Data as a Service


What’s an Aascronym? We’ve all seen them. They keep some IT-types awake at night with annoyance… while others lie awake trying to think what the next one could be. Is it PRaaS? Is it UaaS? Whatever it is, it probably won’t stick.

Not all Aas is Fine Aas
So what’s hot, and what’s not? Which Aascronyms are common currency, and which ones aren’t worth the five seconds it took some small-time software vendor in Belgium to dream up? It’s difficult to formulate any absolutely reliable metric, but I’ve sorted the top ten as-a-service offerings by the current number of Google matches for the term.

server
1. SaaS
Software as a Service; about 2,870,000 Google matches
Software-as-a-Service is the most commonly-known aascronym. It’s no coincidence that it’s also probably the easiest term to understand: it’s simply software such as you would find on a CD, only accessible as a service through the Internet. The standout example in the enterprise space is customer relationship management (CRM) software, with Salesforce and NetSuite both strong offerings. Salesforce has very aggressively promoted its adoption of the tag “Software as a Service” though there are countless examples to be found on the web.

2. PaaS
Platform as a Service; about 1,260,000 Google matches
Platform-as-a-Service providers give developers a starting point from which to develop web applications – and usually an environment in which to sell them. Again, CRM is an easy-to-understand example: both Salesforce and NetSuite’s platform-as-a-service offerings let developers code extensions and sell them to users through the website. In this way a cloud eco-system is created where useful applications float to the top and the actual software-as-a-service application is enriched. (Remember, one of the criticisms of SaaS is its supposed lack of customisation.)

3. DaaS
Data as a Service; about 490,000 Google matches
“Data warehousing as a Service” and “Desktops as a Service” have been put forward as possibilities for “DaaS,” but if the number of Google SERP matches are anything to go by (2,190 and 7,350 respectively) it appears they haven’t caught on. Data-as-a-Service is a huge business need; not only is data and business intelligence becoming ever-important in recession, but the cost of data is generally prohibitive. A new breed of (possibly value-added) data-as-a-service companies are offering access to datasets “as a service,” getting data into applications at once-dreamt-of costs.

4. IaaS
Infrastructure as a Service; about 183,000 Google matches
Infrastructure-as-a-service is the outsourcing of physical infrastructure to the cloud. According to Wikipedia: “Rather than purchasing servers, software, data centre space or network equipment, clients instead buy those resources as a fully outsourced service.” The best-known example is Amazon’s EC2 , or “Elastic Compute Cloud”. The huge advantage with IaaS is the rapidity with which businesses can ramp up their operations – there is less expensive outlay for servers and other equipment.

5. IDaaS
Identity as a Service; about 60,800 Google matches
Identity-as-a-Service aims to devolve user identity and access management into one discrete service. Fischer International are one example of a company with some success in this area. This aascronym might not be used all that much but it’s a solid example of a defined term describing a granular, loosely-coupled function (in other words, a service all in its own right).

6. XaaS
X (anything) as a Service; about 56,000 Google matches
It’s interesting that XaaS isn’t used more. Maybe too many people couldn’t stomach proliferating yet another aascronym purely for the sake of describing aascronyms. XaaS is simply a term for “anything as a service,” coined I believe by Scott Maxwell, whose YouTube video demonstrates the lengths to which the average blogger will go to coin another neologism.

7. EaaS
Everything as a Service; about 44,300 Google matches

See: XaaS.

8. HaaS
Hardware as a Service; about 38,400 Google matches
Hardware-as-a-Service is pretty much the same as Infrastructure-as-a-Service. In fact, type it into Wikipedia and you’ll be redirected to IaaS. This aascronym has probably bitten the dust, pushed out by one of its rivals. I donlt think anyone will be sorry to see it go.

