The automation of customer relationship management, human resource management, project timeline monitoring, and other business activities is currently a top priority for modern enterprises and business users. SaaS applications, often known as software as a service, are useful in this situation. And when it comes to the design of software as a service, the phrase designers frequently come across is SaaS architecture. In this post, we discuss the idea of SaaS architecture and its advantages before outlining its design principles and best practices.
Table of Contents
What Is SaaS Architecture?
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) refers to a web-based software application that is distributed to end users via the internet. SaaS architecture refers to a software delivery approach in which a vendor hosts an application for an organization on a remote server before offering the app’s capabilities to that business’s end users via the Internet.
This paradigm enables multiple businesses or organizations to share a single model and configuration. This means that both companies use the same hosted application, as well as the same hardware, operating system, network, and other components.
An organization can use the architecture of SaaS as is. Alternatively, its developers can use an Application Programming Interface (API) to customize the SaaS with in-house or third-party technologies to match its software needs.
For access to the “ready-made” SaaS solution, users must pay an ongoing subscription charge. They don’t buy a complete copy in advance or locally install the program on every computer. The SaaS provider also takes care of all technical concerns, such as hardware, upgrades, data storage, middleware, and infrastructure security.
Key components of SaaS
One sort of application can be distinguished from another by its essential components. The following are some of the essential elements that each SaaS application would contain:
- A distinctive infrastructure – Utilizing a SaaS architecture has several advantages, one of which is its adaptable infrastructure that can be scaled up or down in accordance with business needs. Customers, for instance, can select the components that would be useful to their firm and only make payments as necessary. Customers would revert to their pre-paid infrastructure model after the payment period has ended. Users of SaaS pay for their software on a monthly or annual basis using a billing system. Depending on their business needs and client demand, their requirements may need to scale up or down. Consequently, it is essential to have a customized SaaS infrastructure architecture.
- Billing model based on subscriptions – The fundamental component of a SaaS application is the high availability of the software as a service. This is billed using a subscription-based billing mechanism. This service is offered on a flexible pricing schedule that enables customers and business users to utilize it fully however much they desire.
- A CRM system – A SaaS application differs from other programs in that it uses a customer relationship management system. For management purposes, SaaS requires a single repository for many customer accounts and their account details because it provides a common platform for multiple tenants.
- Autonomous provisioning – An SaaS application’s automated provisioning offers a simple customer onboarding procedure to set up a service delivery of the cloud-based application. Independent software providers (ISVs) benefit from increased operational efficiency thanks to automation because necessary framework-related updates are swiftly pushed to subscribers. Additionally, it relieves you of the responsibility of overseeing deployment, patch, or upgrade release schedules.
- Assistance and Analytics – The customer support and analytics module of a SaaS service offers the toolbox needed to control the platform and monitor metrics. Business providers can enhance customer experience and satisfy market demands, while SaaS providers can match client expectations.
The benefits of deploying SaaS infrastructure architecture?
- Provides via the internet dependable digital services.
- Enables some customizability and maintenance flexibility.
- Flexible subscription and billing procedures.
- Services for software that are more affordable than conventional licenses.
- Allows users to switch on or off services as desired.
- Your SaaS vendor controls all backend infrastructure on your behalf, so you don’t have to bother about upkeep.
- SaaS systems are meant to store data on remote servers, so a hardware failure in your local data center will not result in data loss. The SaaS architecture incorporates automatic data backups.
- You may provide seamless services by utilizing the most recent cloud-native technology. Vendors release completely tested versions, so you don’t have to worry about bugs, cumbersome deployment procedures, or random failures that create downtime.
- The SaaS architecture provides a versatile platform for scalability of computational resources on-demand. To serve more customers, you do not need to buy more and more powerful gear. Scalability is incorporated into the components of SaaS architecture.
- Most vertical SaaS architecture solutions include built-in compliance for associated businesses. As a result, you won’t need to create any additional tools to ensure compliance.
- SaaS eliminates the need to construct complex and costly stacks of technologies and tools to serve short-term engineering initiatives. You can save time and money by using a hosted application.
5 types of SaaS architecture
Based on the covering of industries and functions
SaaS architectures designed specifically for vertical industries are referred to as vertical SaaS. The following are only a few of these sectors: healthcare, real estate, agriculture, finance, logistics, and retail. The broader requirements of a single industry are served, despite the fact that it may appear to be a more restricted approach to developing SaaS applications. Since an institution or company may rely on a single application, it would seem more advantageous to offer a variety of features and services for a single industry. Despite the possibility of vendor dependence, it is up to the decision-makers to balance the benefits and drawbacks in light of their needs, available resources, and competitive pressures.
