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Cloud Computing Easily Understood - SaaS

Software as a Service - for newbies

In prior blog posts, I described Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

To recap:

  • If I use IaaS I get servers onto which I can load software and applications which I then maintain, though I don't need to maintain the hardware. I can customize the applications and software running on the servers, at will.
  • If I use PaaS, I get a platform of ready to use web servers, application servers, databases etc. I write my own software application and host it at the PaaS provider. I maintain the software I write, but not the application servers, databases or hardware. I can customize the software I write, at will

Finally, we reach the top of the stack: Software as a Service (SaaS).

SaaS is simply software that I use for myself or my organization, but often with limited customization.

Characteristics of SaaS:

  • SaaS customers are provided with login credentials (usually username/password) to the software application.
  • SaaS customers are  typically billed a fixed fee per month for that they use the software.
  • SaaS software offers limited customization.
  • SaaS software can be branded with a customer's own look-and-feel.
  • SaaS customers usually don't need to install any software to use the application, a web-browser or mobile device will suffice.

Some every day examples of Software as a Service applications for personal use, small or large business, government or non-profit:

  • Email, calendaring... - gmail, yahoo, or hotmail are all providers of email which a customer accesses using a browser with a login and password. (Companies that choose not to install and maintain their own email servers and software, can use email services such as gmail, Microsoft Exchange online and others).
  • Productivity applications such as Word processing, Spreadsheets, presentations etc. Two examples are Google docs and Microsoft Office 365
  • Financial applications such as online tax preparation and personal finance: example turbotax or quicken
  • Customer Relationship Management: salesforce.com and sugarcrm are two examples used by small and large organizations.
  • Enterprise Resource Planning: SAP and Oracle are two examples  used by small and large organizations.
  • Backup solutions:  Backup files and data from servers, laptops and desktops to cloud storage, two examples: mozy and carbonite.
  • Electronic Medical Records. Software as a Service to enable healthcare providers to access patient data via a browser or mobile device. Example: PracticeFusion
  • Many others....

In summary, no software to to install, maintain or deploy but little customization available. Simply pay as you go...

SaaS

More Stories By Jonathan Gershater

Jonathan Gershater has lived and worked in Silicon Valley since 1996, primarily doing system and sales engineering specializing in: Web Applications, Identity and Security. At Red Hat, he provides Technical Marketing for Virtualization and Cloud. Prior to joining Red Hat, Jonathan worked at 3Com, Entrust (by acquisition) two startups, Sun Microsystems and Trend Micro.

(The views expressed in this blog are entirely mine and do not represent my employer - Jonathan).

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