Adrian Jakeman | 12 September 2008
You have probably noticed that several new buzzwords have been circulating in our industry for a little while now. Software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and ‘cloud computing’ have been dropped into many conversations seemingly interchangeably.
If you really want to add confusion, you can stir into the mix the new Microsoft projects with interesting names like Red Dog, Zurich, BizTalk Services and SQL Server Data Services. What are we to make of all these new initiatives and what impacts will there be on the way we write and use software?
I'm off to the Professional Developer Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles at the end of October to help answer some of those questions, but for now let's try to simplify what could be seen in an overly complex way.
There is little doubt that the move towards 'cloud computing' is a major change to the IT industry. The way in which developers are going to be able to write applications that run in the cloud or that use services that are provided from the cloud is going to radically affect the way we access software applications.
We are all happy to accept that traditional on-premise applications are written to take advantage of pre-existing software and hardware. After all, if a developer had to write a new operating system, a database system or storage systems every time he/she wanted to write a new application, we wouldn't see many new applications!
It perhaps shouldn't be too much of a leap of faith to accept that this will be the case with cloud-based applications. With vendor driven services (such as Red Dog, Zurich, BizTalk Services and SQL Server Data Services) developers are given the building blocks for writing new applications that will run in the cloud.
So, what will developers and users be able to do once 'cloud computing' gets up to speed? The answer to that can really be given in three different ways:
- Firstly, using SaaS applications, on-premise users will use browsers or other simple clients to access applications which run entirely in the cloud. e.g. Dynamics CRM Online
- Secondly, developers could make use of services based in the cloud to write SaaS applications that run either in the cloud or on-premise. e.g. SharePoint Online
- Finally, end users will make use of additional functionality for existing on-premise applications via attached services running in the cloud. e.g. Exchange Hosted Services
I'm pretty confident that in 3-5 years time, developers and end users will have embraced this new way to write and use software applications. Organisations will have embraced it too - the cost savings alone will probably help in this area! While there are still some pieces of the jigsaw missing from what can be offered from the cloud at the moment, this is bound to change so that we see the full range of on-premise application functionality becoming available from the cloud.
There will be much more to tell after PDC.