Horizontal SaaS apps place a greater emphasis on functionality than on industry standards. Regardless of the industry of the clients, this style of SaaS architecture concentrates on a certain software category. For instance, applications for marketing, sales, and communication are utilized in various sectors, and a SaaS application with these features might satisfy particular company needs.
Because many SaaS applications are recognized for a certain functionality or service, businesses may be explicit about their requirements and select the app that best fits them. The same businesses would, however, be compelled to make additional SaaS application investments in order to meet their needs.
Based on the component shareability
A single customer who is paying for the software service is served by a single-tenant architecture. It indicates that the tenant will receive a single infrastructure, server, and database along with their own dedicated software instance. Customers who do not have to share their database resources with other customers profit substantially from the architecture. Additionally, customers can scale up or down the program at any time to suit their needs.
Because of its fundamental qualities, multi-tenant architecture is one of the most popular types of architecture when creating SaaS applications. Every single instance of this SaaS architecture, by definition, serves more than one tenant. This indicates that all clients share the same database and application information, with the exception of the fact that each tenant’s data is protected.
A multi-tenant SaaS architecture is perfectly exemplified by Google Workspace, also formerly known as G Suite. A single application is available online to several tenants. To access their 15GB of free storage, tenants use Google Cloud’s shared database. Although resources are shared, all client personal information is protected and stored separately to uphold the highest standards of data security and privacy.
Consider a scenario in which a tenant uses resources from a shared infrastructure. They must, however, include one or two specialized components due to certain business needs. As long as it makes use of the shared infrastructure, it could be the database, instances, or another combination of parts. When it comes to this, a mixed-tenant architecture is useful. In this approach, each tenant receives access to one or two components of the application, while the remaining elements are shared by all the tenants.
Models of multi-tenant architecture
Although each tenant in this architecture has access to a separate database, those databases that are part of the same resource groups are divided into flexible pools. For improved resource allocation and optimization, SaaS vendors can decide to shift the databases between these pools. Vendors benefit from this model’s ability to scale their app tiers either vertically or horizontally.
Single multi-tenant database
The only difference between this model and the multi-tenant design is the presence of additional tenant identity columns in the database. The storage and computing resources, in addition to the database, are thus shared by all users.
If you select this approach, bear in mind that while it reduces the cost per tenant, it may have an impact on how well the service is provided to other tenants. For instance, performance for other tenants would suffer greatly if a single tenant’s workload used excessive amounts of storage and computational resources.
Sharded multi-tenant database
Database sharding has long been a widespread approach to build effective applications for enhancing operational performance. Sharding divides tenant data and stores it across different databases in response to an increasing demand on a multi-tenant database. Furthermore, to improve operational management and scalability, the same sharded databases can be transferred into adaptable pools.
Multi-tenant hybrid sharded database
In a hybrid sharded multi-tenant database, tenants or a group of tenants can be moved into dedicated or shared databases at the vendor’s discretion. A hybrid approach, such as a sharded database in a multi-tenant architecture, makes sure that different sets of tenants have the necessary (but divergent) access to resources.
For instance, a vendor may offer free trials with restricted resource access while allowing full access to the program for premium members. This is when the model is useful. The premium tenants can have full access to a dedicated database while the trial tenants can be relocated into sharded databases with constrained resources.
What are the differences between SaaS and On-Premises Architecture?
An on-premises architecture hosts a third-party application using local hardware or a nearby data center. You are in charge of setting up the technical needs for the application, including data storage and keeping both the hardware and software up to date. Designing and creating auxiliary infrastructure, such networking and databases, is also your responsibility.
The vendor takes care of these frequently time-consuming tasks on your behalf using SaaS architecture. So you can focus more on improving the features that your consumers actually use and demand and less time building infrastructure from scratch or troubleshooting problems yourself.
Best Practices of SaaS architecture
Utilize microservices as opposed to monolithic architecture
Monolithic architecture is the method of choice for some developers. According to the theory, monolithic applications can be built, patched, or changed without affecting the entire program if they are layered.
A monolithic approach may make sense if you don’t want to build a full production environment. However, choose a microservices design if you expect expansion because it can be challenging to make adjustments afterwards.
Decoupled applications can be organized into a collection of data and services using a microservices architecture. Each service can be written, deployed, tested, and patched separately. Additionally, you can isolate each microservice to a certain commercial product.
Different teams can manage discrete services using microservices, each of which can be independently coded in a different language and deployed on a different infrastructure. Because of these benefits, utilizing a microservices design makes it easier to scale applications, implement continuous development (CI/CD) procedures, and isolate problem areas without having to overhaul the entire program or suspend operations.
