SaaS integrations put traditional enterprise software to shame
I’ve spent many years implementing traditional enterprise IT operations management tools. Integrations among various tools are often the Achilles’ heel of the management systems. Integrating disparate applications is often a high risk endeavor for customers. Enteprise vendors typically charge tens of thousands of dollars for integration “plugins”, and the implementation requires highly skilled (and expensive) engineers. To make the matters worse, enterprise vendors are often not keen on collaborating with their competitors. Let alone collaborating to help their customers, vendors sometimes block integration efforts. I’ve seen a vendor not selling their product to another, to prevent them from integrating with their product (how is that for putting the customer first).
Enterprise customers typically attempt to work with a single vendor in order to have “one throat to choke” in case of problems. Working with a single vendor is not only an elusive goal achieved by almost no one, but does not do much to alleviate integration problems. Most of the enterprise vendors have grown through acquisitions, and integration among their products often doesn’t go beyond markitecture. As a result, in most organizations, not only management tools are poorly integrated, quality of the integration degrades in time as well. Products updates break the integrations, vendor support organizations are either not willing to or capable of supporting the integrations, even blame the “other” product for completely unrelated problems.
Having lunch with an old colleague that still works mostly with traditional enterprise IT management products, I was reminded how drastically different things are in SaaS world, at least in the IT operations management market that OpsGenie is part of. On-premise vs SaaS is a multifaceted discussion. The premise of this blog post is to make the case that in the SaaS world, integrations are far superior to what’s available in the traditional enterprise software world (again, based on IT management products/services). I’ll use couple of OpsGenie integrations with other SaaS providers to support this premise.
We’ve recently integrated OpsGenie with Datadog, one of the leading monitoring services in the market. Integration can mean many things in our field. Any product or service can be integrated with OpsGenie within minutes, as long as it can send email alert notifications or execute a script. And the integration can be implemented by our customers without our help. Datadog OpsGenie integration goes well beyond basic integration, to fully enable our mutual customers to use both tools seamlessly. Datadog alerts are forwarded to OpsGenie to notify the right people via SMS, phone and push notifications, using on-call schedules, escalations, etc. and alerts from any monitoring tool that is integrated into OpsGenie can be forwarded to Datadog. Alerts can be acknowledged in either service. Bi-directional integration keeps alert state in sync and allows users to choose the appropriate tool to do their work.
We have collaborated with the Datadog team to build this integration. We had discussions with them to understand how each service works, how customers may want to use it, and determined what we each need to do to make the integration as easy as possible to configure, and make the combined solution as useful as possible for our customers. I can tell you based on experience that this type of collaboration almost never happens in the traditional enterprise software world; not unless customer has millions of dollars of business to dangle to motivate the vendors to collaborate. The result is an integration that can be configured in minutes, available to all customers big or small.
And the differences do not end with the implementation of the integration. The integration is monitored and supported by both providers, and customers can have the confidence that should problems occur, they will be addressed by knowledgeable people. Enterprise software products are often integrated by third parties, and integrations are often not supported after project is accepted by the customer.
Another major problem in the traditional software world is the upgrades. Customers are often pushed to upgrade to fix one issue, to find out that the upgrade broke the integration with other products. APIs are often undocumented and can change without any notice to the partners or the customers. Contrast that to SaaS world, New Relic has been working on a major upgrade to their alerting capabilities (which is great to see!). Weeks before rolling out the the update, they have advised their customers that it’s coming, and weeks before that they have reached out to us. We found out what’s coming, we were able to determine what the impact on our mutual customers will be, and what we need to do to ensure that there is no negative impact. As a result customers will be able to take advantage of the new powerful alerting capabilities of New Relic from day one. Again, compared to the enterprise software world, where an upgrade can break everything (often without notice), New Relic’s collaborative posture is a breath of fresh air. Now, I have to note that, not every SaaS provider is as proactive as New Relic. Unfortunately, we recently had quite the opposite experience as well, but the overall mind set in the SaaS industry so far is to make it work for the customers, have open, published APIs, and collaborate as much as possible, even with providers that may have overlapping capabilities. I hope that this mind set will survive as the market matures.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that the enterprise software vendors are evil or they mean to do harm, rather it’s the nature of the SaaS that makes it easier to make this all happen. The integration has to be done once; there is one one version of the code, and SaaS business model do not require us to do everything ourselves, as it is often the case for enterprise vendors. Integrations is one of many criteria when comparing on-premise vs SaaS solutions (or at least it should be one) . Based on our experience, SaaS offers happier times :)