Software 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.

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

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.


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:



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 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


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


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



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…


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 to get on board.

Microsoft took their time, but the web is abuzz with news that Office is going to be available as a fully web-based service.  According to ReadWriteWeb:

These will be “lightweight versions”, but Microsoft told us yesterday that they’ll still have rich functionality and will be comparable to Google’s suite of online office applications. The apps will enable users to create, edit and collaborate on Microsoft Office documents through the browser. The apps will work in IE, Firefox and Safari browsers (no word on whether Google Chrome will be supported).  Microsoft clarified in an email that these apps will use HTML and AJAX, but also Silverlight components.

The next release of Microsoft Office will include browser-based versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote.

I’ve already waxed economical (if you’ll forgive the pun) about the credit crunch and SOA, and the benefits to web services companies.

More proof, if it were needed, that SaaS and SOA will not only escape the jaws of the impending recession, Houdini-like, but will actually flourish as business looks to trim the fat and adopt more lean business practices, comes from Devnet:

Gartner released its review of Software-As-A-Service on the 20th October 2008, and it outlined that SAAS sales for the enterprise market are predicted to surpass $6.4 billion this calendar year.  The report noted that market is just starting to feel the tightening of corporate budgets, which could mean a spending drop as the economy moves towards a gloomy 2009.  But products such as Google Apps continue to remain strong and have seen an uplift in countries such as Australia.

The Gartner SAAS report outlines that the market has grown 27% since 2007, and with the market expecting to double by 2012.  The SAAS revenue will top $14.8 billion as companies move towards spending less on servers, storage and related IT equipment.  SAAS suites such as Google Apps Premier Edition will account for 9% of software revenue by 2012 and will continue to coexist with installed applications such as Microsoft Office and Lotus Notes.

A number of SAAS solutions are popular because they are “freeware” but these applications are not a bulk of SAAS sales.  The second largest segment of the SAAS enterprise market is Customer Relationship Management “CRM” software such as, SugarCRM & NetSuite.

Based on current trends, Gartner expects worldwide software markets to grow at around 10% through to 2012, and in worst case scenario 9.4%.

If anything, an economic downturn could be the catalyst SOA has needed for more widespread adoption.

E-marketers are missing an opportunity to tell the world how eco-friendly they are

In the SOA industry – infact, any industry that operates at all “in the cloud”, being “green” is a differentiator that can swing business your way. In this digital world where price plays such a huge part in purchasing habits – whether B2C or B2B – it actually gives you an opportunity to up-sell your SaaS services.

While observers in other sectors predict eco-friendliness becoming so ubiquitous it ceases to be a viable USP, the digital world has remained remarkably resistant to being more sustainable.

I caught up with Guy Mucklow, managing director of UK-based web services company Postcode Anywhere, who I (obviously) work closely with and who is an advocate of being green and the green marketing that goes with it: “This shouldn’t be about ‘greenwashing’ – the deplorably cynical business of claiming everything you do is green, indiscriminately, in order to win a few customers cheaply,” he tells me, taking a break from typing.

“Most digital businesses are naturally going to be greener than their traditional counterparts: if we consider e-commerce, for instance, there are less vehicle miles, lower inventory requirements (pre-selling means lower production of obsolete goods), less printed materials, less packaging and altogether less waste made than with traditional businesses.

“The fuel emissions saved by switching to online grocery shopping is estimated at between 18-87%[1] – pretty impressive! So why not tell everyone about it? Because there’s a problem… it’s just not quite enough to say ‘we operate online, we’re green, buy from us.’ It’s pretty lame and certainly not a differentiator if your competition is mostly other companies operating in cyberspace.

“But it’s pretty easy to go that extra distance. Look at other organisations, especially (dare I say it), the public sector. What about carbon-offsetting your website at ? And if you’re not sold on the benefits of carbon-offsetting, why not switch to a green energy provider?

“Remember: no greenwash! These changes can’t happen overnight and it’s a sensible idea to spend a day drafting up an eco-plan listing all the areas that can be improved and imposing a sensible timescale on achieving them.

“That’s what we’re doing at Postcode Anywhere. We’re already virtually paperless and more changes are on the way. And it fits in with our corporate culture – one of our latest services is a route optimiser that can cut haulage companies’ petrol usage by 30%.

“In fact, excessive fuel consumption is one of the stumbling blocks for e-commerce’s green appeal – if there’s a tangible product to be delivered, they mess it up on the last leg by plotting lousy delivery routes.

“If all the small-medium haulage businesses (who generally aren’t as green as the big players) used our route optimisation, we would see a 13 million ton drop in CO2 emissions every year – more than twice the yearly emissions of Teesside power plant.

“So that’s something to think about too. If you run a large e-commerce company you might want to consider taking the plunge and going with an established software company that offers route optimisation like FleetRoute. For the smaller companies, we have developed a pay-per-use product at Postcode Anywhere which typically costs a few pence per use – opening up route optimisation to everyone. It’s green and it will save you serious money as well.

“There’s so much you can do. You can get free water saving save-a-flush bags from Severn Trent (stick them in your cistern and the job’s done!) and you might be able to get free energy efficient light bulbs from Warwickshire Energy Efficient Advice Centre (WEEAC ) – visit their website at for advice. And what about working from home where possible? It saves petrol and is very viable for web-based businesses.

“In short, making genuine changes to the way your digital business operates should be a lot easier than it is in other sectors. You’ll help the environment. You’ll offer a more attractive product or service. Going green is a no-brainer. All you need to do then is tell people about it!”

Information on Postcode Anywhere’s affordable route optimisation software is available at their website.

[1] Source: Siikavirta, H, Punakivi, M., Karkkainen, M and Linnanen, L. (2005) Effects of E-Commerce on Greenhouse Gas Emissions, A Case Study of Grocery Home Delivery in Finland. Journal of Industrial Ecology, Vol 6, No 2, 83-97.

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:

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)

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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)
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.

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