Sunday, April 12, 2009

In the beginning there was SaaS..

Thanks to everyone who has provided feedback on my blog postings. One comment that has surfaced a few times has been the level at which the postings are written. There is an assumed level of knowledge they are targeted at. However, I would like everyone to get something out of these postings so I would like to provide a beginner's guide to Utility computing and define some of the common TLAs and FLAs used. (See below definitions if you missed those)

  • Utility Computing - The concept is similar to electric utilities we are all familiar with. In this model, you get electrical service to your house under an SLA and you pay for what you use of it. It's exactly the same with utility computing. An SLA is provided and companies use as little or as much computing resources as they wish and get charged only for what they use. Why do this? Providers can build large scale, fully fault tolerate environments that non-providers cannot afford to build and charge them for using pieces of it. It's a "the parts are worth more than the whole" business model. For users, they get all the advantages of this large scale, fully fault tolerant environment without having to shell out millions in capital expenditure and without the administrative overhead. It's a win-win for all.
  • SaaS-(pronounced sass) Software As A Service is a model of software deployment whereby a provider licenses an application to customers for use as a service on demand. So unlike a traditional on premise solution, customers don't ever own the software, they are only licensed to use it. They only get charged for how much they use as well, whether that be by the hour or per user per month.
  • PaaS- (pronounced pass) Platform As A Service is the delivery of a computing platform and solution stack as a service. Companies such as Amazon,, and Microsoft are offering complete development environments and a complete infrastructure stack via the Internet.
  • Cloud Computing-A style of computing in which dynamically scalable and often virtualized resources are provided as a service over a network. In the cloud, the concept behind where an application is located disappears. The physical location and even the physical hardware ceases to stay static or be relevant. Applications in a cloud computing environment run on a bank of systems in multiple locations. This guarantees their performance, scalability, and resiliency.
  • Public and Private clouds-Cloud computing can take place in a private cloud within an organization's network or publicly where the resources exist on the Internet.
  • Azure>-Microsoft's PaaS offering.
  • AWS-Amazon Web Services. Online retailer Amazon provides infrastructure web services platform in the cloud. They sell pieces of their vast computing resources. You can purchase individual pieces (described below) or a complete infrastructure.
  • S3- Simple Storage Service. An Amazon service providing online storage.
  • EC2-Elastic Compute Cloud. Another Amazon service providing resizable compute capacity.
  • TLA- Three letter Acronym.
  • FLA-Four Letter Acronym.

I hope this helps clear up some of the techno-babble surrounding utility computing. The concepts are very different from the current model of infrastructure and software distribution and licensing, but are easy to understand. In fact there is little that's new about it at all. Most of you have had an online e-mail account for years now. You don't own the mail software. You are licensed to use it. It's a utility application. You pay for what you use and it's available for you when you need it. It's licensed as SaaS. You are reading this on a blog. The blog software doesn't run on your computer. The creation didn't really happen on my computer either. The creation and publishing are SaaS applications. Thanks to these earlier successes and a more robust Internet, more complex software such as office production packages and financial packages are now being offered as SaaS.

"Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible."

-Frank Zappa

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