Five Steps to Modernizing your Data

  • This paper examines five of the most common issues that you’re likely to face in making the transition to SaaS.
  • For many providers of on premises software, the modernisation of existing environments is a necessary early step in the move to SaaS.
  • If you have a packaged, on-premises app based on Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle, there are several paths you can take.

You like to stay focused on building great software, but there are always distractions from supporting sales opportunities to assisting with customer deployments and troubleshooting existing installations. With so much time spent maintaining the status quo, few cycles remain for modernizing your technology, streamlining internal operations, delivering new customer value and broadening your customer base.

More likely than not, your offerings are based on an on-premises approach, forcing you and your customers to spend considerable time on essential requirements like infrastructure, scalability, availability and security.

More likely than not, your offerings are based on an on-premises approach, forcing you and your customers to spend considerable time on essential requirements like infrastructure, scalability, availability and security. Today, you still must deliver on those essentials, but the solutions you’re building – or, more accurately, the solutions you want to be building – need to do a lot more: support millions of users, span the globe, make sense of petabytes of data and wow users in new ways.

At the same time, your customers want to minimise TCO, which is why more and more of them are choosing software as a service (SaaS) over traditional, on-premises deployments. The Shift to SaaS: A high-value opportunity for ISVs, a paper by Keystone Research, frames the situation well: “SaaS represents an opportunity for ISVs to fundamentally transform their business… The market for software is quickly changing to demand this mode of delivery, as software buyers start considering total ownership costs, ease of use and flexibility in their purchase decisions. ISVs need to prepare for such a transition.”

Given that more and more software buyers are looking to SaaS solutions, how can you transform your business to meet that demand and while you’re at it, deliver new customer value? That’s where the Microsoft data platform can help.

This paper examines five of the most common issues that you’re likely to face in making the transition to SaaS and maps them to the Microsoft data platform offerings you might want to consider as a starting point.

  1. Modernizing your data environment – as required to make your own move to the cloud or to simply do more with your existing on-premises app
  2. Choosing a proven cloud platform that can help you deliver on the essentials, such as scalability and availability, so that you can focus more of your resources on delivering new value
  3. Building a multi-tenant SaaS app that can effectively deliver the same services to hundreds or thousands of customers – while ensuring that they can’t see one another’s data
  4. Achieving global reach with your app, such as delivering fast, real-time recommendations to users across multiple countries and regions
  5. Ensuring security and compliance, regardless of what you’re building in the cloud

Like most software companies, you have an existing software stack and skill set, and want to use what works best for you, without discarding what you already have or compromising how your team works. With the Microsoft data platform, it’s easy to delight users in compelling new ways while using your preferred data engine and the languages, frameworks and tools of your choice. Read on to discover how to unlock the full potential of your data – and your potential for business success – wherever it lives, in whatever form it currently resides.

Many ways to modernize

For many providers of on premises software, the modernisation of existing environments is a necessary early step in the move to SaaS.

After all, you’ll likely need to re-architect your apps to support your new business model. By modernising your environment, you’ll be able to do that faster and more flexibly. Do it right and you’ll also streamline application delivery and enable yourself to build “smarter” apps that improve the customer experience. Data is often the driver for such modernisation: there’s more and more of it; it needs to be analysed faster than ever; and it’s coming in more and more forms – including unstructured formats that legacy relational database systems just aren’t built to handle.

Before moving on, let’s address the elephant in the room: the cloud. It’s what’s driving your customers to SaaS, and it’s here to stay. And for good reason. It provides powerful economies of scale, global reach, freedom from the hassles of maintaining physical infrastructure and access to powerful new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), which would be difficult to bring in-house. It’s for all these reasons and more that your customers are turning to the cloud in the first place.

So why not make the most of the cloud? If you’re considering SaaS, then by definition, the cloud already plays a role as your means of application delivery. Of course, you could host a SaaS app in your own datacentre, as some companies do. But do you really want to maintain your own physical infrastructure, patch your own servers, manage your own backups and pay for new compute and storage capacity well before it may ever be needed?