9. AaaS
Anything as a Service; about 33,400 Google matches
See: XaaS.

10. MaaS
Monitoring as a Service; about 14,700 Google matches
We’re really starting to get towards the bottom of the barrel now. I’m losing the will to live.
IT infrastructure monitoring as a service may include vulnerability assessment, log management and intrusion alerting. It doesn’t seem to have caught on so well so it seems that perhaps a lot of companies would rather this was all going on behind the company firewall. My prediction is that upcoming in-house black-box offerings will oust MaaS once and for good. Another problem with MaaS is that it doesn’t lend itself so well to being a granular service in the first place.

The Pretenders

11. CaaS
Communication as a Service; about 10,100 Google matches

We’re at the end of the list now and personally, I think this one is junk. Hasn’t communication pretty much always been offered as a service? Since when did we go out and actually buy phone lines? There’s even a subscription for regular TV. This seems to me to be a term invented by VoIP vendors who are fudging the fact that communication infrastructure has always been provided as a service.The people that are pushing these terms are probably out of luck. Usage is negligible.

These are just as pointless (and noone uses them):
EaaS – Ethernet as a Service
PRaaS – Processes as a Service
UaaS – Uptime as a Service

Conclusion
One trouble with these terms is the inevitability of vendors latching onto a term and remorselessly beating everyone round the head with it until it’s accepted; I could probably be accused of the same thing (in fact, I have!) This is all well and good, but a more worrying habit is the suppression of terms by vendors who have a vested interest in whatever competing aascronym they have trademarked.
Can anyone tell me why DaaS doesn’t have an entry on Wikipedia, while UaaS (Uptime as a Service) and a raft of other equally pointless terms do? I tried correcting the omission myself only to be slapped down by the Wikipedia admins. Ho-hum.

If you have any more aascronyms, please email them to me. I’ll be glad to add to the list. The worse the better.

Data as a Service can empower your business, or help you develop great web apps quickly and easily.

data

Not everybody believes in the validity of the term “data as a service,” but these opinions seem to be held mostly by academics and niche bloggers who are resistant to “yet another –aaS acronym” (which is understandable, I guess). There is still no entry for the term DaaS on Wikipedia.

But whatever you want to call it, the vendors who are leading the charge for this kind of functionality – data on tap as and when you need it, priced affordably – are calling it DaaS, and as far as I’m concerned, they offer the service so they make the rules. Here’s my top 5, unranked:

StrikeIron

strikeiron

http://www.strikeiron.com/

I believe StrikeIron coined the term “Data as a Service,” positioning itself as a supermarket for data. It seems to me that since CEO David Linthicum (link) left the data reseller has lost its way a little – it seems to offer less datasets than it once did – but this may be a sign of the recession and the huge cost that some of these data providers charge for a standard licence. However they still offer a raft of data and claims its IronCloud platform is “the only comprehensive Web services Delivery Platform that opens up new channels for data distribution and consumption through Web services.”

Jigsaw

jigsawhttp://www.jigsaw.com/

Jigsaw is a bit of an unknown factor at the moment. It’s managed to garner quite a bit of interest through its collaborative infrastructure, “open source” credentials and its mission to “map every business on the planet.” This is worth a look, though it’s nowhere near the size and scope of Dun and Bradstreet’s formidable database. What is interesting is that D&B recently announced an alliance of sorts with Jigsaw, with intention to pull Jigsaw’s 12-million-strong contact database into its own 140-million-business-strong records. In this respect Jigsaw has a fairly limited scope as a DaaS company (and I suspect that even its core offering of a complete company contact database will be one puzzle that’s never finished). Nonetheless, what it’s doing and the way it’s going about it is very interesting indeed.

Postcode Anywhere

PCAhttp://www.postcodeanywhere.com/

Postcode Anywhere has a somewhat misleading name for those outside the US (no, they don’t physically post people code, postcode is Britspeak for zipcode). They started in 2000, essentially building auto-fill web services around addressing data and reselling the functionality and data on. The company now offers a far wider range of services than its name suggests, including demographic profiling and route optimisation. What’s interesting is the company is constantly adding to its portfolio of services, so it truly isn’t “just” an address auto-fill company any more, building other data services on its award-winning platform. It is also bringing cloud computing to government with services like AL2Anywhere, a lightweight but powerful GIS tool.

