What is “as a Service”?

The big trend for 2012 will be “as a Service” (aaS). Of course, this is part of the jargon for cloud computing which includes PaaS, IaaS and SaaS.

Let me explain.

If we consider our in-house servers of yesterday, we had one physical box running one physical server. In more recent times we have added a layer of virtulisation to run multiple servers on one physical box – leading to greater efficiencies and better redundancies. Now we are moving those physical servers out of our own offices and into data centers to get more secure physical locations and better access to high bandwidth data.

The next step from this co-located hardware environment is private cloud solutions where we no longer own the hardware but simply lease what we need by the virtual slice of a larger system.

There is a logical progression from IaaS to PaaS to SaaS.

IaaS is Infrastructure as a Service. In this model, we connect to a shared set of servers and make us of a virtual server platform, install our own operating system, and manage the applications installed on that frame. This has us responsible for everything except the hardware and virtualisation layer. Possibly, we are still managing the backup at this level of outsourcing.

PaaS is Platform as a Service, where you use someone else’s infrastructure and operating system, and simply add your applications and data to that platform. This removes much of the management responsibility for keeping your environment up-to-date but leaves you managing the application and software versions – possibly including the runtime environments and still taking responsibility for the backup.

SaaS is the ultimate cloud destination as far as I am concerned. Software as a Service offers us the connect-and-use facility. We are responsible only for paying our subscription and remembering our password. We then connect and use without managing our infrastructure, data, backup, run time, virtulisation or anything. Any upgrades required a managed by the vendor – we just log on and use the tool. Our account ensures we, and only we, gain access to our personal data. The system automatically backs up that data and we can forget about management of the systems.

Today there are SaaS solutions for many of the tools we stress about, and in 2012 many companies – from two employees to 200,000 – will consider changing.

Even if you didn’t comprehend the differences above, or if you aren’t sure what they all mean for you, it is well worth talking to your IT strategist about how you might save money and improve your IT systems this year by connecting to a TaaS (Technology as a Service) solution. There are now plenty of case studies for TasS available, and plenty of advisors who can help you take advantage of cloud technology.

There are also lots of hybrid solutions that make use of your technology already in place, but allow you to extend capabilities by adding TaaS parts to your existing infrastructure. Certainly in 2012 it’s time to ask what leverage we can gain from the clouds.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.


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