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Jury’s Out on Which is Cloud and Which is SaaS

The question before the jury today is to distinguish between Software as a Service – that’s SaaS to you and me – and Cloud Computing, the latest and snappiest paradigm in play for all your processing needs.

All my recent Internet Radio talk about cloud computing has sparked some intensely interesting debates over just what it is and how it is different from SaaS – if, indeed, it is! And it probably won’t surprise you to learn that there are almost as many specific definitions for these things as there are people defining them.

The good news is that there is a consensus developing about what they generally are and how they fit together. Broadly speaking, here’s how it plays out:

  • SaaS boils down to ‘applications as a service’ while the Cloud is ‘computing as a service,’ encompassing applications, but also platforms, and infrastructure.
  • In this view, SaaS serves as the application layer of cloud computing, and thus is always in the Cloud. Cloud Computing, on the other hand, is not always SaaS, though it can be if a Cloud provider also provides applications.
  • Making matters worse, a SaaS application can be delivered in a number of ways including from the vendor’s own datacenter, through a third-party “host,” or by a true cloud computing provider.

So … you got all that? Me neither.

Not even the ‘official’ definition’ of cloud computing from the National Institute of Standards and Technology helps much, because the conversation has been so badly co-opted by all the hype and marketeering surrounding the space.

The best thing I can tell you now is to get right to the underlying architectural, performance, and economic issues yourself, and determine from there which model – if not both – makes sense for you.

Or in other words: ask for a continuance!

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