The Web Service

twshttp://www.thewebservice.com/

Cloud expert David Linthicum recently blogged about TheWebService’s innovation in the arena of Data as a Service. The website is about to undergo a radical change from going the StrikeIron route of “data marketplace” to being a developer-centric hub where users can upload their own data and build web services around it. This is similar to Caspio’s offering; developers can upload their data in Excel or CSV format and TheWebService will host it (this is called “MyTables”). What’s more interesting, though, and what Linthicum noted recently, is the ability to securely bypass your company’s firewall and build web services around *live* data, pumping it from your local machine and through TheWebService’s interface, with auto-generated code making it easy to build web services around your own live data.

TheWebService will be showing off a redesign soon (first pre-release design below) and anyone looking to beta-test the service should email philr@thewebservice.com.

Caspio

caspiohttp://www.caspio.com/

Caspio Bridge is very similar to TheWebService’s MyTables offering, with blogger Bill Ives commending its “flexibility, power, and ease of use.” Network World says it is “polished, performs well, and is competitively priced.” A system designed so you can build web services around your own data, it might not be as technologically accomplished as TheWebService (there is no functionality for building services around dynamic data) it’s certainly easy to get a handle on what they’re offering. Fees are fixed monthly bills, with different caps on the data transfer, according to the pricing plan, as opposed to TheWebService’s pay-as-you-go rates, so users have a choice there too.

In conclusion…

These top 5 all have something different to offer the cloud developer who wants to build in some extra functionality to their website or app. The beauty about Data as a Service is that the price of getting data into the end-user application is typically very low indeed; as companies embrace cloud computing these new ways to empower business quickly, easily and affordably offer a shining light at the end of the tunnel of recession. It’s not just Amazon, Google and Microsoft’s Azure that are making the enterprise cloud interesting. I’m affiliated with Postcode Anywhere and TheWebService, so I know all about the cool stuff they have to offer – and through research/experience I know of a few others – but if you have any more DaaS vendors you’d like to see in an updated blog post just email them to me and I’ll put them on a new list soon.

New design for TheWebService website…

TWS-screenshot

As you can see there will be more of an emphasis on developers hosting their own data, as well as the many benefits of MyTables and MyFeeds. It’s not finished yet (as the placeholder “jellyfox” text indicates) but it should make it a lot easier for developers to get to grips with TWS’s powerful functionality. Remember, it will be open for beta testing soon so email philr@thewebservice.com to get on board.

DaaS is the answer to the question of public sector data management

According to Vcunet.com, 176 government data breaches took place last year, compared to just 80 cases in the private sector.

Information Commissioner Richard Thomas said:

It is alarming that despite high profile data losses, the threat of enforcement action, a plethora of reports on data handling and clear ICO guidance, the flow of data breaches and sloppy information handling continues.

So what does this mean for DaaS?  One big stumbling block to mass uptake is people’s resistance to the idea of having some external entity looking after their data.  It’s actually seen as one of the drawbacks of DaaS.  We’ll briefly explore here a couple of the reasons why it isn’t:

Ground rule

Be sure to go with a data-as-a-service provider with some track record of competence in data management.  There are too many startups out there with flashy 2.0 websites that haven’t even been indexed by Google yet.  You don’t want your data looked after by someone operating out of a garage.  As ever I would recommend data as a service provider thewebservice.com, but there are a few options to consider.

Why DaaS is better

Your data is managed by professionals

If you’ve got a leaky tap, you call the plumber.  OK, if you’re a plumber yourself, you can maybe fix it yourself.  But most people aren’t plumbers and so they use a good plumber.

It’s the same with DaaS; these guys make it their job to manage data.  It’s very unlikely your tech team will be able to match the level of service and competency.

The service is transparent

What does this mean?  Well, it boils down to the fact that if something goes wrong, you’ll point the finger and kick up a fuss.  Reputations could be destroyed very quickly.  No DaaS provider wants to be in that situation.  There is no scenario of in-house “covering up” of data mismanagement.  There’s nowhere to hide.

