What is software as a service (SaaS)?

What is software as a service (SaaS)?

SaaS is a cloud software distribution model. Cloud service providers license application software on a subscription or pay-per-use basis to customers who access it over the Internet. Customers can spin up SaaS applications quickly, often on-demand, accelerating their time to value.

Customers essentially rent the software on a pay-as-you-go basis, minimizing the upfront cost of software deployment. Costs for SaaS access may fluctuate based on the number of users covered by a given subscription, specific application functionality, usage levels, and other variables.

Maintenance of the software is transparent to the customer, as the cloud provider is responsible for maintaining and updating the application and managing the IT environment needed to support it.


SaaS in networking

SaaS in networking refers to using the cloud software delivery model to distribute networking software applications. Most instantiations of SaaS for networking to date have involved cloud-hosted applications that business customers use to plan, monitor, and manage their networking environments.


Key SaaS features

SaaS offerings include the following services and functions, which the cloud provider handles:

  • Application setup, access, and maintenance
  • Technology refresh, including version updates and bug fixes
  • IT support related to the SaaS app
  • Back-end infrastructure and programming
  • Data management and storage
  • Infrastructure and facilities security


Main benefits of SaaS

There are five primary advantages to using SaaS:

  1. Accelerated time to value—The cloud provider has already installed and configured the software application in its infrastructure. When a new customer signs up to use it, the cloud provider can simply provision a virtual server instance of it for that customer, making the application ready to use quickly.
  2. Lower costs—The SaaS application resides in a shared or multitenant environment, so its maintenance and support costs are shared across all users, reducing costs for all.
  3. Flexibility and scalability—SaaS solutions often reside in hyperscale cloud environments operated by providers with massive infrastructure all over the world. They offer near-infinite resource scalability and the ability to grow and shrink the resources you use dynamically, as requirements fluctuate. SaaS pay-as-you-go pricing automatically adjusts accordingly.
  4. Automatic tech refresh/upgrades—When the SaaS provider upgrades the application, the new functionality becomes immediately available to all customers.
  5. Simplicity—SaaS offerings are easy to use, test, and deploy for a proof of concept. Customers can also support more than one instance of the SaaS application to test and implement different versions for a smooth migration.


The primary problems SaaS solves

One of the main SaaS drivers is that customers can conserve resources related to the installation, management, and storage of application software and data on their own internal networks. IT departments reduce the cost, time, and complexity associated with buying, testing, deploying, and maintaining software applications in-house.

Specifically, SaaS alleviates the following issues:

  • Initial capital outlay and high TCO—SaaS can lower the cost of IT consumption compared to traditional on-premises deployment models in three ways:
    • 1. There are no upfront capital costs required to deploy the app, such as physical servers for hosting. 
    • 2. Maintenance/service is handled by the SaaS provider; customers don’t have to find the staff time and expertise to deploy and manage the app. The cost for cloud provider maintenance is also shared among all the customers using the app in a multitenancy setup.
    • 3. Power, cooling, and real estate/facilities requirements for hosting the app are absorbed by the cloud provider.
  • Deployment delays—Application instances can be spun up quickly; businesses don’t have to spend the time to purchase, configure, test, and deploy new software. In this way, SaaS increases business agility, enabling customers to have near-instant access to application software throughout their organizations and to add or remove instances on demand. SaaS applications have also been designed to simplify computing processes for improved end-user experiences.
  • Accessibility and support challenges—When software is hosted online, many users can simultaneously access it from anywhere at any time, helping ease the support of increasingly distributed workforces. SaaS providers can geographically disperse instances of the software to be closer to distributed users for reduced latency and improved app response times.


How does SaaS work?

SaaS works by using an on-demand software delivery model, whereby users access applications over the Internet or other network connection. SaaS providers absorb the work of installing software on internal servers, configuring it, and maintaining it on an ongoing basis. They also host the application data and provide the IT infrastructure and services needed to support the SaaS application and data, all for a predictable recurring fee.

