In the early 1990’s, outsourcing became mainstream. It started with business critical application servers. Businesses didn’t have to have them in their office buildings anymore, but could free up expensive raised floor space and buy a resilient server park from someone else.
Then there came desktop outsourcing. You could buy a PC per persona, including an estimated number of help-tickets, printer services and fixes.
Then there was application management systems. No need to fix bugs in your applications anymore, since a service level agreement regulated upgrades, bugs and even more functionality. Gradually delivered by resources from other countries. At lower wages. At other shores. Offshoring, rightshoring, smartsourcing.
You could pay for someone to be your system integrator. But you paid for a snapshot of system integration. You still had to buy the software. To pay for the upgrades. Mind about the current version not being supported any longer, or not being compatible with the current version of other systems. You did not know if the software company would be bought or go bankrupt and the software discontinued.
Software as a Service appeared as a term in 2001. You shouldn’t have to worry about upgrades, server downtime, or expensive licenses. You could access software through a plug in the wall, like electricity, and pay for what you use, like electricity. But it’s still software.
Businesses don’t need software. They need functionality. They need to get a user authorized, to register order information, to do a calculation, to show a graph. They don’t want to worry about a product upgrade, or even know what the product name is. They just want the functionality, or service, to keep working as expected. And to define new functionality. Not to evaluate different products or solutions.
Vendors who can offer functionality as a service, that can guarantee that the interface offered will deliver results as expected, even if they had to change or upgrade products behind the scenes, answer the customer’s needs.
Cloud computing offers scalability at variable costs. It is a strong driver to enable vendors to realize functionality as a service. But they don’t today. They are offering infrastructure in the cloud, platform and applications in the cloud, but they don’t offer functionality as a service in the cloud.
When a customer can define user requirements and from these establish a set of standardized APIs or interfaces, and have these delivered as a service – a Service as a Service – that’s when customers truly can focus on their core business and let IT companies focus on theirs.
( I realize that the expression “Service as a service” has been used in other contexts – but I couldn’t help myself from using a catchy title.)