I’ve recently tracked down one of the causes of much confusion about and wheel spinning in cloud computing: it stems from thinking that Software-as-a-Service – software you get, largely, through a web application involving little or no on-premise installs, usually priced by subscription – counts as “cloud computing.”
Indeed, cloud computing is (visually) much less sexy than that. Cloud computing is “merely” what SaaS applications (usually) run on.
Cloud Computing Gets You to SaaS
All this cloud business is distracting us from the big-bagger, enterprise value of SaaS. Don’t get me wrong – cloud computing is damn sexy and all that. But, if you’re just replacing “worrying about the on-premise infrastructure you use to run your applications” with “worrying about the cloud infrastructure you use to run your applications, we’re not getting much but a short-term (we frickin’ hope) slash in costs. Cutting IT costs is great in the short term until The Business comes back and confuses the now bleached bone for skin.
Ultimately, (enterprise) software needs to eliminate “infrastructure” all together. (Exceptions apply within.) Keep your powder dry for the return of SaaSy dreams, but for now, that’s on the back-burners while the Morlocks have their day top-side to build out the cloud.
Introduced into this mix are folks like 3Tera and IBM who want to bring in the idea of clouds behind the firewall. In the long foreseeable future, there’ll always on-premise software – people still run their own email servers, after all. What gets interesting for the likes of 3Tera, BlueCloud, and other grid boomers is figuring out how to migrate, or at least, hybrid between on-premise and “true” cloud-based computing.
If SaaS isn’t “Cloud,” How ’bout “PaaS”?
Honestly, when it comes to the idea of a Platform-as-a-Service, I’m not sure if that’s a cloud or something else. Ostensibly, the two are synonyms, but the non-general nature of things like Force.com, Bungee Labs, and even Google Apps (no SQL, eh?) wig me out.
There’s also the question of: why not just make a LAMP based PaaS? I’m sure someone has…?
But, there’s something worth barring that wigging out. Usually, one of the chief hopes in the advancement in software development and deliver is moving closer to simplicity. Right before the whole SaaS/Cloud/OnDemand – mixed with a squeeze of iPhone and Microsoft/Yahoo! – storm re-hit over the last year, rails-think was grabbing all the dazzled eyes with it’s claims to provide a fast and simple framework for writing applications. Remember lesscode?
I’m not quite sure how to bridge the gap between cloud computing and lesscode, but there’s something to PaaSes helping out there. The problem for me is still one of open standards and (maybe?) source. Each PaaS usually seems like a way to lock developers into that platform. You can’t blame them though: how else is there to make money?
Disclaimer: IBM is a client.