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What's the Difference Between Cloud Computing and SaaS?

Every time I log into Facebook, or search for flights online, I am taking advantage of cloud computing

Praising Gaw's Blog

Every time I log into Facebook, or search for flights online, I am taking advantage of cloud computing. However, neither of these examples would be considered SaaS. According to Gartner, cloud computing is not just a buzzword; it does have a distinct meaning separate from SaaS.
Recently, I’ve noticed that a lot of vendors have started talking about “cloud computing” in their marketing materials. In many cases they’re referring to solutions that were previously called Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), which begs the question – what is the difference between these two terms, anyway? Is “cloud computing” simply a new industry buzzword with no real meaning? Or is there actually a difference between the two?

Fortunately, the analysts at Gartner helped to answer my question with a recent report that clearly addressed just this issue. According to them, cloud computing is not just a buzzword; it does have a distinct meaning separate from SaaS.

The way I understand it, “cloud computing” refers to the bigger picture…basically the broad concept of using the internet to allow people to access technology-enabled services. According to Gartner, those services must be “massively scalable” to qualify as true “cloud computing”. So according to that definition, every time I log into Facebook, or search for flights online, I am taking advantage of cloud computing. However, neither of these examples would be considered SaaS.

While most (but not all) Software-as-a-Service solutions fall under the larger cloud computing definition as “massively scalable”, they also have a number of other defining factors. First, SaaS is software that’s “owned, delivered, and managed remotely by one or more providers.” It also “allows a sharing of application processing and storage resources in a one-to-many environment…on a pay-for-use basis, or as a subscription.”

So, with all that said, I can clearly state that Fortiva is a SaaS solution using cloud computing…but does it really matter? At the end of the day it comes down to how well the solution meets the needs of the user, both from a feature-functionality, as well as from a total cost of ownership perspective. Whatever you want to call it, the benefits of SaaS solutions go well beyond the buzzwords that may be used to describe them. Understanding that is much more important than getting caught up in the terms marketers use to try to get customers’ attention.

[This post appeared originally here and is republished in full with the kind permission of the author.]

More Stories By Praising Gaw

Praising Gaw is VP of Marketing at Fortiva.

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Most Recent Comments
abramowski 03/10/09 09:08:00 AM EDT

One addition to your article would be a brief discussion of Platform as a Service (PaaS). This is a technology stack that lives between the Cloud infrastructure & the software as a service application. Every software application must have an environment that runs that software. The environment is made up of web servers, application servers, database servers, search servers, etc. All of this needs to be wrappered together with managed services like application level monitoring, backups and continuous improvement. This is the PaaS layer.

Simple Difference 07/17/08 05:44:37 AM EDT

Cloud computing serves *developers & companies* who develop software and services. SaaS serves *end users* who use software.

Brian de Haaff 07/15/08 06:51:44 PM EDT

There sure is a lot of confusion when it comes to talking about cloud computing. Yet, it does not need to be so complicated. There really are only three types of services that are cloud based: SaaS, PaaS, and Cloud Computing Platforms. I am not sure being massively scalable is a requirement to fit into any one category. We recently published a blog post on this subject with the purpose of simplifying the discussion via images and cutting through the confusion.

You can read about it here - "The ASP is dead, long live the Cloud"


Brian de Haaff,

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