With all of the acronyms and buzzwords in the technology sector, it's no wonder that folks find emerging concepts confusing, especially nebulous ones like cloud computing. I got a bit bogged down myself when writing an article about it several weeks ago. I found it helpful to consider the three layers of the cloud stack, software-as-a-service, middleware-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service, then look at possible use cases for each.
So I wasn't surprised to see interviewer Linda Briggs ask LucidEra founder Ken Rudin to explain the difference between cloud computing and SaaS in a Q&A on TDWI. I'm quite taken with his answer, because I think it highlights an important and often overlooked point.
Marketing pitches for SaaS applications seem geared primarily toward business users, promising low upfront cost and ease of implementation and ongoing maintenance. Having won over many business users, now software and infrastructure providers must focus on IT, which may have found SaaS more than a little threatening, since in theory users could deploy it with little if any assistance. Says Rudin:
The broader message of cloud computing, with its focus on providing a new way of provisioning not just applications but also computing power, storage, and even development platforms, is much more attractive to IT. Given that, you're now seeing a messaging shift that is helping IT embrace what's possible -- the ability to host, manage, customize, and even build apps without software and servers on premises.
As an example, he mentions Salesforce.com's Force.com.
Later in the interview, Rudin offers his thoughts on the important roles IT can and should play in crafting cloud computing strategies. They are:
- IT should establish a clear approach to SaaS applications and cloud computing. This emphasizes the point put forth recently by IT Business Edge's Lora Bentley, that SaaS governance should be a a part of broader IT governance.
- IT should guide the business in establishing application priorities and system requirements, especially those involving key issues such as data integration and data security.
- IT should educate business managers about what to look for when purchasing and administrating SaaS apps. (Those key issues mentioned above obviously need to be discussed here.)
- Instead of viewing SaaS as a potential threat, IT should consider using SaaS to free its time to pursue more strategic initiatives.