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Author's profile photo Sven Denecken

SaaS and PaaS: a symbiotic relationship delivering enterprise value

Every time we talk with customers, partners and influencers about the topic of  cloud computing we have to start with a definition of cloud. And we then discuss how SaaS and PaaS play together. These conversations led us to believe that there is a symbiotic relationship between them. 

Symbiosis (from Greek σύν “together” and βίωσις “living“) is a close and often long-term interaction between different species, where both benefit from the relationship. How does this relate to the Enterprise usage of cloud services?

Enormous expectations have accompanied the birth of cloud services. Cloud computing is expected to offer an opportunity to be more efficient, agile, and innovative through more effective use of IT investments and by applying innovations faster and more efficiently. If a company wants to launch an innovative new approach, it can quickly do so by leveraging the cloud without having to acquire significant hardware, lowering both time and cost barriers to deployment. Therefor Cloud implies innovation and a fresh end user oriented design, leading to ease-of-use.

Cloud delivers business velocity. To understand this we need to take a deeper look on the building blocks of cloud.


  • Software as a Service (SaaS).

Cloud creates a new and different kind of solution. A service, downloaded from or used on the web must be self-explaining, easy to use, intuitive and, most important, must generate results. This creates the perfect user centric experience. ‘It is for me and creates value for myself’. ‘I use it because it increases my personal productivity or is in some way of use/fun for me’. This kind of user experience requires a highly predefined configuration and standardization. Personal configuration is possible but not part of the first level user experience. ‘I get it and I use it immediately’  is key to the community.

The higher standardization makes commoditized core processes the largest SaaS market today. Examples are CRM, HCM and procurement processes. Customers differentiate less or not at all against the competition in these areas. This is why it qualifies as cloud SaaS.

This is contrary to to classical On Premise solution architecture which allows high complexity and strongly tailored individual processes. This Enterprise centric approach of On Premise installations allows visualizing and executing unlimited complexity and individuality. It helped and will help enterprise organization to execute processes in best manner and with highest efficiency for the corporate organization. An IT system set up like this will tick like clock work. The backend is ensuring corporate compliance and efficiency.

Enterprise SaaS solutions are highly adopted if a first class user experience is combined with backend orchestration to ensure enterprise integrity of data ans processes. Once being in the cloud the user will experience a different way of using a solution, finding the way through the application without long pre-reads of handbooks or trainings.

However, SaaS require more discipline in the standardization of processes. In the classical On Premise environment, solution updates have been planned individually and modifications/configurations might have been obstacles. In the cloud world a large community has individual data but share the same solution core. IT support can configure and enhance the SaaS solution but is limited by the fact that the core systems needs to be kept upgradable any time. The management of the SaaS application, incl. Availability, Security and Hardware resources, is the solution provider’s responsibility. This requires highly standardized and centrally managed upgrades and a core that does not create any conflict while being updated.

  • Platform as a Service (PaaS).

PaaS delivers the benefits that SaaS brought for applications, but for the development side of the house.

PaaS is a set of tools and services designed to make enhancing and deploying SaaS applications quick and efficient. The approach allows extending applications and creating a better fit to specific and individual business requirements. Where SaaS bets on standardization, PaaS allows quick creation and launch of differentiating services. It also allows the Software and Service Ecosystem to build niche partner solutions and process large amounts of data quickly. PaaS is designed to cover the entire software development life cycle, flexibly and on a large-scale.

The delivery model over the web creates a set of advantages such as a pure OPEX model (Operational Expenditure) for new services combined with a rapid availability. And an opportunity to collaborate among dispersed teams due to the fact that data lodges in the cloud and not on local units with rigid infrastructure obligations.

The SAP HANA Cloud Platform represents a cloud based platform, that allows development using Java. The data persists in the In Memory database HANA. The platform allows creating custom code objects and logic to develop new applications and complex extensions that require additional coding to the existing SaaS offering. SAP HANA cloud also allows building User interfaces for mobile and/or other device channels. The Metadata framework (MDF) can be accesses as a shared service on this platform.

  • Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

To complete the listing of cloud layers we also need to touch on Infrastructure as a service. Consumer can access the providers’ computing resources, such as processing, storage, and network bandwidth to run applications . With IaaS, customers can gain significant scaling benefits in the cloud.


The downside of On Premise software has been missing Agility and long term high CAPEX (Capital Expenditures) while individual Flexibility and Application Control has been the biggest advantages in On Premise environments.


SaaS alone reduces Individual Flexibility and Application Control and delivers Business Velocity and Great User Experience combined with OPEX in return. PaaS adds an important aspect, bringing Flexibility and Control to the cloud deployment model.

Measured in business results the combination of SaaS and PaaS enables the best of both worlds and help customers gain more Control and Flexibility and keep Agility paired with OPEX. The symbiotic embrace provides the scale and velocity that is required for today´s Enterprise demand. This makes SaaS the #1 innovation engine in IT and PaaS “THE” Enabler for large scale Enterprise SaaS adoption.

Let us know your thoughts…

Bert Schulze (@BeSchulze) and Sven Denecken (@SDenecken)


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      Author's profile photo Chris Paine
      Chris Paine

      Hi guys,

      well apart from my instinctive dislike of radar graphs for showing unrelated data 😉 this is a story I've been telling for well over a year now, and the graphs (despite my dislike for them) offer a nice visual that adds impact to the point being made.

      Having a brand spanking new Tesla Model S (SaaS) it's no use trying to enhance it with tools (PaaS) designed for maintaining a Mercedes S Class. Unless the SaaS is built in such a way that it can be enhanced by the PaaS it is not worth the discussion.

      The change-up will come (and it is coming) when the SaaS platforms and the PaaS are enabled such that it is easy for the two to work together, and it is easy for customers and partners to enable this.

      MDF within Employee Central and the EC OData API are tools that are allowing this, but it's a little way more to the next step. All SAP SaaS solutions need to be likewise enabled. That will take a little time, or perhaps not!

      other very minor points "Java" rather than "JAVA", "SAP HANA Cloud Platform", rather that "SAP HANA Cloud "(unless it's been renamed again?) and persistence for the HANA Cloud Platform can be in either of HANA or a standard database (MaxDB) although in the enhancement use-case it is likely that MDF would be used to persist the data directly into SuccessFactors.

      Probably worth pointing out that #saphcp runs in the same data centers as SuccessFactors and as such is very fast to transfer data, handle authentication, etc. It would be great to be able to tell people why they should be using SAP HANA Cloud Platform rather than CloudBees for example.

      I'm looking forward to this particular story being told a little more 🙂 because not only does it offer enterprise value it is a clear area in which SAP may have the upperhand over its competitors.

      Author's profile photo Sven Denecken
      Sven Denecken
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for the feedback, edited 😉

      Author's profile photo Former Member
      Former Member

      Guys I like this SaaS/PaaS summary from Sven and Bert and the additional level of detail provided by Chris very much. What we have here are some nuggets which show why, with our on premise enterprise leadership, our SAP HANA Cloud Platform and the coming together of our PaaS and SaaS offerings we have a compelling value proposition to offer the market.