aaS – “as a Service”


Last Wednesday, I happened to listen to an interesting talk on “The Cloud” by Matt Chastain ( @packetB0y ) a cloud SE at Cisco Systems, during the one-day Cisco Networkers event at New Brunswick in New Jersey. As he started to introduce the “actors” in the cloud and the types of cloud, there emerged a common theme, once restricted to just the SPI Model for the cloud computing services – “as a Service”. As the relevance of cloud and its associated offerings started to grow, so did the definition of the term, aaS. It began to be more widely used for anything cloud related. Let me begin with three of those original terms collectively known under the SPI Model

SaaS – Software as a Service
Knowingly or unknowingly, this is perhaps the most widely used service, from the common consumer models such as the web operating systems like chromeOS, and music delivery platforms like Pandora and Spotify to more business related models such as Citrix GotoMeeting and Cisco WebEx. Any application that is managed by a third party delivered across a network to the clients can be grouped under this service.

IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service
As data started to become more and more prevalent and its storage and analytics began to gain importance, so did the need for cheap computing power. The ability to provide a cost effective means to manage applications, data and messaging systems became a niche that organizations would much rather pay to use than setting up their own. Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Compute Engine (GCE) provided just that. Often times, these services are also availed when an organization has a requirement for temporary compute power. Investing in a plethora of services, network infrastructure and storage, during those times can be extremely expensive, when IaaS platforms can provide a cheaper alternative to setup and tear down virtual infrastructure on a case by case basis.

PaaS – Platform as a Service
This was perhaps an after-thought of SaaS to provide a solution over the cloud and is often used interchangeably with SaaS in a lot of use cases. It could vary from common tools such as office 365 or iCloud to a more exhaustive suite such as a webOS such as ChromeOS. PaaS aids in collaboration across geographically spread out teams and organizations.

As cloud became more and more prevalent, several other solutions and services started to be termed under the same umbrella. I must admit, every one of these terms have overlaps and one can argue that they can still fit into one of the original three. But marketing has its own ways to portray distinctions. Let me list down some of the terms I happened to hear during the talk,

DCaaS – Data Centre as a Service
This refers to hosting an entire datacenter for organizations more as an extension to IaaS. Companies such as Sun Gard, provide disaster recovery sites to various organizations that do not want to spent the money to invest on data centers which will be used only during those rare occasions such as Hurricane Sandy.

ITaaS – Information Technology as a Service
Also used alongside “Help Desk as a Service”, this was a term coined recently to market those “service oriented” companies in the past, including “call centers”.

More followed suit as MaaS (Metal as a Service for automated bare metal provisioning or Monitoring as a Service for data center monitoring services), NaaS (Network as a Service), DRaaS (Disaster Recovery as a Service) and CaaS (Communication as a Service) started to be used more widely. Soon came the concept of “Everything as a Service” (EaaS) or “Anything as a Service” (XaaS). As it starts to get more and more “cloudy”, I foresee an emergence of several more of these terms and soon “as a Service” will become a household term. Let me leave you with an interesting talk on “LaaS – Life as a service”. Make sure you turn on the subtitles.