Follow the link for more info on the benefits of DaaS.

Web services, SOA, everything-as-a-service: what are all these terms?  What do they mean to you?  Here’s a list of definitions as I see them:

SOA
Service Oriented Architecture.  a way of describing a business model that uses cloud computing.

Cloud Computing
The use of Web Services.

Web Services
Software or data served over the Internet as an ongoing service rather than a custom-made or out-of-the-box piece of software or dataset (delivered, say, on CD)

DaaS
Data as a Service.  Outsourcing data managment to “the cloud” – either “public” data (such as street names) or private data (such as stock lists).

Desktop as a Service: This term hasn’t really caught on due to DaaS being generally reserved for “data as a service” or “database as a service”.  Desktop as a service is a rather more accurate term for the more buzzword-y “Operating System as a Service”; not a true operating system (which boots up the computer and manages a user’s hardware resources) but an online desktop which stores your preferences and basically acts as an interface for other web services, just like a normal desktop is a user intterface for traditional software and data.

SaaS
Software as a Service.  Outsourcing software to a company “in the cloud” that runs the software, updates it, and allows business access to it for a charge.

PaaS
Platform as a Service.  A piece of software delivered as a service that allows development of 3rd-party apps to “plug into” it.  Examples: Salesforce.com, Facebook.com

Lesser-known services under the umbrella “everything as a service”

CaaS
Communication as a Service.  Delivering telecommunications, instant messaging etc. as a service over the Internet.  Telephony as a service, also known as “Voice as a service”, employs VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).  Software and hardware can be provided as a service by providers.

IaaS
Infrastructure as a Service.  Slightly tricksy one, this.  Can be taken as being similar to “Operating system as a Service” or “Desktop as a Service”, Infrastructure as a Service typically dishes up services centred around hardware as well as software.  Wikipedia tells us that “servers, software, data center space or network equipment” are all served in IaaS.

MaaS
Monitoring as a Service.  Network/website monitoring delivered as a service.  Notifications of network or website problems delivered via SMS, email, etc.

Another term not really part of the Web 2.0 Buzzword Boom but still applicable

Utility Computing
Self-explanatory: providing computing services as a metered utility, in the same way that the services above are delivered as a service.

I know I’ve missed some and will update this list and make it more accurate on a rolling schedule.  This can be another DaaS: Definitions as a Service – not that I’d want to muddy the waters any more, you understand.

You can read here for a bit of talk about SOAP etc.

What is cloud computing?

This isn’t another quick-start guide to cloud computing and Service-Oriented Architecture (though you can follow that link to get to one); it’s an investigation into what people are searching for on Google.  So what are the top terms for Cloud computing?  It’s no surprise that “what is cloud computing?” is near the top of the list.  Braving Google’s wrath by my apparent keyword spamming, here they are:

cloud computing
ibm cloud computing
what is cloud computing
microsoft cloud computing
cloud computing wiki/wikipedia
elastic computing cloud
cloud based computing
cloud computing definition
cloud computing services
cloud computing market
cloud computing security
computing in the cloud
cloud computing conference
cloud computing software
define cloud computing
gartner cloud computing
sun cloud computing
cloud computing blog
cloud computing solution
free cloud computing
cloud computing uk

So what does this tell us about people’s relationship to cloud computing?  Well, you can’t really tell unless you know how many people are performing the searches.  Surprisingly, Google tells us that while 27,100 people per month searched for “cloud computing”, only 480 per month asked the question “what is cloud computing?” … and from there, the numbers trail off quickly to just a trickle of people making searches on the terms lower down.

So does this mean that people are really quite savvy with the concept of SOA?  I don’t think so.  I think the 27,100 figure is significant, and that many of the people performing this most basic search are in fact looking for a definition of cloud computing.  The fact that the search pattern is so grossly top-heavy, with not so much a long tail of minor searches as a long dribble tells me that people either have a vague idea of the term, or they’ve never heard of it at all.

