SaaS, Clouds and other ways of achieving the same outcome


Over on Ben Kepes blog, he asked the question Does SaaS have to be in the clouds???. To me the answer is no.

I personally think that his example:

He proceeded to tell me that one of their products constitutes SaaS because, although it is installed on server within the organisation, from th users perspective it has all the appearances of SaaS;

  • It is updated centrally by someone else
  • They just use it and don’t need to think about updates, sysadmin etc”

Is just another way of delivering SaaS aka the appliance based method.  SaaS being tied to the cloud is just a commonality of the service, not a pre-requisite. To me this  commonality exists because the internet (the cloud) is a economical way of delivering services. Its got large reach, is redundant, low cost (compared to private networking) and is largely global. To that end it’s a great way of providing the service. But there are others

  • The private network variant – a good example is managed security providers like Safecom or counterpane. They literally deliver “firewall as a service and content filtering as a service” just over a private connection
  • The managed service variant – Kaseya is a good example. They use software but sell a remote monitoring and central updating service.
  • The appliance or staging environment variant – desktop antivirus vendors do this currently.  Makonetworks do this with a firewall appliance currently.
  • Damon Edwards at dev2ops claims that internal IT are SaaS providers too. In a theoretical sense I agree. Having a large outsourcer as our IT provider here the reality is a little different.

The one line I love in Damon’s post is this

“SaaS is about the relationship between the service provider and the service consumer. The physical characteristics of service delivery are almost inconsequential.”

This will get the SaaS purists a bit upset. And I guess to some extent that’s a good thing. With any new market you need your zealots, the people with the passion to make it reality.  (Who IS it that that decides what is SaaS and what isn’t anyway?). But from a customers perspective it’s almost nothing to do with the technology and almost all about the outcome they want and how the offer matches that.

The various benefits of SaaS appeal to customers in different ways and can be delivered in many different ways. It’s the outcome that’s important. That’s why I stick by my claim that crusty old Telco’s have been doing (Voice) Software as a Service for a very long time.


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