After all, your customers are abandoning onpremises deployment so they can focus on delivering greater customer value instead of deploying and maintaining servers. Maybe you should too. You don’t need to make this leap today, as a first step. But more likely than not, sooner or later, the cloud will play a role – and that role will grow over time.

Plotting a course to data modernization

Now let’s look at how you can modernise your data environment as part of your transition to SaaS and – if you’re not ready to make your own move to the cloud just yet – what you can do to ensure that you’ll be successful when you’re ready to do so. Regardless of the technology stack you’re on today and the speed at which you want to move, the Microsoft data platform provides a path forward.

If you have a packaged, on-premises app based on Microsoft SQL Server or Oracle, there are several paths you can take.

If you’re not ready for the cloud yet, you can upgrade (or extend) your existing database to SQL Server 2017. It runs on Windows or Linux and supports your choice of programming languages, including T-SQL, Java, C/C++, C#/Visual Basic .NET, PHP, Node.js, Python and Ruby. SQL Server 2017 provides industry-leading performance, delivers unmatched security, and is the only commercial database with AI built-in – all at one-tenth the cost of Oracle.

If you’re ready to make your move to the cloud, you can migrate to Azure SQL Database, an intelligent cloud database for application developers. It shares a code base with SQL Server 2017, so you get the same powerful technologies – including your choice of tools and platforms, automatic performance tuning, built-in security and powerful features for building multi-tenant SaaS applications. You also get all the advantages of a fully managed cloud service, including onthe-fly scalability, automatic patching and backups and more.

If you want the benefits of the cloud, but your existing architecture isn’t fully compatible – maybe due to instance-level functionality or isolation requirements – you can “lift and shift” your existing database built on SQL Server 2008 or later to Azure SQL Database Managed Instance. It provides all the benefits of a fully managed database service along with near 100% compatibility with SQL Server. So you can continue using features like the common language runtime (CLR), SQL Server Agent and cross-database querying – all without changing the design of your app.

Similarly, if your on-premises app is based on an open-source relational database, the Microsoft data platform has you covered. If you’re running MySQL, you can migrate to Azure Database for MySQL, and if you’re running PostgreSQL, you can migrate to Azure Database for PostgreSQL. Both provide all the benefits of a fully managed service, including on-the-fly scalability; built-in high availability; and automatic backups, patching, monitoring and more. Of course, you also have the freedom to keep using your preferred programming languages and frameworks.

Last but not least, if you’re running a NoSQL database on-premises, such as MongoDB, you can migrate to Azure Cosmos DB. It’s currently the only fully managed database service to offer turnkey global distribution; support for key-value, graph and document data in a single service; and five well-defined consistency levels – enabling you to best navigate the trade-offs between consistency, latency, availability, throughput and other considerations. You also get limitless elastic scalability across the globe, guaranteed singledigit latency and industry-leading service-level agreements (SLAs). And you have your choice of APIs – including SQL, JavaScript, Gremlin, MongoDB and Azure Table storage.

Microsoft is unique in having an established presence both on-premises and in the cloud, enabling a hybrid approach that lets you transition to the cloud at your own speed, regardless of where your data and computing resources reside now.

Although most of the above are cloud based, that doesn’t mean you need to make your own move to the cloud all at once. Microsoft is unique in having an established presence both on-premises and in the cloud, enabling a hybrid approach that lets you transition to the cloud at your own speed, regardless of where your data and computing resources reside now. For example, you could upgrade (or extend) existing on-premises apps to SQL Server 2017 and then use the capabilities it provides to augment those on-premises apps with new functionality driven by one or more cloud database services.

The Data Accelerator programme

If you’re ready to take the next step toward data modernisation, Microsoft is ready to help. Through the Data Accelerator programme, which currently supports all the above pathways to modernisation except for Azure Cosmos DB, you can get help from the experts at Microsoft. Check out the Data Accelerator programme page for more information, to see if you qualify and to apply for the programme.

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