Is this surprising?  Perhaps it should be, because cloud computing has been around for longer than a lot of people think.  (And I am talking about the current set of “buzzwords”, not reflecting on how “computing’s come full circle” with these new but old concepts of dumb terminals etc.)

Perhaps the main problem is that there are just too many terms flying about.  Let’s try and categorize them all:

Cloud Computing
“in the cloud”
Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)
Web Services
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Data as a Service (DaaS)
SOAP
WSDL (or even wisdl)

I think these are the core components of the terminology attached to SOA and cloud computing.  Actually, looking at them, they don’t look too bad.  That’s when they’ve been roughly sorted into some kind of conceptual order though.  Mix ’em up and introduce them to the uninitiated and it starts to look worse.  The biggest problem, though, is that nobody’s terribly sure what all of these acronyms and even backronyms are supposed to stand for.  Take DaaS – it could mean any of:

Data as a Service
Database as a Service
Data Warehousing as a Service
Desktop as a Service

It’s also a Belgian beer.  Now this uncertainty of what all these terms are actually supposed to mean is not exactly helping people get things straight in their minds.  And worse, the terms all interlink in one horrible mess.  I’ve tried to straighten things out a little with this diagram:

Web services, SOA, DaaS, SaaS and PaaS

Cloud computing diagram: Web services, SOA, DaaS, SaaS and PaaS

But really it’s the opposing forces of everyone trying to peddle their own definitions that causes many of these problems in the first place.  Not that I’m going to desist… of course, my terms are the correct ones.  I mean, let’s look at the tangled web of saying DaaS means “desktop as a service”: It’s a desktop as a service.  Which makes it also a platform as a service.  It’s also a kind of operating system as a service (I guess they’re trying to appease the pedants by veering away from calling it an OS as a service) as well as a manner of software as a service.  Hang on… it’s everything!!  It can fit into all the categories.  These terms slide over each other like Venn diagrams of doom, tectonic plates set to annihilate each other with obfuscation.

So let’s just stick with the diagram for the terms SaaS DaaS and PaaS and call it a desktop delivered as a web service.  That’s not confusing.  Order is restored.

Tomorrow I might take a little look at some other popular search terms and try and see where they fit into the picture.  I’ll also be establishing a comprehensive lexicon that is transparent and easy for everyone to get a handle on.  In the meantime, I would be interested to hear about people’s definitions of the various acronyms flying around out there.

Linux is the answer if cloud computing & Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is going to work… this open-source operating system is the future of SOA & cloud computing.  Let’s present the argument:

Microsoft knows what it’s doing with SOA and Vista

Traditional operating systems will be dead in a few years.   they’ll be killed by service-oriented architecture.  That’s what my money’s on and if you think I’m a rabid Web 2.0 nutcase then you can’t see the bigger picture.  Microsoft have realised it.  In fact, that may (somewhat ironically) be one of the reasons Vista was such a retrograde step in opening up Web 2.0: Microsoft wants to milk us for as much as possible, and the best short-term plan is to positively hold back cloud computing & SOA for as long as possible.  They know Service Oriented Architecture is coming, but as the biggest player by far in the exisiting OS market, why accelerate its growth?  It makes sense to stave it off as long as possible and rely on a business model that they know works.

The reason Microsoft is starting to come round now is that while they don’t wish to accelerate the advance of cloud computing (and miss out on flogging us Windows 7, 8, 9 & 10 for our very earth-based desktops) they want to be the first to the table once a certain tipping point has reached and cloud computing is not only inevitable but immediately forseeable.

Imagine a dog.  This dog has knocked a big butcher’s block off the kitchen table, and two big hunks of steak have fallen off.  One steak is within reach, so he sits there and starts work on it.  The other steak has landed on the other side of the room.  Now, he’s not the only dog in the house.  There’s another one upstairs.  This dog upstairs has heard the commotion and starts coming down.  Now does the first dog immediately rush off to defend the second steak before the first dog gets there?  No.  He’s got enough time, so he wolfs down the steak he’s got before doing an about-turn and pouncing on the second steak, before the second dog gets there.

