scalable database and some kind of message queuing (MSMQ) technology to help apps to receive and send messages with third parties.

There are numerous decisions that need to be made before SaaS development can take place. Among the most important is selecting the cloud platform that will power it. At ClearScale, we’ve found AWS to be the most flexible, reliable, and secure platform for developing, testing, hosting, and running SaaS applications.

Why Build SaaS Apps on AWS

Few providers can match the depth and breadth of tools that AWS offers for all aspects of SaaS development. It starts with AWS’ secure, scalable and reliable global computing infrastructure.

AWS employs an end-to-end approach to secure and harden this infrastructure, including physical, operational, and technology measures. It also regularly achieves third-party validation for thousands of compliance requirements, including PCI-DSS, HIPAA/HITECH, FedRAMP, GDPR, FIPS 140-2, and NIST 800-171.

Choice is one the biggest benefits AWS offers, including choice of compute services: virtual server hosting, container management, and serverless computing. Because AWS is platform-agnostic, you can also select the operating system, programming language, web application platform, database, and other services that make the most sense for your business.

With tools such as Auto Scaling and Elastic Load Balancing, you can scale your app up or down based on demand and only pay for the resources used. There are no long-term contracts or up-front commitments.

AWS also provides a broad range of capabilities that can be leveraged to align with the uptime requirements of SaaS environments. To ensure you can reach customers across a broad range of geographies, the AWS Cloud spans 76 availability zones (AZs) within 24 geographic regions around the world – numbers that are continually growing.

AWS is also continually adding new services and capabilities, such as those powered by AI and machine learning. They not only enable the creation of next-generation SaaS solutions, but also allow for integrating competitive and market-disrupting features.

If anything, the range of SaaS tools and architecture options can almost be overwhelming. AWS helps here too. For example, the AWS SaaS Factory offers a variety of prescriptive enablement resources to empower and enable each stage of a SaaS project. AWS SaaS Factory covers things such as the fundamentals of identity, data partitioning, and tenant isolation, and highlights the challenges and strategies associated with building next-generation SaaS apps on AWS. AWS also offers Quick Starts, automated design patterns that illustrate best practices for building SaaS solutions in the AWS Cloud.

AWS Takes on Core SaaS Features

Yet another reason AWS is ClearScale’s preferred platform for SaaS development and deployment is that it adeptly addresses the implementation of the core features of SaaS apps. That includes:

  • Access Management to Product Features and Functionality. AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) is used to manage and limit access to existing resources and applications across all platform entities. For Single Sign-On and Multi-factor Authentication for third party services and applications, AWS recommends leveraging secure identity management systems such as Okta Identity Cloud.

  • Cross-Tenant Event Tracking. SAAS tenants are isolated by their configuration settings, deployment and building process. If a cross-tenant event occurs, it must be logged with detailed use case description and tenant identification data. Applications incorporate logic to request secondary authentication in this case.

  • API Protection. Tenant-facing APIs use encryption for all the data in transit, and require the client authentication, using appropriate standard methods to obtain the authorization token.

  • Secure Access to AWS Resources. Access for AWS resources dedicated to a particular client is restricted using IAM policies and STS credentials. Data is encrypted at rest using keys stored in AWS Key Management Service (KMS). Shared resources utilized by API layers are secured in accordance with AWS best practices so they can’t be accessed by tenants directly.

  • Customer-specific Configuration. AWS enables building products with highly customizable UI capabilities that meet the unique requirements of separate tenants.

  • Customer Lifecycle. AWS also enables processes for tenant onboarding, suspension and offboarding to ensure smooth customer experiences and to maintain high standards for security and data preservation. That includes detailed procedures for changing customer state, including initial registration, activation, implicit (no traffic or active users) and explicit (disconnected from the SAAS platform APIs) inactivity.

  • Performance Monitoring. Once a tenant is onboarded into the SAAS platform, its activities can be monitored using services such as AWS CloudWatch or CloudWatch Logs.

  • Automated Scaling. AWS Auto Scaling can be used for scaling of all apps deployed within the project.

  • Zero Planned Downtime. To avoid any downtimes, the CI/CD pipelines must be developed with seamless deployment practices in mind. For example, many successful SaaS projects utilize “rolling update” deployment techniques supported by AWS services such as Elastic Container Service or Elastic Beanstalk.

  • High Availability. AWS offers multiple options and best practices to ensure high availability for SaaS applications, such as AWS managed services in Multi-AZ configurations (examples: ECS, Elastic Load Balancing, RDS and ElastiCache); deployment of EC2 applications as Auto Scaling Groups in multiple availability zones; and automatic disaster recovery through AWS regions.

ClearScale: Your AWS SaaS Competency Partner

At ClearScale, our preference for AWS as the ideal platform for SaaS development and deployment is based on extensive first-hand experience. We’ve helped numerous clients in healthcare, finance, education and other industries successfully create SaaS solutions. In fact, it’s that experience that has allowed ClearScale to earn AWS SaaS Competency status.

If you’re considering building a SaaS solution, talk to us. We can discuss your options, including the use of a multi-tenancy approach. We can also work with you to design and develop multi-tenant SaaS apps, leverage automation tools to deploy and support infrastructure, and provide ongoing managed services.

You can read about some of our SaaS work in these case studies.

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