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Azure File Storage

Building and Running SaaS Applications with NetApp

November 5, 2018

Topics: Azure NetApp Files 8 minute read

Software as a service (SaaS) applications are online solutions that are consumed as a service and made available to users on demand. SaaS applications have massive appeal to companies that are developing software today. For both established enterprise companies and startups that are developing SaaS applications, the SaaS model offers faster ways to deploy and reach customers with less overhead than traditional commercial off-the-shelf products ever did.

This article looks at the considerations of building and operating SaaS applications and shows how NetApp® Cloud Volumes and Azure NetApp Files can help solve those challenges.

The Challenges of Building SaaS Applications in the Cloud

Companies that develop SaaS applications often evolve from small dynamic startups and grow rapidly. During this fast maturation process, they need tools and methodologies that help them scale up while keeping costs under control, tools that assist them to establish processes and governance while staying fast and agile.

Every company that is building or growing a SaaS application in the cloud needs to address these challenges:

  • How can my company achieve the highest level of performance possible to develop our SaaS application?
  • How can we keep costs low when SaaS is growing all the time?
  • How can we cut the company’s time to market (TTM)  without impacting normal operations?
  • How can we more effectively govern the operations and processes that keep the SaaS running?
  • In case of disaster, how can we make sure that the SaaS can stay available and recover quickly?

This section looks at each of these challenges and shows their impact on running SaaS applications in the cloud.

Performance Demands

With a SaaS application, developers need massive amounts of compute to keep the app running and available to users while continually developing it. This level of service requires compute that is usually impossible to provide using on-premises resources.

Cost Increases Due to Scaling

Every company has to find ways to save money, but for companies that run SaaS applications, this is an especially big concern. As the user base of a SaaS application expands, the SaaS provider needs to expand its resources, increasing compute and storage to support the higher demand. This creates a direct impact on product margins.

A SaaS vendor that is looking forward to more growth can also expect their expenses to grow in step with the growth of their SaaS offering because the company is charged on a pay-per-use basis for all of the public cloud IaaS and PaaS resources that it consumes. There needs to be a solution for higher rates of consumption of IaaS resources, especially if the SaaS vendor is a startup that doesn’t have the resources to adjust for the growth without affecting another aspect of the business, such as the development pipeline.

Ensuring Fast Time to Market

Continuous testing, integration, and delivery are central to the TTM of every SaaS application. Anything that increases TTM creates a potential loss of profitability for the business. Speeding up the development process starts with finding a way to make testing easy and nondisruptive to the delivery pipeline and for the end users. Every part of the pipeline needs access to separate replicas of the live environment: developers, QA, staging, demo, and support. In order to make this kind of DevOps process feasible, it’s essential to be able to quickly clone and sync existing data sets while that data is still in use and changing.

For example, replicating a volume consisting of many terabytes of data might take hours, if not days. This slow rate would obviously have a direct impact on the whole delivery timeline. Additionally, once available, replicas need to be reliable, readable, and accessible to users at every stage of the pipeline. Of course, this creates time considerations. Creating a test environment shouldn’t take up too much time in the development cycle, especially because tests are temporary in nature and are not mission critical.


The management of a SaaS application is most effective when it is uniform across all kinds of as-a-service workloads and is maintained by a small number of staff running a growing number of resources. That means finding a scalable and uniform suite of system management solutions to manage and deliver across one or even multiple SaaS applications, as is the case at many large enterprises.

For companies that are attempting to manage one or more SaaS applications, monitoring concerns and management of the different infrastructures can be a formidable task. This is especially true if resources are pooled between multiple departments. Unifying the experience between teams means finding platforms and tools that allow transparency and an increased level of governance over the operation.

Protecting Your Data

No business wants their service to be disrupted, but for SaaS-vending companies, unplanned downtime and data loss can be especially harmful. That’s why it’s essential for SaaS applications to be built with a high level of protection.

