Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Have you ever wondered why some flavors of cloud computing (SaaS) are so successful while others (IPaaS = Infrastructure or Platform as a Service) are less (yet)? And what is cloudouflage?

Whenever possible I advocate for simplicity, therefore I’ll try to take the simple approach (a.k.a. naïve) to address these questions. Let’s see if I can limit myself to no more than 2 bullets a section.

It is very clear adoption of SaaS is exploding, regardless what numbers you are using (ballpark of $8 Bbbbbilion last year). While I could go through lengthy and intelligent description of all the reasons (including financials, agility, etc.), I want to focus on two which I find interesting:

1. It is just another website, not any different than Gmail
The usage model is very clear and simple. I open my browser, go to this website, and consume a service. Consumerization plays a big part here. Since the emergence of the web, consumer technologies are leading the way, while enterprise is a delayed copycat at best. Consumers are simply looking to consume a service, for everything they need there is an app for that. Similarly when consumer employees (http://shlomidinoor.blogspot.com/2010/01/we-are-all-consumer-employees.html) need a CRM service (e.g.), there is a cloud for that.

2. No IT involvement
In many cases no IT is required, not for setup nor maintenance. If something does not work you call customer support. Great for SMBs (with no internal IT expertise), and very convenient for Business in larger organizations believing no IT means No extra processes, No security policies, No regulations…

Looking at IPaaS we don’t see the same crazy adoption, numbers suggest it is $1B at best (a nice number but relative to its potential - not as impressive).

Notice: I’m bundling IaaS and PaaS together as I believe they will ultimately converge. We already see the IaaS vendors adding “platform” services and vice versa for PaaS vendors.

IPaaS is very different from SaaS:

1. Not really a packaged service but an infrastructure
Regardless of the “aaS” suffix, IaaS is providing “virtual machines/storage/…”, from a business perspective what can I do with it? It is a starting point not the end game, now something needs to be deployed, optimized, maintained, etc. Where is the SaaS magic (i.e. I open my browser and the service is there)?

2. IT involvement is inevitable
As the SaaS magic in nowhere to be found in the IPaaS reality, real work is required for setting up the virtual infrastructure. IT assistance is required (sorry Mr. Biz – no shortcuts for you…).

A simplistic representation where IaaS + PaaS converge into IPaaS, Biz uses SaaS directly (blue), and IPaaS through IT (green):

So what should happen in order to drive IPaaS adoption?

1. The peace pipe will finally be used
I will not attempt to elaborate beyond the many blogs, tweets, articles, presentations, etc. done on this topic. Eventually IPaaS vendors and IT/IS will agree on a common ground regarding control, transparency, security, regulations and such. As with any peace agreement both sides will have to compromise (yeah – BOTH sides).

2. Cloudouflage
There is still a lot of money being paid for IPaaS solutions, meaning organizations are using it for something. It does not come as a big surprise that the main use cases for IaaS today are dev & test, cloud burst, and high performance computing. They fit perfectly with IaaS characteristics. Yet, most of the setup/maintenance/support efforts are done ad hoc/manually/internally.
How can we leverage these use cases to exponentially increase the IPaaS usage?
That’s where cloudouflage comes into play. Wrapping IaaS with a relatively “thin” service layer will create an illusion (cloud-camouflage) for customers that they are consuming a packaged service rather than infrastructure (reminder - that’s what they want). Imagine a vendor providing a service to create and manage a catalog for demo environments. The management, configuration and meta data is the “thin” service layer, however whenever starting a demo environment, virtual machines are being created and built on top of the underlying IaaS solution. Same goes for dev & test.

Bottom line: while for anything consumers need there’s an app for that, the day will come where for every service organizations will need there will be a cloud for that. The time for Service as a Service has come!