Behind Cloud Computing: SaaS Explained

April 4th, 2012 Leave a comment
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Behind Cloud Computing

Any developer that is just getting started in writing applications for the cloud can have trouble with the idea of software as a service (SaaS) when they are used to delivering software through traditional deployment methods. SaaS is becoming a popular and prevalent delivery method and it is easy to see how it can be confusing when we are used to on-premises applications and client install processes. So before you get too far into writing applications for the cloud, it is time to understand what Software as a Service means.

Software as a Service, or SaaS, is a software distribution model for on-demand software that is hosted in a centrally accessible location. The software is delivered to the user over a network either internally or through the Internet. This is achieved by putting together an infrastructure of development technologies that support Web services and service-oriented architecture (SOA). These SaaS applications will usually offer APIs that will allow the setup of access for internal systems such as databases. Typically, these protocols are based on HTTP, REST, SOAP and JSON. Not only will this allow your applications to share data but it will allow a centralized place for reporting and metrics as well.

There are many benefits to SaaS and few disadvantages, which is one of the main reasons it has become so popular. Instead of having to support an install-and-update relationship with their software like they had become accustomed, customers can now update more frequently since the software is centrally located and does not require any physical installation.

Most cloud applications are designed around the idea of multi-tenancy; where a single point of configuration is used for all users of the software. This model allows for a large amount of scalability and brings about several other benefits:

  • Easier administration since configurations are centrally located for all users
  • Automatic updates allow customers to use the most recent version of the software earlier
  • Better patch management allows for customers to have patches in the time it takes to restart the system
  • Better compatibility since all users are on the same version of the software
  • Easier collaboration since all files are stored in a centrally located place

All of this put together makes Software as a Service an easy sell for managers and IT people alike. For developers there is a whole other set of benefits:

  • Applications are hosted centrally so new releases can be swapped out without requiring the customer to install anything
  • The software has a single point for all configuration, which leads to easier testing
  • Application developers generally get access to all customer data, which allows for faster design and testing periods
  • Areas for improvement are easily identified through built-in user behavior tools

As you can see, there are not many downsides to using Software as a Service. For small- to medium-sized businesses, this delivery model can provide the best tools at a very attractive price since software is sold as a subscription fee instead of the traditional license plus support fees. Since there is only one centralized install point, the cost of setting up SaaS is usually lower than traditional software as well. Many business owners are finding that the SaaS software model has many benefits, lower costs and less headaches than the traditional model and are moving towards the cloud for their software needs. Here, at LearnComputer, we offer both cloud computing training and web services training, both of which combined will really get you up-to-speed on technologies that make up SaaS.

As more providers of cloud applications become available, I am sure we will see several new applications living in the cloud. For now, getting the skills you need to start writing these Software as a Service applications is critical as developers are in high demand.

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