Last week, our Vice President of Engineering for Commerce Steve Davis published a post with the goal of answering a common question, “What is cloud-native SaaS?” and discussing the difference between cloud-native SaaS and cloud-hosted SaaS. (MACH architecture is Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native SaaS, and Headless technology designed to future-proof businesses.)

Davis explained that with the rise of cloud computing and more enterprises seeking to reap the benefits of the cloud, many software providers are promoting their products as “cloud-enabled” or “cloud-hosted,” creating deep confusion across a market of many types of cloud options. Because of this, many enterprises today have become the victim of modern day “cloudwashing.”

“While [it’s] possible to package existing software for deployment to a cloud platform, the outcome isn’t capable of leveraging the true benefits of cloud computing,” wrote Davis. “The opportunity to scale horizontally and control costs are reduced. Flexibility is limited to the deployed environment. All of which essentially creates a dedicated hosting environment for a single software tenant.”

Understanding SaaS, cloud computing, and cloud-native development

In order to define and understand cloud-native SaaS, Davis outlined the importance of first level-setting on the definitions of three technical terms: Software as a Service (SaaS), cloud computing, and cloud-native development.

What is Software as a Service (SaaS)?

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model where software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. Generally SaaS users connect to the software over the internet and through a browser.

The key differences in SaaS offerings lie in the SaaS vendors’ ability to deliver all the benefits of modern SaaS that come with deployment, management and configuration.

What is cloud computing?

Cloud computing is at the core of well known SaaS products like Salesforce, Google Apps, Slack and Zoho, all of which fit the model of a centrally hosted service acquired through subscription (aka SaaS). In this model, the SaaS provider is managing, monitoring and maintaining the majority of the tech stack and the licensor simply consumes the service.

What is cloud-native development?

Cloud-native development is an approach to building and updating apps quickly, while improving quality and reducing risk. Through cloud-native development, you can build and run responsive, scalable, and fault-tolerant apps anywhere.

So what is cloud-native SaaS?

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) that is developed, designed and deployed as cloud-native applications (aka cloud-native SaaS) are composed of several independent services - or in other words, they are built using composable architecture. So, put simply cloud-native SaaS is software that is built and developed for speed and scale, and licensed via a subscription model.

What are the benefits of cloud-native SaaS?

  1. Scalability: Composable architecture consisting of independent services introduces the ability to maintain and scale like you couldn’t before. 
  2. Rapid development cycles: Each service is automated for continuous integration and deployment through agile DevOps to guarantee no disruption of service for rapid development cycles. 
  3. Customer-centric: The SaaS provider is able to respond to the demands of their customers quickly and safely without major disruptions, often enabling them to pass along lower cost savings and ROI.
  4. Speed and savings: Shorter development times are the reality - “The days of the six to nine month development process for massive patches and upgrades should be in the past,” Davis explained.

What are the differences between cloud-native SaaS and cloud-hosted SaaS?

“The differences in true modern SaaS offerings versus architectures masquerading as SaaS,” Davis explained, “can be referred to as “cloud-native” vs. “cloud-hosted”.”

True, qualified cloud-native software vendors are able to leverage resource pooling, rapid elasticity, on-demand services and many other tools to create the best product for the end customer. 

And the end customer benefits, too. Their concerns over managing complex software systems are eliminated and they can get back to devoting attention to their core business.

Understanding the difference between cloud-native and cloud-hosted is important in determining if the technology has the scalability you need - and should expect! - to support your long-term growth.

Learn more about the benefits of MACH architecture (microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native SaaS, headless) via our “What is MACH” infographic.

Find out more about how and why you should migrate your e-commerce experience from monolithic to headless e-commerce.