How does a SaaS provider structure itself to react to an unexpected outage or impact to usability? When RPO and RTO objectives are missed, the SaaS provider faces a loss of profitability. Consider what would happen if all the users on a large online retailer site lost access to their shopping carts at once and didn’t get it back for hours. Efficient and effective failover and failback between primary and secondary sites is required to protect the SaaS. With threats such as malware, ransomware, viruses, data corruption, and  accidental deletion through human error, SaaS vendors need to find easy-to-use and automated ways to ensure that data is backed up and protected.

Building SaaS Applications with NetApp

SaaS applications are the future of enterprise businessFor each of the challenges just described, SaaS applications can be built to be more productive, agile, effective, and cost beneficial with the help of NetApp Cloud Volumes, the enterprise-grade solutions for high-performance data management and protection in the cloud.

Cloud Volumes Service and Azure NetApp Files offer SaaS developers high performance, the ability to considerably reduce storage spend, speed up the dev/test process and TTM, increase governance capabilities, and employ robust methods of data protection. Combined, these benefits mean being able to protect and increase SaaS application product margins.

  • High-performance demands. Cloud Volumes Service and Azure NetApp Files offer the SaaS developer something that can’t be found anywhere else: the highest-performing level of storage available in the cloud today, with guaranteed SLAs and extremely substantial IOPS levels.
  • Cutting storage costs. Protecting your profit margins is a lot easier if you don’t overpay for the amount of storage that you use.

With Cloud Volumes Service or Azure NetApp Files, the cost savings come in not needing to overprovision, reducing the amount of compute by sharing data stores, reducing the number of data stores needed, and being able to change the performance/cost level on the fly.

With Cloud Volumes ONTAP®, you can leverage a number of powerful storage efficiencies such as data deduplication, data compression, thin provisioning, and data tiering of cold data to more inexpensive object storage formats, to make sure that your storage spend is always in line with your storage use.

  • Increasing TTM: Fast and efficient writable copies. To support the development and release cycle, Cloud Volumes Service and Azure NetApp Files are equipped with NetApp cloning technology that allows full volume stacks to be recreated in a very short  time with zero performance impact. These clones make development and testing easier and safer than ever before, which increases your TTM. What used to take up days of the development cycle can now happen in just hours.

In Cloud Volumes ONTAP, NetApp FlexClone® technology gives you all those cloning benefits, plus it allows you to instantly create zero-capacity, writable clones, charging only for the data that changes in the clone.

  • High availability and cost-effective backup. To meet the service demands of an extremely high-traffic SaaS and to protect your data, Cloud Volumes Service and Azure NetApp Files are offered with high availability that ensures business continuity, zero-second RPOs, and under-a-minute RTOs. In Cloud Volumes ONTAP, the AWS high availability configuration makes sure that operations always seamlessly failover and failback between nodes.
  • Keeping your data safe. NetApp Snapshot™ is a dependable tool to keep your data safe. But some of the native cloud resources for taking Snapshots copies can take too much time to create, exposing your application to the risk of data loss. Cloud Volumes leverages Snapshot technology, which is a faster, more cost-effective, and efficient way to automatically back up data and create the bedrock of your recovery solution.
  • More control with Cloud Volumes. Cloud Volumes gives you several powerful means for increased governance over SaaS application resources. Cloud Volumes Service and Azure NetApp Files have the front-end UI for AWS and GCP, the native Azure UI for NetApp Files, and soon, RESTful API calls. Cloud Volumes ONTAP uses the Cloud Manager to unify every aspect of the cloud infrastructure underlying your SaaS, making operations smooth and seamless through use of a single pane for automation, management, orchestration, and monitoring.


SaaS applications are the future of enterprise business. With the cloud making it possible to do more with a software-based architecture, startups and large enterprises alike see unlimited potential for scale and growth at minimal cost. But the realistic demands of building and scaling a SaaS can complicate those ambitions. That’s where NetApp cloud solutions and Cloud Volumes come in.

To start building your SaaS with the help of NetApp’s fully managed service, sign up for Cloud Volumes Service for AWS and GCP or Azure NetApp Files. And to take control of your SaaS application today, try a Cloud Volumes ONTAP 30-day trial on AWS or a 30-day free trial on Azure.

Senior Product Marketing Manager