Which computing resources can be classified or sold as services? Maybe the better question is which ones can't be.
Almost everyone knows the term Software as a Service (SaaS) and that it refers to an Application Service Provider (ASP) that hosts software which can be accessed from anywhere. It isn’t common knowledge, however, that there are several other traditionally localized services that are now being managed by Cloud vendors and ASPs. This practice is now so commonplace that marketing and technical types alike are simply referring to this myriad of leveraged services as Everything as a Service (XaaS).
SaaS is certainly the oldest of the “as a Service” (aaS) models and the most widely accepted. In its infancy, a decade or so ago, SaaS was as simple as using a subscription-based, industry-specific search tool such as Westlaw. Nowadays, SaaS companies such as Salesforce.com offer a world-class Customer Relationship Management (CRM) package are virtually (no pun intended) indistinguishable from their product.
Other aaS models include Communication, Infrastructure, Monitoring, and Platform. The common thread amongst all these is the “on-demand” nature of their offerings. On-demand models work and are nothing new to businesses. Mainframe time is still being sold as an on-demand service as it has been for the past 40-plus years.
The on-demand model works well because it is based on usage — if you use the service for 2 hours per month, you only pay for 2 hours of usage. As your business experiences ebbs and flows, your service usage reflects those changes and so will your bill for those services.
Communication as a Service (CaaS) is a generic term for several different but related services. Under the broad CaaS umbrella, you have Voice Over IP (VoIP also sometimes referred to as Voice as a Service (VaaS)), remote automated call distribution (ACD), hosted Private Branch Exchange (PBX), and others. Be aware though that CaaS is not as mature as SaaS and therefore the quality is sometimes less than desirable. However, if you’re looking for inexpensive ways to use high-end telephony, CaaS is a very competitive option as Skype users will tell you.
Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is a favorite news topic and the focal point of much buzz these days. The finest example of IaaS is Amazon’s EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) services. Virtualized servers and their resources (CPU, Memory, and Disk space) describe the basic components of IaaS. Those resources are dynamically allocated and scaled based on usage.
IaaS also includes Desktop computing infrastructure that replace traditional desktops with virtualized ones.
One of the more interesting aaS offerings is Monitoring as a Service (MaaS) because you can keep your localized infrastructure and setup inexpensive monitoring for your systems and services. You also have total control over which devices are monitored, polling intervals, and monitoring methods (ping, HTTP GET, etc.). You can also setup email, SMS, and other notifications for failed services through the vendor’s control panel software.
Platform as a Service (PaaS) is the newest entry into the as a Service fray. The best example of PaaS that I’ve seen is Force.com’s PaaS. Sign up as a Developer and take the tour. Their PaaS offering encompasses a whole range of other services including User Interface, Logic, Integration, and Database; all as services. Force.com is brought to you by Salesforce.com and is a very impressive selection of services and tools for leveraging Cloud Computing resources for your applications. Spend some time checking it out.
One of the greatest advantages of the on-demand and aaS model is that it creates an even playing field on which small companies can compete with larger ones. Smaller enterprises leveraging these on-demand services can compete with larger, well-established businesses using a fraction of the initial cash outlay ordinarily required to purchase hardware, software, and to hire the experienced personnel to setup and maintain those services.
Another advantage is that you can buy in to a single service or a complete array to create your own virtual company. Where does your company exist? Everywhere.
Everything as a Service is a good idea and not just in theory — XaaS can help your business go toe-to-toe with the big guys with very little up-front cash and minimal investment in time to get started. Where will you be tomorrow — still plugging and tugging at traditional hardware and software resources or embracing the future with XaaS?