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The Evolution of Software Development as a Service

Software Development as a Service

Over the last few years, Software-Development-as-a-Service (SDaaS) has started challenging the app dev status quo.

Mott Ford, an account manager and director at Onymos, has been hearing about it more and more from the engineering leads, project managers, and development teams he talks to. 

“Onymos is something legitimately disruptive. People try to relate to it in a way that makes sense to them,” Mott told me. “I’ve had more than a handful of people tell me it sounds like SDaaS services.”

From “outsourcing” to Software Development as a Service

Over time, Mott developed a simple chart to visualize the pros and cons of “traditional” application development options and to kickstart conversations with the tech leaders he meets. It helps him home in on what matters to them:

Ways to build software
  • You can write code from scratch in-house. Mott calls in-house development the “high-customization” option. You’re in total control, but it’s the most work (and the costliest).
  • You can use a low-code/no-code platform. This is the “high-speed” option. You don’t own it, you can’t control it, you have the fewest customization options, but you can halve your development timelines with it — “If you can fit in their shoebox,” Mott warns.
  • You can start with open source and build on top of it. Using open source can give you a GTM boost, just like low-code/no-code. This isn’t for “citizen developers,” though. You need professional software engineers to leverage it. It’s one of the middle grounds between customization and speed.

That leaves outsourced development. 

Mott explained, “So, with conventional outsourced development, what we’ve seen is that a dev agency will love your first big project. But after an iOS or Android update, or one of the cloud hyperscalers changes their APIs, when you call this same dev agency, and it’s no longer a $1,000,000 project, they’re not as excited. App maintenance and updates are not a priority for them. That’s the pitfall.

“I’ve heard stories about dev agencies delegating junior engineers, fresh out of school, to customer support duty for these companies. It doesn’t work. Even if you get a high-quality software product from a dev agency like this upfront, it’s not going to last. Keeping software fresh is where most of the development effort goes in the long run.

“The SDaaS model evolved from outsourced development to address these sorts of problems. It’s essentially outsourced development but with SaaS-style subscription pricing. SDaaS isn’t about short-term, high-value contracts. It’s more about consistent development services over time. It may seem like a subtle difference, but that pricing model really changes incentives. That’s the benefit of SDaaS.” 

From Software Development as a Service to Features as a Service

Onymos is a Features-as-a-Service platform. It includes over a dozen pre-built software “commodities,” the things app developers usually have to build themselves over and over again (e.g., authentication, OCR, and chat).

Most importantly, each one comes with a subscription for updates and enhancements — I asked Mott if he thinks that’s why some people associate Features-as-a-Service with Software-Development-as-a-Service or think they’re analogous. 

“I think they’re similar,” he began. “When people tell me Onymos sounds like SDaaS, I tell them I think that’s because we’re the evolution of SDaaS, the same way it evolved from traditional outsourcing. We introduced more modularity and reduced time to market for customers because we pre-build the individual software components. And since we license the source code, you get the customization you’d only get if you were building it all in-house or telling an outsourced team what to do.

“[Shiva Nathan, Onymos’ Founder and CEO] always says it’s like if you went to sleep and you woke up with all of this code checked into your source control system. It’s like having a dedicated software development team working for you — that’s how SDaaS works too.  Except they have to go out and build the software solution you need. We already built it.

Building software with Onymos

What software development looks like with Onymos.

Finally, I asked Mott how he’d sum up Onymos and its benefits vs other software development companies, vendors, and providers.

“I’ve got this appreciation for something you said once: ‘The premise behind Features-as-a-Service is simple. What if you combined the best parts of in-house and outsourced development (i.e., customization and control) with the best parts of SaaS (i.e., speed and support)?'”

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