Although Infrastructure-as-a-Service gets most of the attention, Software-as-a-Service is the cloud service modality making the most difference to enterprise and consumer application markets. IaaS, as the most fundamental service modality, is by nature “vanilla” and protean – anything you might need computing infrastructure for, from High-Performance Computing to elastic web hosting, can be deployed in the cloud.
That’s part of the problem. Most business processes are replicable across different enterprises. Companies don’t want to have to reinvent the wheel to deploy customer relationship management tools or enterprise resource management software. They want ready-made solutions that are flexible enough to meet their needs, but don’t require development from scratch — a no-ops approach to software deployment. Software-as-a-Service is perfect for that, and it’s why SaaS companies like Salesforce are experiencing a boom, as is the SaaS startup market.
When we think of the cloud, SaaS and IaaS usually go hand in hand — with SaaS applications deployed on IaaS platforms. There are certainly advantages to doing it that way, but there’s no real reason that SaaS applications have to be deployed on IaaS platforms. The applications themselves do not require the virtualization layer — a bare-metal cloud can run them just as well and in most cases better. As we’ve discussed before, IaaS imposes a virtualization tax; it’s highly elastic, but in terms of performance, reliability, and availability, it usually works out more expensive for applications that don’t require by-the-hour scalability.
Once the assumed conceptual link between SaaS and IaaS is broken, it becomes possible to step back and think about the best hosting solution for cloud-based applications — for the vast majority of web apps the answer is the same as it is for web sites: bare-metal clouds or dedicated server clusters are more efficient, better performing, and more economical.
Software-as-a-Service was the fastest growing cloud modality among small and medium businesses and there’s a good reason for that. There’s a lot of marketing hype around the benefits of the cloud, particularly around IaaS platforms like AWS, but most companies don’t need what IaaS offers.
Companies need ready-made solutions that they can deploy quickly without the overhead of development, testing, and infrastructure management. Software-as-a-Service fits the bill.
Software-as-a-Service application developers need a platform that delivers every ounce of the performance they pay for, they need that to be delivered over the long-term, and they need a control interface that will make it easy to deploy servers and scale.
While Infrastructure-as-a-Service has its place in the enterprise, it’s not the best fit for Software-as-a-Service deployments. Dedicated servers clustered with an advanced control interface, a bare-metal cloud, provides the performance, reliability, and economics that best fit the SaaS use case.
Image: Flickr/Cory M Genier