While SaaS providers benefit from the consistent recurring revenue, customers enjoy reductions in deployment, management, and operations time and expense. Customers also gain near-instant access to new software versions and features.


Service options and customizations

If needed, cloud providers can employ supporting technology from a third-party vendor to enhance elements of the SaaS application. One SaaS option, called “out-of-the-box,” is essentially a hybrid cloud/on-premises application software setup. You can install standard software on your own IT infrastructure, for example, but offload the hosting of the application’s data, management interfaces, and possibly IT service requests related to the software to the cloud provider.

SaaS vendors can provide open, configurable, and customizable programs that are often forward-compatible with future technologies. However, some customizations may not be forward-compatible or interoperable with other equipment, so it’s best to ask the provider about that upfront.


How Juniper implements SaaS

Juniper offers open, intelligent, and customizable cloud-native networking software applications as cloud services. Enterprises and network service providers can utilize our SaaS solutions to monitor, maintain, and control their network environments and related cloud computing services.

Our AI-driven SaaS network management tools enable network operators to optimize operations and performance for top efficiency and user experiences. Our SaaS for networking portfolio includes the following:

  • Mist AI™-driven service assurance, a suite of SaaS-for-networking options that provides network visibility and automated tuning, troubleshooting, and threat detection for wired and wireless LANs, SD-WANs, and IoT environments. The offerings automate event correlation, ID root causes, proactively detect and remediate anomalies and threats, and continually verify network service levels based on measurements of the exact experiences users are having in real time.
  • Security Director Cloud is our customers’ cloud portal to the Juniper Hybrid Mesh Security solution, which unites security policy-setting and enforcement across hybrid on-premises and cloud environments. It manages and connects on-premises firewalls, firewall as a service (FWaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS)-embedded firewalls, all from a unified UI. Customers can use Security Director Cloud to make sure their security policies follow users, devices, and applications as they change locations, never breaking visibility or threat protection policies.
  • Juniper Paragon™ Automation is a modular set of SaaS planning, simulation, analytics, and other related apps. The Juniper solution uses closed-loop automation to manage networks with ultimate efficiency.
  • Juniper Apstra is our intent-based data center networking SaaS. It automates the entire network lifecycle, from design through everyday operations, across multivendor data centers with continuous validation, powerful analytics, and root-cause identification for optimum reliability.


What are examples of SaaS companies?

Some traditional, well-known SaaS providers include Salesforce.com, Dropbox, DocuSign, Slack, Google Apps, and Microsoft 365. In the networking space, examples of SaaS companies include Juniper, Cisco, HPE/Aruba, and Arista.

What is SaaS’s relationship to cloud computing?

SaaS is one of the three primary types of cloud computing services. The other two are infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS). 

How does SaaS compare to IaaS and PaaS?

SaaS refers to application software delivered from the cloud as a service that’s accessible to customers over the Internet. IaaS similarly allows customers to “rent” IT hardware infrastructure in the cloud – compute servers and storage capacity, for example – and pay only for the CPU cycles and amount of storage consumed. PaaS uses the same model to deliver application development tools, such as middleware, similarly accessible on-demand over the Internet on a pay-as-you-go basis. 

What are some examples of PaaS and IaaS companies?

PaaS companies include VMware, RedHat OpenShift, and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure. IaaS companies include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Platform (GCP), IBM Cloud, Cisco MetaCloud, Oracle Cloud, and Alibaba Cloud. 

Is there such a thing as networking as a service (NaaS)?

Yes! Gartner defines NaaS as a cloud model for delivering virtualized networking products and functions, such as routing, switching, and firewalling, over the Internet. Some specific capabilities NaaS may make available include user self-service, on-demand network access and usage, the ability to dynamically scale bandwidth up and down, and consumption-based, metered billing by the port, bandwidth, or number of users.

How does Juniper deploy SaaS?

Juniper offers several cloud-based, network-centric SaaS offerings to enterprises and service providers. Among them:

In addition, Juniper Apstra and Paragon Automation SaaS offerings enable intent-based, automated network planning, monitoring, and management of customer networks.