Picture from here
I have a profound fascination with cloud computing, internet computing, bamboozled processing (whatever you want to call it). The problem when you start using these terms in the IT world it becomes “Software as a Service” (SaS) in some attempt to legitimize the business model. There is a distinct difference, however. That difference is money.
“Cloud Computing” is still one of the ephemeral terms that no one is quite sure what it means. It’s akin to the “Network Computer” model pushed out by Oracle in the mid 90’s – it’s all as hard to explain, ridiculed, ahead of its time, and understandable as the Network Computer was. The idea of cloud computing means why you process your data locally through some window (Browser, Local PC) into the cloud (Internet), your data is stored in the cloud and accessible from anywhere. Terms like Webmail have become keeping your email in the clouds – I like the concept but we are bringing back the 90’s terms about “thinking outside the box” with this type of labeling. Social networks such as Myspace and Facebook are also considered to be cloud platforms, I assume this means because you can annoy your friends anywhere with applications invites – even if you’ve never met them in meat space.
Current definition essentially is if you are doing anything online except reading a static web page (library interaction in the clouds?) – is considered cloud computing. Some people are referring to any of this same type of activity as SaS when it is in the IT realm. It’s not, please change your wordings, understand what you are talking about, respect both the IT world and the non-IT world. You are confusing people with concepts that are also completely non-explainable already.
SaS is much like cloud computing, much like a cheetah (SaS) is similar to a bobcat (cloud computing). Both of the latter animals are members of the feline family and have similar body makeup, but we can also recognize that they are not the same and have vastly different feature sets. A bobcat is also more common. First I’ll say it, most SaS is boring. It’s the kind of stuff you do at work. Whether it’s Peachtree’s online application, it’s the remote backup service and outsourced server monitoring your company purchases. These are software packages your company can buy and manage but they’ve moved them off site and out of their direct control over the hardware. It’s on the network and that’s all that matters.
SaS products come with service level agreements that guarantee up time and will compensate you for excessive (which is sometimes 15 minutes) of downtime. I have yet to see a check from Twitter or MySpace, and I’m sure some users can show real cause and effect of damage to their online businesses if there is an outage. SaS is normally pretty niche, costs money, and replicates things you already do.
I pay for Flickr? Does that mean it’s an SaS? No it doesn’t, the Flickr “application” is free, what I am paying for is storage space and a small number of features – not the application. The same goes with Google Apps and Smugmug. If it’s a consumer grade product it’s still a cloud computing application. When we move into things like Microsoft offering remote hosted MS Exchange packages, we are entering into SaS.