Much of cloud computing terminology is based on the notion of ‘as a Service’ (or ‘aaS’).
The ‘as a Service’ tag has migrated to several new uses. Here is my attempt at a set of definitions (and please comment if you disagree):
- SaaS (Software as a Service) – I mainly see this as an application that runs in the cloud and requires the user to download no (or very little, maybe a browser plugin) software to use the application. (e.g. SalesForce, Cisco WebEx, Google Apps)
- DaaS (Data as a Service)* – This is providing data over the cloud either as the result of a query (is the email address email@example.com valid) or involving a data transformation (correct the address 101 First Ave, Mytown, NC 2513). (e.g. StrikeIron!)
- PaaS (Platform as a Service) - Providing a platform for running applications, data storage abstraction, etc. One step up the software stack then IaaS (e.g. Google App Engine, Force.com/Heroku, PHP Fog)
- IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) – Providing a virtual machine and storage mechanisms that can be loaded with operating systems and software (custom, open source, commercial, etc). (e.g. Rackspace, Amazon AWS, GoGrid)
There are some proprietary aaS’s as well. My favorite is HP’s Everything as a Service. I am not sure what this really is but it sounds impressive.
Clear as mud? There is certainly some overlap between the different technologies but at the end the trend is clear. Leverage the efficiencies of scale, lower the barrier of entry, and speed up the time for implementation.
*DaaS can also refer to “Desktop as a Service” and “Database as a Service” in several sources.
In a report last week, the Open Data Center Alliance published that its members plan to triple Cloud deployments in the next two years according to a recent membership survey. This significantly outpaces the adoption forecasts from several different analyst firms and is another indicator where the I.T. industry is headed.
Of course, there are different ways to measure Cloud adoption, and while adoption rates may always be debated, there is little question of the Cloud's growing significance in I.T. Even though some Cloud forecasts combine infrastructure-as-a-Service (IAAS) with Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) and others keep them separate, in either case the trending is upward.
So here are four primary reasons why this trend is occurring and likely to continue for a long time to come:
- Cost. When deploying to the Cloud, one only has to deploy the needed I.T. resources at any given time. Capacity can be added or reduced as needed and whenever necessary. With this cost-savings "elastic" approach, usage spikes can be handled as well as increased resource demand over time. It's the difference between renting a server by-the-minute versus committing to two-year contracts with a data center provider at maximum capacity requirements. The latter, traditional approach front-loads application costs and requires significant capital expenditure. These heavy up-front costs go away in pay-for-what-you-use Cloud scenarios, including the ability to get things up and running more cheaply. Many startups deploying to the Cloud are spending less money on hardware and software investments than just a few years ago and getting up and running faster.
- Abstraction. Cloud deployments hide the details of the hardware, bandwidth resourcing, underlying software, load management, and ongoing maintenance of the given platform. This frees up resources to focus on one's own business rather than endless architecture meetings and decisions - unnecessary for a large majority of applications. This is why Salesforce.com has found success. Customers no longer have to deal with software upgrades for sales people, database choices, syncing data from laptops to servers, hardware deployment decisions, etc. It's just easier in a Cloud SAAS model.
- Innovation. An organization can leverage the innovation and expertise of those who specialize in a given Cloud-based platform such as within data-as-a-service offerings like StrikeIron provides. This continual innovation can be leveraged as a Cloud platform becomes more advanced without any effort of the organization's own resources. The platform improves daily, and these incremental improvements are put to use immediately for the benefit of customers and without company-wide software upgrades and rollouts. Instead, it's built-in and essentially automatic with the Cloud model. Another example is Amazon's EC2, where an increasing number of new features and capabilities can be leveraged without application redeployment.
- Platform Independence. When deploying to the Cloud, many different types of devices and clients can leverage the application via APIs or other interfaces, from PCs, tablets, smart phones, and other systems, as all communication between machines is via the ubiquitous Web, available just about any time anywhere. This makes interoperability easier, and extensive "middleware" investments of the past to make things work together can be dramatically reduced. This is one of the primary reasons why tablets such as the iPad for example have grown considerably in adoption now versus ten years ago – they work with the Cloud and can access a broad array of useful applications from just about anywhere.
These benefits of the Cloud aren't going away, and this is why the adoption trend is accelerating upward.
At Larry Ellison's keynote yesterday at the Oracle OpenWorld event, he announced the Oracle Public Cloud and Oracle's move into Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IAAS) offerings, primarily geared towards Java developers and users of Oracle's Fusion Applications. The brand "Fusion Applications" represents a set of over 100 different modules (financials, HR, etc.) which have been designed to run both on-premise and now in the Cloud and is launching after six years of development.
Clearly the Sun acquisition gave Oracle a lot of the Cloud technology to get to this point, but Salesforce's $2 billion in revenue, increasing penetration into enterprises, and launch of Database.com at the Dreamforce event might be pushing Oracle more quickly into this direction.
However, Ellison was quick to point out that Oracle's Cloud approach was an open one and would enable deployments to be moved to other Cloud environments such as Amazon.com (at least in theory) because of its Java roots, rather than a proprietary one like Salesforce.com's where applications are built with a proprietary language (Apex). Cost, however, was not discussed.
In addition to IAAS and Fusion Applications, Oracle will also have other hosted applications available in its Public Cloud such as its database platform, the SUN OS's, Fusion Middleware, and its Enterprise Manager offering.
This move is more evidence that the industry is moving full steam ahead to Cloud-based deployments, where enterprises can consolidate legacy spending, have fewer servers and other hardware, fewer on-premise software deployments, and a greater reliance on SAAS applications and other service-oriented offerings such as data-as-a-service (DAAS).
One of the things you can see from the picture below is that the Cloud really lays the foundation for "data service" components (notice the distinction versus "database service"), enabling enterprises to quickly leverage third-party datasets and data-oriented business functions such as customer contact data validation. This would be more difficult to achieve in on-premise solutions because third-party data has to be acquired, stored, maintained, and managed - a costly and time-consuming process. With the Cloud, you can simply plug into these services and have all of the third party data managed for you.
So the Public Cloud has been announced, but when will it be launched? StrikeIron is eagerly waiting.
The "Cloud" has been seeing a lot of momentum this past year, and one place where that is readily apparent is in the stock price of companies making major strategic investments in Cloud technology and associated offerings, as well as aggressive go-to-market plans with those offerings.
To demonstrate this, take a look at the one-year stock price increase of eight major cloud vendors versus the Dow Jones Industrial Average. These eight growth companies were selected because of their software-as-a-service (SAAS) or infrastructure-as-a-service (IAAS) focus. They are Informatica (INFA), Salesforce.com (CRM), Amazon (AMZN), Netsuite (N), Rackspace (RAX), Success Factors (SFSF), Akamai (AKAM), and VMWare (VMW). These securities have seen on average an 81% price increase over the past year, versus a paltry 6% versus the Dow Jones Industrial Average (which at least has gone up).
Will it continue? There is still a long way to go in this space, so probably so.