OK… this is a very laboured and imperfect analogy: the first steak is the existing operating systems and software market, the second the cloud computing and web services market.  The first dog is Microsoft and the second represents its competitors.

The Future of SOA, SaaS DaaS and PaaS

As I forecast in this post, one sensible (but shocking) strategy for Microsoft is to “leap-frog” the market and invest heavily in cloud-based “operating systems” platforms and use this “operating system” to roll out software-as-a-service.  There will be a place for wholly deskbound solutions (late adopters – mostly home users) but this market will be a fraction of what it is now.  I predict Microsoft will concentrate their development on the platform in the cloud and stop pushing their desktop operating systems so hard.  Why?  Because more and more people will be running Linux.  It’s free, and it’s becoming more and more widely supported.  Why should people invest in two operating systems? They won’t.  They’ll use Linux to boot up their computer and use a cloud-based system to interface with software, their desktop, etc.  But it’s going to be messy.  Some people will be running Linux, some Apple, and some will be using Microsoft’s latest home OS.  But the real future is in the cloud and whoever can create the most ubiquitous, one-size-fits-all solution will dominate the market.  Remember, we’ve already seen it with Microsoft and Windows: by leaving the hardware to others (which was seen as a ghastly mistake at the time), Microsoft made an awesome coup in the OS and thus software market.  It scored twice by capturing a platform: it sold the OS and could roll out the software too.  Now Microsoft, if they have any sense, will concentrate less on the earth-bound operating systems market for everyone to fight over and concentrate on making a solution in the cloud.  It should stop beating us round the face with more bulky additions, millions of add-ons and lines of code in its OSes and give us a neat, trimmed-down, lean, super-fast desktop OS that hooks into the real delivery system – the OS in the cloud.  But the OS in the cloud is where the real money will be made because more and more people will switch to Linux – and eventually Microsoft’s earth-based OS business will dry up.

Linux users need to get their heads out of their asses

There’s something about Unix users.  They’re often too clever for their own good.  They’re often smug.  They’re always bloody clever.  They’re a part of a club and often like to look down on the people who use Windows: the double-clickers, the Office buyers, the Wizard users.  Unix users like to have a relationship with their computer.  It’s more personal.  They’re probably built their computer themselves.  I have a suspicion that many Linux users are pleased that it’s more troublesome to use for the average user.  It keeps the riff-raff out of the club.

Here’s the opinion of one Linux user, Scott:

I am sorry, but the Linux world has got to get over the “geekie-ness” and get something out that is for the users. Yes, you can build it, customize it, make your own distro for all it’s worth. The bottom line is that people want an OS that runs the software and hardware they use.

I am an avid Linux and long time Mac user and I have to say, I feel like I am fighting with the OS much of the time. Getting drivers to work is just one of my pet peeves. Yes I can spend my time figuring it out on google, but why? Say what you want, but I can boot up OS X or Windows and they all work (software and/or hardware)…..and you do not need to be a “geek” to get them to work. OS X is what Linux should aspire to be….simple, powerful, easy to use, with enough play under the hood to satisfy any geek.

We can say…virus free, runs on old hardware, and “I do not bow to the MS empire” all you want…but the bottom line is that Linux does not work or run the software or hardware people want….in the home or business. If it did, do you not think more people would be using it?

What I do find funny is that the Linux/OpenSource community may have bigger ego’s and heads that Mac users.

Well, Linux users may take umbrage at my sweeping generalizations, and some may argue that it’s not in their interests to become mainstream anyway (they’re happy as they are) but as I see it, a chance for Linux to come into the mainstream is a major opportunity for a great OS – after all, what’s irritating for existing users of Linux at the moment?  Lack of support from hardware manufacturers, that’s what.  Getting drivers that work.  It’s not mainstream so it’s not supported, so users have to pointlessly wait around for the community to hack the problem.  Adoption by the mainstream would eliminate this problem.  The community would grow.  Linux would be the ultimate King of the operating System.  It’s free so it would become pre-installed on all systems.  People who wanted to “upgrade” to Windows would become fewer and fewer.

