Amazon Web Services Inc. has open-sourced an internally-developed toolkit called SaaS Boost in a bid to help companies build software-as-a-service applications on its cloud platform faster.
SaaS applications vary greatly in purpose and design, but they’re generally all built on the same basic building blocks. An application needs a system for onboarding users, integration with payment processing services to bill customers and monitoring mechanisms to detect technical issues. SaaS Boost provides these components, as well as others, in the form of pre-packaged modules that remove the need for companies to build everything from scratch.
SaaS Boost’s modules are mainly implemented as software containers. The toolkit uses the AWS Lambda serverless computing service to run many of them.
A sizable portion of the modules is dedicated to user onboarding, which in the case of enterprise SaaS applications often involves much more than just generating an account for customers when they sign up. Applications also often need to allocate additional infrastructure to accommodate new users. SaaS Boost has ready-to-use code that SaaS services can use to set up an AWS infrastructure environment for every new user, complete with a virtual private network.
AWS’ engineers have added in extensions that let companies customize the provisioning workflow. An enterprise could, for example, configure SaaS Boost to provision a database instance for every user in addition to compute resources and the virtual private network.
Another SaaS Boost module offers features for connecting customer accounts to a payment system so they can be billed. The infrastructure provisioned to each customer, in turn, can be managed through a third module that provides an administration console. Information technology teams can use the console to control settings such as the size of the instances allocated to a deployment.
Updating and monitoring are two more use cases SaaS Boost covers. AWS has included a tool that allows developers to package application updates into containers to make them easier to roll out. To help companies monitor the health of their applications, SaaS Boost can collect data on a service’s infrastructure utilization and access patterns.
Many of the toolkit’s modules run on the cloud giant’s Lambda service. The reason, AWS’ SaaS Boost documentation explains, is that code used for tasks such as onboarding users only activates occasionally, like when a new customer signs up, and Lambda has a pricing model that reduces the cost of such sporadic workflows. The service is billed per code activation and the duration of each run, which can make it more cost-efficient than renting a cloud instance that’s billed for every second it’s provisioned regardless of usage.
AWS executive Adrian De Luca stated in a blog post that SaaS Boost has already received interest from hundreds of developers. Over time, the cloud giant hopes to build a community of open-source contributors around the project. It also plans to invite external maintainers to help determine the direction of the project’s feature roadmap.
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