Cloud computing can come in many forms. It could be launched as a purely platform services wherein the cloud computing vendor will be there to act as a webhost, a vendor that providers functions to be developed by the enterprise or as a framework for developing powerful RIAs (Rich Internet Application).
Each provides advantage and limitations to the enterprise which dictates the different versions of cloud computing applications and form of development. Businesses usually take considerable time and resources in choosing the right vendor. If they choose to localize cloud computing, more resources and preparation will be done to ensure correct use of cloud computing.
But the development of cloud computing will not be possible without one form of cloud computing: software as a service or SaaS. This form of cloud computing could practically define what cloud computing generally is. SaaS is basically a form of cloud computing that launches software in the cloud (internet) which will be later used as a service.
Cloud computing was formed to cater to the demands of the businesses which is practically the need of the enterprise. Although there are data storage needed in cloud computing, the ability to process the data without the need of local installation could only be provided by cloud computing. Software as a Service caters to these demands by launching application with business specific purposes online.
Characteristics in Software as a Service
Although the basic definition of cloud computing could also be used in Software as a Service, there are basic differences SaaS have when compared to other forms of cloud computing.
• Network or Online Access – SaaS is an online application or at least, a network based application. Users will never need any installation in their local gadgets which is connected to the local network or the internet. Usually, the application is launched through a browser which could provide access not only to the application but additional services from the vendor.
• Centralized Management – control, monitoring and update could be done in a single location. The businesses that maintain the application will never need to manually make some changes in the local gadget but would provide improvement instead on the online application.
• Powerful Communication Features – Software as a Service is not only based on the fact that it provides functions for online processing, it also has powerful communication features. The mere fact that SaaS is often used online provides a strong backbone for Instant Messaging (Chat) or even voice calls (VOIP).
Advantages/Disadvantages of SaaS
Software as a Service is geared towards specific type of business. Although they can easily work in most enterprise settings, there are certain requirements SaaS would have that make it undesirable for some businesses.
• Powerful Internet Connection Required – although connection online is available almost everywhere, the rate of connection is never the same. Some areas can’t provide strong internet connection and SaaS (as an online application) will have to load everything in the browser. The expected function might not even move forward without strong internet connectivity.
• Increased Security Risk – attacks are highly likely if everything is launched online. This is probably the most challenging part in SaaS and in Cloud Computing industry. SaaS has increase security concerns compared to other platforms because of its consistent interaction with different users.
• Load Balancing Feature – one of the challenges the business would face in cloud computing and all SaaS applications is load balancing. Although industry giants offer load balancing, it will still require consistent monitoring from businesses.
API and Mash-ups in SaaS
SaaS is getting better and better as new trends in the industry are slowly being implemented. Among the trends in cloud computing is the powerful integration of API or Application Programming Interface. Although SaaS could provide the functionality the business needs, upgrades are important to keep up with the demands. Instead of changing the application, businesses will just add an API in their application. The integration is easy and maximum efficiency of the additional function is expected.
Mash-up is another trend seen in SaaS which is a technique in combining two powerful applications. Although this is first used in Platform as a Service, new development techniques especially in RIA (Rich Internet Application) has made mash-ups a possibility. Although it might have increased insecurity a little bit, it will ultimately provide more functions.