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SaaS and Cloud… one in the same or completely different???

I was intrigued to see over on Accountingweb a whole list of replies to what on the surface was a very simple question … “What is cloud Computing?” the rationale behind this question was also simple:

Once we agree the definition of cloud computing, then we can have a more productive discussion in 2011!

However, what followed were a whole series of answers, some good, some not so good, and some way off topic as is the norm for an open forum. I’m not criticising any of the respondents here, to the contrary many different views are healthy.

What did emerge though was a really interesting sub debate (and some confusion) as to whether the Cloud and SaaS are one in the same thing?

Richard Messik suggested this very simple definition of Cloud:

The definition of Cloud Computing has changed somewhat over the years but I still think that the simplest one is the “Hotel” Test… if you can walk into an Hotel lobby anywhere in the world and access your data and applications – without the need to download any plugins etc – then that is truly Cloud Computing.

Now, this sounds completely feasible until you read this definition of SaaS by John Patterson :

Next time you are on holiday, walk into the hotel lobby and log on to your application using whatever machine and browser they have. If you can access all the data and all the functionality in your SaaS application immediately, without having to download any extra software, it’s a true SaaS product.

The close similarity between these statements might lead one to believe that Cloud and SaaS are indeed the same thing, but some great insight is provided by Duane Jackson, he comments:

SaaS and Cloud are not synonyms… the terms SaaS and Cloud are not interchangeable. SaaS is a software delivery and business model. Cloud isn’t. I used to think SaaS was a subset of Cloud (with P[latform]aaS, D[ata]aaS, etc being other subsets – along with a load of other stuff that isn’t anything as-a-service). Now I’m not so sure. It depends on how cloud is defined. KashFlow is definitely a SaaS application. I’m not sure if it’s “cloud” though. It’s all on servers in the cloud. But it’s dedicated hardware. To some, cloud computing must involve virtualised hardware and elasticity. We don’t have that.

My twopenneth on this for what it’s worth… is that I agree with Duane, and disagree with Richard here… in that SaaS and Cloud are not one in the same. However, the market is being conditioned (confused) by some SaaS vendors who are leveraging the Cloud bandwagon for the benefit of their own product. I’m not necessarily saying there is anything wrong with that, after all that is what Marketing departments are paid to do, but I admire Duane’s honesty for calling it as it really is here. 

The Cloud is much much bigger than SaaS and the majority of applications running in the Cloud today are not pure play SaaS, unless of course you limit your thinking to one or two SaaS vendors ‘private’ clouds.

SaaS applications (some but not all) tick the cloud box, but so do many AppStore type mobile applications that access information and services on the cloud. Then you have the online gaming industry who arguably make much more use of the cloud today than the business sector. 

No doubt this debate will run on for some time… and if you have a different view I’d love to hear it?

In the meantime, next time you are on holiday, don’t go into a hotel lobby and try this… grab a beer and chill out…

2 replies on “SaaS and Cloud… one in the same or completely different???”

My view of what cloud computing is is that it is a delivery mechanism for different services and products packaged using the as-a-service model. It is simply the means to deliver and nothing more. My interests in cloud computing though is in how many innovators are packaging new services into these models such as gaming as a service etc. So though related, SaaS and cloud computing are not one and the same.

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