Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Cloud vs. SaaS

Is Cloud software SaaS?

Does SaaS mean Cloud software?

Does anyone really know?

Why are there 2 different terms?

I've worked in the software and information technology industry for most of my career.  I've seen things evolve from green-screen terminals connected to IBM mainframes to dispersed systems within singular buildings to metropolitan areas to global usage. The hardware and subsequently the software used to communicate in a business setting has grown beyond imagination. It's all been about speed. Computing hardware has gotten smaller and faster each year.  The power in your smart phone today is greater than the power that helped lift the first Space Shuttle into orbit!

Along with local hardware speed increases, the connectivity of devices has increased speed - aka  bandwidth - as well.  This has allowed more and bigger things to be distributed farther.

Enter - The Cloud.

The Cloud is a catchy name for large computer servers & data centers connected to high-speed networks.  Running a majority of a program from locations like this allows for end-point software to be much smaller.  For example, take a look at your Office / Word folders compared to your Chrome folder.  There's probably a 5 to 10 fold difference in size.  Because most of what Chrome does exists outside your local computer, and Word resides pretty much wholly on your computer. (Yes, 365 changes that in some cases.) This is how a smart phone operates with much smaller memory sizes for program storage. Most of what a phone does happens outside the device, while it acts as a "display" for the information you want or need to see.

For some older IT types, this sounds pretty familiar.  It's similar to what mainframe computers used to do, with phones being analogous to a terminal.  The difference? Speed. We've developed faster devices that can provide more information in a shorter time along with including rich graphics and pictorial information.  Today's Internet speeds are hundreds of times faster than mainframe speeds were.  It's like flying a modern jet fighter versus walking.

So The Cloud is just ... storage. A high-speed hard drive, but just storage nonetheless.

How is that different than SaaS? 

Software As A Service is a concept that has come about because of the ease of distribution of software on today's networks. The SaaS concept changes the purchasing paradigm  of software to favor the end-user.  But it can be harder on the provider.   SaaS software is a subscription.  A magazine vs. a novel/book.  By purchasing a subscription costs are kept lower and easier to manage. The subscription is maintained in a Cloud location.  A single location that helps the provider manage how the program runs. No need to compensate for disparate hardware or varying underlying operating systems. Simplicity.

The end-user gets more flexibility and a bit of security because the provider now takes care of the program.  So updates are done without the end-user needing to be an IT expert.  And the end-user can leave (stop paying) at any time.

This is the hard part about the subscription model.  Because the purchaser can simply ... stop, the pressure is on the provider to keep them happy, keep them loyal, keep them paying. This is a relationship and not simply a transaction. It's not hard to do - we're people, and people are relational beings.

This is the way business should work: 

a relationship between provider and consumer.

For many companies, it's easier to think of consumers as entries on a spreadsheet.  Numbers. Dollars.  And they don't understand that their customers should be part of the relationship that keeps their business running. They're partners in a little pond, no matter how big the pond is. 

This can change. The consumers have the power; chose not to do things the same old way. To pay "too much." Change the paradigm on their own terms... to change the world.

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