Windows users need to get their heads out of their asses

There is a great culpability attached to Windows.  OK, things might go wrong, but you’ve always got someone to blame.  In fact, it’s become almost a sport.  It doesn’t really matter if they can solve your problem or not (which is, I suppose, a good job); the point is it’s Not Your Fault.  With Unix, you have no-one to blame but yourself for choosing the bloody stupid free stuff in the first place.  In this sense, there is a problem.  As I see it, the solution is one of these:

a) Retailers offer Linux customer support (but they won’t know what the hell they’re talking about)
b) Hardware manufacturers offer customer support (Massively unlikely)
c) Businesses are set up that offer a flashy front-end to Unix and charge a nominal fee… mostly for customer support

Asking the community is not enough for the late majority onward: they want a number to ring.  A figure head to hate.  Someone to Blame.  They’ve never been sure of computers and they pretty much need that.

Service Oriented Architecture: Exisiting Open-Source Solutions

Take a look here for some discussion on gOS 3.

Advances are being made and for me, the future of SOA, software, data and platforms as a service is very clear.  As ever, I heartily recommend taking a look at The Web Service website to have a look at some of the possibilities of Data as a Service and cloud computing.

As ever we’ll continue to look at Service-Oriented Architecture: Software as a Service, Data as a Service and Platform as a Service on this blog… if only to ask the pernenial question: “What is Service Oriented Architecture?!”

Service Oriented Architecture: what is SOA?  And what are SaaS, DaaS and PaaS?

There’s a lot of unnecessary bumf out there at the moment and a bucketload of people who are sounding off about Service Oriented Architecture … unfortunately, most of them don’t know their SaaS from their PaaS, their PaaS from their SOA and their DaaS from their PaaS.

Hopefully I know my SaaS from my elbow so I’m going to try and bring together what some observers have said and add my own take on it; I’ll also try to avoid any corporate nonsense words and PAINSINTHEASS (The P and the A stand for Pointless Acronyms, you can dream up what the rest stand for…)

Hopefully, I shouldn’t have to explain too much as this diagram should help: (by the way, feel free to use the diagram if you want but please include a link back to this blog 🙂 )

DaaS, SaaS and PaaS

Service Oriented Architecture: DaaS, SaaS and PaaS

So here’s the run-down:

We’ll start from the bottom and work our way up.

Data as a Service is the outsourcing of data management.  Someone “in the cloud” hosts the data you need.  This can be:

  • “Public” Data, e.g. Geographic Coordinates, Business Data from Dun & Bradstreet, Addresses etc.
  • “Private” Data, e.g. your company’s personnel files, stocktakes, questionnaire results, whatever.

This Data as a Service may give you access to information like Dun & Bradstreet’s Business Data without you having to sell half your stock to use it.  In this respect people offering Data as a Service are like middle-men; they buy the licence for the information and let you use it for a reduced rate.

With private data, the incentive to take the data-hosting outside of your company’s hallowed walls is that the DaaS service provider will probably offer some way to hook software or interfaces up to your data more easily than if you had to fiddle with a SQL server.  So in short it stops your hands getting grubby with too much development.

I hope you’re still with me!  Now we move on to…

Software as a Service, or SaaS, which is the outsourcing of software.  Someone “in the cloud” has built a nifty piece of software and is hosting it on their server.  If you want to use it, rather than offering you a download or mailing you a CD, they let you use the software as a service: you subscribe to the software rather than “buy” it outright.

It’s the perfect partner for DaaS: one service company could both host the software you need to use and host the data that it uses: for instance, it could host address data (zip/postal codes etc.), as well as the software that hooks into this data – an intuitive data-lookup tool and form-filler, for instance.