Make customization and self-service possible
Users shouldn’t be compelled to hire specialists by being able to handle your SaaS architecture service themselves. Allowing internal or external users to modify a SaaS service according to their own needs without writing code is necessary.
In your SaaS architecture design, include simple APIs that consumers can use to more easily configure the system. Remember to include comprehensive supporting documents as well. They can get additional benefit from your SaaS design by integrating the tools they already use or want to use. Additionally, you can by default host well-known bots like Slack.
By using a multi-tenant architecture, you can distribute computing resources across numerous consumers. In comparison to single-tenant environments, multi-user environments see less resource underutilization. A multi-tenant method can be put into practice in one of two ways:
- Using a single app instance with several databases causes all users entering your environment to view separate databases at the same time. The concept is that one database only gets to a certain point before diverting new users to another. As a result, your application will grow faster, deliver more concurrent resources to users, and feel more responsive. This technique, however, necessitates a significant initial investment because additional resources will be required.
- Using a single app instance with a single database allows all users to access the same database until it is full before forwarding them to a new database. This method of deployment is faster and less expensive. However, it restricts scaling, which can harm your app’s performance and consequently the user experience.
Consider data security when creating SaaS
In order to maintain control over their data, the majority of enterprises choose monolithic or on-premises architectures. The seriousness of data breaches has led to an increase in the number of businesses planning to spend on cybersecurity.
The security of your SaaS architecture infrastructure can be enhanced by making Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) a central element. RBAC is a technique for controlling access to data that prevents individuals from altering or accessing information that is unrelated to their roles within an organization.
Using RBAC, users can choose who will be their administrators, suppliers, clients, or other stakeholders. Another option is to assign jobs based on work authority or competency.
Integrate legal compliance into the SaaS
If you offer a vertical SaaS architecture, or an application for a particular industry, make sure you create your SaaS application with compliance rules built-in. Remember that while certain laws are industry-specific, others, like the General Data Protection Regulation, apply to everyone (GDPR).
Include scalability in your SaaS infrastructure from the beginning
Your SaaS architecture program should be scalable as its user base expands. An expanding company produces more transactions, queries, and metadata.
This necessitates that you create the SaaS architecture in such a way that it can easily autoscale and manage the rising demand without suffering performance degradation. To do this, make sure the SaaS design allows for smooth vertical and horizontal growth.
Limit downtime to a minimum
Construct a highly accessible SaaS architecture solution. Downtime is not commonly tolerated by SaaS users. They are aware that prolonged service interruptions decrease customer satisfaction and lead to a loss of clients, revenue, and competitive advantage.
Whenever they contact you with a problem, SaaS application users also anticipate getting updates that have been well tested and supported.
Address the issue of vendor lock-in
Vendor lock-in describes the undesirable circumstance where an organization finds switching vendors to be very challenging. Make sure your SaaS architecture application supports industry-standard integration APIs so consumers may freely connect the solution with other SaaS or on-premises apps to allay users’ concerns about vendor lock-in.
Users can then add features to the SaaS application rather than use a different provider. Users may be able to innovate with this multi-service strategy without frequently switching vendors.
Consider adding expense monitoring to your SaaS applications
Although a multi-tenant design is frequently a cost-effective strategy, expenses can rise quickly as you add more users. The method can make it simple to ignore this since a single database controls data for numerous tenants, lowering visibility per tenant.
To make sure that your architecture choices don’t gradually reduce your margins, it’s crucial to keep track of the SaaS charges you incur.
More than just the total number of instances you spin up in a given time period can be determined if your cost visibility is good.
Which SaaS Architecture is suitable for your company?
The top priority for businesses and organizations around the world has always been achieving the highest levels of business objectives. This sentiment is shared by everyone, and SaaS has reportedly been identified as the “most crucial software” in reaching those objectives. However, before selecting the proper architecture model, you should consider the following questions when you decide to use Software-as-a-Service as your principal architecture:
- What services should the customers be expected to pay for?
- Would all of your clients utilize the same database and application hardware?
- Can your clients have a similar architecture but require a distinct database?
- Do your consumers want a standalone SaaS application and database?
- Are your cloud services required by your customers?
These inquiries can help you better understand what your consumers are genuinely seeking for as you construct your SaaS infrastructure. Filling in the gaps your consumers have can help your company advance in the SaaS market, which is the ideal course of action.
As such, SaaS Architecture is one of the most important categories where the benefits of cloud computing can be leveraged. However, the design of a SaaS application architecture can be complicated, particularly because the goal here is to meet the needs of multiple audiences with the help of a single, flexible service. For designers and software developers, it is critical to stay on top of these technological advancements, so they can not only build their own skill set but add value to their projects and organizations.