Traditionally, companies that have a need for certain kind of software application went to software vendors in order to purchase an application that had to be installed and configured by employees. Some company’s may have budgets constraints that don’t allow them to invest in large application with huge costs. May also happen that the company wanted only to use that application for a reduced usage, and so that the investment of money on that application couldn’t be exploited at all. This issue can be worst if we think about the number of man-hours required to configure and prepare this new application and also when we count the money needed to purchase new infrastructure to host this software.
On the other hand, nowadays Cloud Computing is the most important sub-sector of the IT industry. It allows instant access to computing resources hosted “on the cloud”. Thus, organizations with limited resources and without so much knowledge about technological infrastructures, can rely on it in order to dynamically adjust the available resources for the deployment and working of their applications.
SaaS ( Software as a Service) is an innovative approach that can be held thanks to cloud computing. It is increasing its popularity in an incredible high speed and in 2010 about 30 percent of the software sales were performed under this model. Salesforce.com of Google Apps are two popular examples of SaaS solutions in the market.
SaaS allows enterprises can offer in a faster, cheaper and more efficient way big amount of services to users. At the same time, users can access easily to that services without having to perform complex installations and configurations. In addition to this, they can take profit of transparency and instantaneity of the system while using a pay for use (consumption) model. This model avoids paying hugely expensive licenses by users that couldn’t take enough return for the paid price in a traditional model.
Some of the main advantages of this kind of approach are the following:
- Low risk and flexibility in case of the application don’t satisfy you needs or if you stop using it. Contracts are like a renting.
- Software can be easily upgraded to latest version without having to install anything and most of the times these upgrades are included on the service.
- You don’t have to pay a big amount of money at the beginning because you will be paying accordingly with your usage.
- No maintenance is needed. Thus, employers using the software can focus on their work instead of dedicating time to installations, configurations and solving breakdowns.
Cloud computing relies on an infrastructure with high-level of automatisation, flexible and with enough scalability for growth. In addition to this, cloud computing can provide High Performance Computing (HPC) in an efficient way thanks to the new process parallelization and data-distribution algorithms.
In order to deploy some application on the cloud, another cloud computing ‘layer’ is needed: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), that is based on delivering computation and storage capacity as services in the network. According to this, companies like Amazon Web Services, take profit of their infrastructure by means of virtualisation, offering corresponding APIs for its use. A clear example of this kind of services is EC2 (Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud ), which provides IT capacity in an elastic way, allowing the user to pay for the capacity he uses.
Users can consume all the services offered by the platform through light graphical interfaces usually accessed from a Web browser. According to this, user requests and obtained results pass through the network establishing a communication between the user machines and the servers where services are deployed.
Important elements for this model of software delivery are the Identity management systems and the monitoring and billing modules. These modules allow managing the consumption of services by each user in order to make a good invoicing for them.
More and more software providers are offering SaaS. But from the point of view of traditional software enterprise is not always easy to make this step. In order to this several other organisations (i2Cat among them) have started to offer technical support and focused designs for the deployment of concrete software solutions on the cloud. Thanks to this, the number of SMEs considering offering their services as SaaS is growing at supersonic speed.