Welcome to SaaS thoughts

Whether you call it Software as a Service (SaaS), Managed Service Provider (MSP) or On-Demand Services, your organization uses the service running “in the cloud”. This blog will discuss these services, their benefits, drawbacks and operations. Are we biased? Yes. We believe that some services make sense for most organizations. Email security is one of those. However as Mark Twain said, “All generalizations are false, even this one.” Each Tuesday we will post information and questions about Software as a Service. Occasionally, we will have a "Guest Post" from either a consultant or vendor posting her/his thoughts on Managed Services generally as well as some degree of specificity based on her/his unique perspective. We encourage your insights, comments and feedback. Welcome.

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The Evolution of Application Delivery


As computers and networks have evolved, so too has the location for application deployment. In some ways, it is a case of, “Déjà vu all over again.”

Traditional On-Premise Installed Application

“Back in the day,” applications ran on a mainframe with the “dumb terminal” as just an input/output device. The mainframe did all the heavy lifting. The coming of the mini-computer only changed the size (and price) of the box. However, with the coming of micro-computers, processing power got so individualized that it was a nightmare to administer.

Multi-user operating systems and faster networks brought us client/server application deployment. Again, we had servers doing the heavy lifting and client processes running on PCs. Characteristics of this phase include:

  • On-premise hardware, server, network, database, backup provisioning by customer
  • Ongoing maintenance and management performed by customer
  • Customer responsible for providing logical and physical security
  • Typically lengthy rollout/update cycles

As applications proliferated, so did the servers in ever-growing data centers. While this continues to drive a movement towards virtual and blade servers, the power consumption, cooling requirements and administrative overhead put greater demand on IT budget and staff sophistication. A new approach is gaining acceptance.

Managed Service Application

What happens when you take away all the concerns of hardware and software deployment and maintenance from an application rollout? What if you don’t have to capitalize your data center and still maintain the client/server model? This is the world of Managed Services.

The high speeds available via wide-spread fibre cables separate the office from the large capacious servers in data centers most organizations could never justify. Let “them” deal with the hardware maintenance, upgrade, power and cooling issues. Just give “us” our applications and a SLA with penalties on “their” performance. Oh, by the way, keep all our workstations and servers patched and give us a 24/7 number we can call for break/fix issues.

Funny thing is, it works well; as far as it goes. Budgets can be redirected towards more sophisticated solutions instead of routine IT maintenance & upgrade cycles. Characteristics of this phase include:

  • Applications installed, managed and maintained by a third party
  • High involvement of human resources for application management
  • Installation on customer premise or also centralized model
  • Most applicable for highly specialized applications
  • Typically single tenant architecture (dedicated systems) running off-the-shelf applications

Software as a Service (SaaS)

Much of what an organization needs can be accommodated by standard software; sometimes with minor setting changes. These things can include email and web security, online backups, web site hosting, DNS resolution, word processing, email hosting and (lest we forget) blogging. Using a “pay as you use model”, SaaS puts applications like these in the hands of even the smallest organization.

Characteristics of this phase include:

  • Typically no (or very limited) on-premise hardware, server, database, backup
  • SaaS vendor provides all maintenance, management, infrastructure
  • Application usage via browser
  • Economy of scale due to full automation from the provider
  • Fast rollout and innovation/update cycles
  • Multi-tenant architecture (multiple customers share some or all layers of the stack)

The benefits for an organization are great. You get the service you want accomplished without the need to maintain the hardware, software or infrastructure. As long as it does the job for your organization, it is a good move for more and more service offerings every day.

Where are you on delivery of your applications? Will you ever move everything to the cloud?

Next Post: One more reason to use a managed service.


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