As A Service, Cloud Services Defined

I recently turned to my long suffering fiancee and requested that she deliver me BaaS (Breakfast As A Service) every morning. The request wasn’t well received, and neither was the long winded explanation about how everything else is available as a service these days, so why not breakfast.  Needless to say, I have been making breakfast for weeks.

AAS (As A Service) is one of those marketing tag lines which seems to have taken hold and gained great tracking across the IT industry. Perhaps the most prominent of these is SaaS – Software As A Service. In this post, we’re going to explore where this paradigm has come from and we’ll look at some of the more visible acronyms out there.

From Product to Service

Historically, the majority of Information Technology was provided to organisations by software development companies, who would create products and then sell licenses to use those products. The products would be delivered and installed on site and hosted by the organisation on the hardware available at the customer’s location.In cloud computing circles, this is also referred to as “on-premise”.  Due to the capacity of public networks (i.e. the internet) it was difficult to remotely host business applications, the performance just wasn’t available to make it viable.

In more recent years, endless reels of fibre networks have been deployed, upgraded and then upgraded again. This has made the possibility of remotely hosting services infintely more feasible. In addition, propritary middleware technologies are being slowly replaced by universal integration technologies such as web services, making it much easier to componentize capabilty and deploy it in different locations.

This has enabled service providers to start migrating services “off-premise” and into the cloud. By doing this, there is no longer a requirement to install, administrate or maintain software at the customer premises. Developers are no longer selling an off the shelf package, but a service which can be instantly provisioned, used and then stopped at will.

Why Is a Service Better?

There are many benefits to implementing capability as a service rather than a traditional product, but clearly one of the, main drivers for adoption of cloud and AAS implementations is cost.  If you have one data-centre, with 3 admins, running an information service for 20 companies, this is obviously going to cost much less to run than 20 data-centres with 2 admins each. By consolidating software and sharing the underlying solution stack between several organisations the benefits are immediate, visible and significant.

In addition to the inherent efficiencies of shared environments, the recent economic battering the whole world has received has made upfront capital investment much more hard to come by. From an accounting perspective, product purchases would be charged under Capital Expenditure (CAPEX). This means that the product would be considered an asset of the company that would degrade in value over time.  By purchasing the same capability as a service, the charge becomes an expense and is filed under Operational Expenditure (OPEX). OPEX charges can be offset against profits usually come in smaller chunks. They usually entail much smaller upfront payments, are easier to budget for and can take some of the hassle out of the procurement process.

Service popularity = Users Happy = IT Dept Happy =  Finance Happy = Management Happy

A Service Solution Stack

Regardless of whether on or off premise, In order to provision an information service, there are various layers of services which must be provided. Let’s look at an additive model of how the layers may be loosely defined.

At the bits and bytes end of the spectrum we have the actual hardware that the upper services will run on and the capabilities that hardware provides (e.g. storage, processing power, networking). Moving up the stack, we then have a group of infrastructure related services, these may include the management of machines and processors along with other capabilities such as high-availability, disaster recovery and virtualization. Moving even further up the stack, we then have our operating systems and also other software that facilitates our business applications, this will be referred to as the platform, example components in the platform layer may include Windows, Linux, SQL server, Microsoft SharePoint, etc. At the top end of our service stack we have our application software, this software utilizes the lower layers to provide it’s functionality.

If you read through the preceding paragraph you may notice some widely used AAS terms in bold, hardware, infrastructure, platform and software.

On the left of the image above you can see the following acronyms:

  • HaaS – Hardware As A Service
  • IaaS – Infrastructure As A Service
  • PaaS – Platform As A Service
  • SaaS – Software As A Service

The definition of layers provided is by no means fixed and depending on who you talk to, components may shift up or down a layer. Each layer requires the lower layers in order to function and there are a variety of providers who will provide access at different layers. This does not mean that if you want to use a certain piece of software as a service, that you also need to buy all of the lower supporting services individually. As a SaaS subscriber you will automatically get the underlying service in the price you pay for the application you use at the top end. You have however, decide that you just want to use a PaaS and develop/implement your own software applications on top of it.

These groupings cover the majority of offers out there today, you have here of others, but all will fit loosely fit into the categories above, Some more you may here include:

  • DaaS – Desktop As A Service – This sites somewhere in-between IaaS and PaaS
  • XaaS – Everything As A Service – The clue is in the title.
  • Another SaaS – Storage As A Service.
  • Another SaaS – Security As A Service.

Security As A Service is one of the most interesting. As your data moves to the cloud, the relevant and appropriate protections which you currently provide on-premise will have to move their too. Cloud Security is an emerging area with several vendors migrating capability there.  Cloud Security is pretty much embryonic today, but I see it rapidly gaining traction. That concludes the article Cloud Security is a whole world of tangents that I’m not going to slip into just yet.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>