Cloud Computing: IT as a Service

At PDC last week, I heard Microsoft utter the umbrella term: “IT as a Service” to describe their Cloud Computing direction. In short, ITaaS encompasses the three commonly-known ‘as a Service’ offerings:

  • IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service): Virtual, but logically-physical hardware. Servers in the sky that you can connect to remotely as though they were actual hardware. You expend a lot of effort into managing servers (imaging, patching, load-balancing, etc.), but have high flexibility as they support most types of existing applications you can deploy without rewriting or porting code. Amazon has capability in this space, as does VMWare.
  • PaaS (Platform as a Service): A virtual platform, where applications are deployed as services. You have next to no server management, and automagic scalability is built-in, but an existing application code must be ported to the new environment. Google AppEngine fits here, as does the application platform side of the Windows Azure Platform.
  • SaaS (Software as a Service): An application built atop a base application. Some allow only configuration (tailoring organization- and and user-specific information), while others have higher levels of UI customization opportunities; think adding applications to Facebook or customizing your iGoogle or MSN home pages. On the business size, is the big player in this place with their CRM application.

Looking at the features now available in the Windows Azure Platform update, Microsoft looks to have the broadest offering in Cloud Computing; while light on packaged SaaS platforms, they’re heavy in the application development space.

But, there’s more (there always is): The Microsoft offering has also taken familiar server-based applications into the cloud. Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office LiveMeeting and made them available as subscription services, wrapping them under the umbrella brand: the Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

Not to confuse the market with Darwinian brand evolution, Microsoft also announced Office 365, adding Office Professional Plus (web versions of Word, Excel, etc.) and Lync Online (unified communications) to the mix.

Like the rest of the cloud, the business model is pay-as-you-go and your IT Department don’t need to muck about with hardware for near-commodity application functionality.

Google is in the fray as well; Google Docs and GMail are Cloud alternatives for productivity applications and are mostly free for smaller organizations, although I found their documentation a bit daunting the last time I explored moving my domain there.

While there are several TCO analyses out there; grab one (or ping me and I’ll assist). Suffice to say: for energy (not) expended managing servers, cloud computing should be on the radar of all organizations.

About Michael Coates
I am a pragmatic evangelist. The products, services and solutions I write about fulfill real-world expectations and use cases. I stay up-to-date on real products I use and review, and share my thoughts here. I apply the same lens when designing an architecture, product or when writing papers. I am always looking for ways that technology can create or enhance a business opportunity .. not just technology for technology's sake. My CV says: Seasoned technology executive, leveraging years of experience with enterprise and integration architectural patterns, executed with healthy doses of business acumen and pragmatism. That's me. My web site says: Technology innovations provide a myriad of opportunities for businesses. That said, having the "latest and greatest" for its own sake isn't always a recipe for success. Business successes gained through exploiting innovation relies on analysis of how the new features will enhance your business followed by effective implementation. Goals vary far and wide: streamlining operations, improving customer experience, extending brand, and many more. In all cases, you must identify and collect the metrics you can apply to measure your success. Analysis must be holistic and balanced: business and operational needs must be considered when capitalizing on a new technology asset or opportunity.

One Response to Cloud Computing: IT as a Service

  1. Pingback: “Anything” as a Service (XaaS) .. you knew this was coming .. « OpsanBlog

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