The problem with buzzwords is that, by their very nature, they get overused and overextended and eventually lose all meaning altogether. And then people still use those buzzwords and it irritates me. It’s kind of like people who use big words to sound erudite. It’s pretentious and usually it’s a feeble attempt to obfuscate their ignorance. </sarcasm>
Today I’m going to pick on SaaS: Software as a Service. It’s a blatant relabeling of ASP. I read an article where the writer extols the superiority of the SaaS model over the ASP model — as if the inherent business models and not execution, available technology, and market conditions spelled failure for ASPs and imminent success for any company that promotes SaaS.
The first set of lame arguments: “ASPs were not necessarily concerned about providing shared services to multiple tenants.” and that ASPs lacked “the required amount of application and business domain knowledge regarding the applications they were running.” The first argument is a bit contradictory: so if an ASP isn’t concerned with providing shared services to multiple tenants, does that mean that it’s providing shared services to one tenant — so the one tenant is sharing it with…whom precisely? Seems more like a pathetic ASP that could only find one customer than the standard model by which ASPs operated. And since when is an ASP defined as a business that’s run by people who don’t know the business they’re serving? That’s just a bad business. I’m certain there are SaaS businesses that are similarly run by people without “the required amount of…knowledge”
The second set of lame arguments state that ASPs had simple HTML interfaces whereas SaaS solutions are better because they’re designed specifically for the web. Look, if you could write a simple HTML interface in 1997 that meant you were building something specifically for the web. Just because developers have access to a far richer set of web client tools and capabilities now than were available 10 years ago doesn’t indicate a better business model. It indicates better tools. ASPs in ’97 and today’s SaaS solutions both use web technology. The difference isn’t the model, it’s the tools.
Finally, the writer argues that ASPs rushed their products to market before taking into consideration “performance, security, customization and integration issues”. This is a corollary to one of the first arguments. And my counter is the same: ASPs aren’t defined by how products are released to market. They’re defined by what they sell and how they sell not how well they sell. Any company that rushes a product to market without concern for their infrastucture is in trouble.
Both ASP and SaaS vendors sell software that’s delivered to the customer over the Internet from a vendor’s data center. This data center infrastructure is shared across many of the vendor’s customers and is even frequently shared by many different vendors. Any nuanced differences between ASPs and SaaS solutions are not only marginal, but usually not even understood by the suits spouting these buzzwords. So do me a favor, quit worrying about what something’s called and try to actually say something meaningful. Thanks.