A Platform as a Service is an effective way to roll out all these bits of software that people are making.  If a company has invested a lot of time, effort and money into developing a piece of software, they want to send it out into the world as quickly and efficiently as possible.  And with so many people out there making so much software, end-users like to have them delivered over familiar platforms.

Here’s a great example: look at Facebook and all of the programs you can add into it: poker, friend wheels, vampire games, etc.  Facebook is the platform; those cute little games are the software.  Imagine all those little games set up on their own websites… would you ever use them?  Would you even know about them?  The thinking behind a platform as a service is sound.  If anyone needs any more convincing, look at Scrabulous: after existing solely on its own website, attracting a (not unhealthy) 20,000 users, the application was launched on Facebook in 2007.  On the Facebook platform, it attracted nearly a million devotees, with 500,000 people playing daily.  Ultimately, though, Scrabulous had to be taken off Facebook for copyright infringement!  I doubt whether it still has 500,000 active users.

In the world of business enterprise, Salesforce.com offers a Customer Relations Management (CRM) platform that software as a service vendors can plug their applications into.

In the Software-and-Platform-as-a-Service model, the end user is divorced from the development of the application.  They probably don’t think for a second about how the service they use was developed and delivered to them; they just plug in and play.  But!  There’s more than one way to skin a cat.  As well as delivering their software through a familiar platform, software developers can offer their applications up for mashups.

A note on Mashups

If the end-user has the technical know-how, they can bundle up several bits of software together to make a new product with, say, a familiar interface.  They may wish to use this mashup themselves, or they may even wish to offer the mashup to others through their website.

A great example of this is Google Maps.  Let’s consider this scenario: a services company buys geographic data and offers it to users on a subscription basis (Data as a Service).  They develop basic hosted software that plans a route along roads from this data and offer this up too (Software as a Service).  Now, the user can choose to mashup this software with Google Maps to make a visual representation of the route the software plans.  Or they can create a mashup from any other programs out there; perhaps they don’t like Google Maps and choose to plug it into MultiMap instead.  Whatever.

So that’s a run-down of DaaS, SaaS and PaaS, as well as a mention for Mashups.

DaaS, SaaS and PaaS are all web services.  As has been explained, they are all services rolled out over the web.

This leaves Service-Oriented Architecture, or SOA.  In short, SOA is how any or all of these web services operate and interact.  The name, really, is quite self-explanatory.  SOA is not software, it’s not a computer, it’s not the internet and it’s not your neighbour’s dog.  It’s just a way of describing how the web services DaaS, SaaS and PaaS work together in a system.  To quote Bradley F. Shimmin (Principal Analyst of Application Infrastructure, Current Analysis LLC):

SOA is all about how software is structured and SaaS is all about how software is used.

The clue’s in the word “architecture” really, isn’t it…?  If we were talking about a house, we wouldn’t assume “architecture” to mean a brick, or a window.  “Architecture” is not specifically any of these things, but it is all of these things: it’s how the discrete individual elements form a whole.  To take the house analogy further, we could take Data-as-a-Service to be the foundations of a Service-Oriented Architecture; Software-as-a-Service is there with the bricks; The Platform-as-a-Service could be the housing estate the house is built on and marketed through.  If we were going to get needlessly complex we could say that SOAP and WSDL were like the mortar gluing the house together, but I said we’d stray away from PAINSINTHEASS.

So SOA is the term for the whole picture.

Of course, to make things a little bit more tricky, the architecture is seldom completely service-oriented.  Perhaps I subscribe to geographic data-as-a-service but build my own in-house software (say, a store locator wizard).  Or maybe I buy my data as a one-off acquisition on a CD (say, a list of local businesses), host the data on a MySQL server, but to use the data in an application (say I want to have a “local business lookup” feature on my website), subscribe to a software service (with perhaps a pay-per-lookup pricing model).  Both can be seen as having a Service-Oriented Architecture, but of course not every step on the road to delivering something to the end-user has to be provided as a service.

I hope this little rundown helps.

Here are some of the advantages of SaaS and DaaS.

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