Why building SaaS well means giving up your servers

Byron Sebastian Salesforce.com Adam Bosworth Keas Structure 2012

Byron Sebastian Salesforce.com Adam Bosworth Keas Structure 2012

(L to R) Byron Sebastian, GM Heroku and SVP, Platforms, Salesforce.com Adam Bosworth, CTO Keas<br />(c)2012 Pinar Ozger pinar@pinarozger.com

Keas co-founder and former Google VP of product management Adam Bosworth knows a thing or two about building software-as-a-service applications, and he’s convinced that anyone not doing so atop a platform-as-a-service framework either will be doing so soon or will likely have an inferior product. During a discussion at GigaOM Structure today, Bosworth laid out the case for PaaS pretty clearly: It’s cheaper, it’s easier and Keas has a better product because of it.

Sure, Bosworth said, his decision to build Keas on Heroku’s PaaS offering has saved the company hundreds of thousands in operational costs per year, but the biggest benefit might be a better product because the company is able to focus on building the app rather than managing servers. He subscribes to the theory that a smaller creative team will always be more productive than a larger team, but managing infrastructure naturally results in a larger team.

At Google, Bosworth said, his team built the suite of Apps products in six-person teams and was able to work effectively because the infrastructure piece of the puzzle was taken care of already.¬†“Fundamentally,” he said, “when you’re building an application you want to write value add, you don’t want to write plumbing.”

That — “unlocking the creativity and innovation of others” — is¬†actually the exact thinking behind Heroku, said Salesforce.com VP of Platforms Byron Sebastian, who joined Bosworth on stage. And the message is catching on across companies of all shapes and sizes, he said. Whereas the question used to be “Why would I move to PaaS?” it’s now “How do I move to PaaS, and can you help me?”.

As it turns out, for Bosworth, how Sebastian and Heroku could help him now is to eliminate the minimal amount of infrastructure management that still remains. Bosworth said he stills spends about 30 percent of his time working on the company’s social gaming infrastructure, and he wants Heroku to move up the stack and add even more functionality to get that number closer to zero. Given the degree to which PaaS has improved his business model though, Bosworth acknowledged that’s definitely more a desire than it is a complaint.

Check out the rest of our Structure 2012 coverage, as well as the live stream, here.


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