Why not sell SOA as 'internal' SaaS?

With SOA, Web services, and SaaS, we can all be both publishers and consumers of services. That's the beauty of it all.

Have you heard about SOA as a SaaS? Okay, sorry to go haywire with the acronyms. 

Ian Thomas picked up on my initial post "Is SOA Software as a Service, Delivered Internally?", and has been pondering where the relationship between SOA and SaaS will take us.

SaaS pushes the right buttons in terms of reuse, economies of scale, standardization and cost transparency -- providing a frame of reference for SOA

For the most part, Ian disagrees with the idea that SOA is actually SaaS embedded within the enterprise, and, therefore, he says, the answer to the question "Is SOA SaaS, Delivered Internally?" is "no." SOA is weighted down by heavy internal enterprise infrastructures, while SaaS offers far nimbler and cost-effective third-party service options, he says.

In my initial post, I posited that SOA is, for all intents and purposes, a form of SaaS delivered inside the corporate walls. For starters, it's a great elevator speech to help line-of-business managers grasp the SOA concept, but there's much more value beyond that.

Rather than building, maintaining, or delivering their own services, business units subscribe to services from a publisher somewhere else in the enterprise (SOA), or outside the enterprise (SaaS built to SOA specs). Someone else worries about upgrades, maintenance and testing; you consume the service, and pay on some pay-as-you use arrangement. That's SOA; that's also Software as a Service.

Ian does agree that framing an SOA pitch to business managers as an "internal SaaS" is an idea that has merit:

"Many people now get SaaS - 'I’m buying something that I can get more quickly  and more cheaply and which makes my life easier' - whereas SOA is still a pretty ephemeral concept for most. SaaS pushes the right buttons in terms of reuse, economies of scale, standardization and cost transparency that I feel are absolute imperatives for the organization of the future and gives us a frame of reference to start moving the conversation up the value chain to business services."

As the SOA-SaaS interplay gains critical mass, Ian predicts that the outside services -- which have greater economies of scale and value propositions -- will overtake internally delivered services. "As organizations increasingly grasp the concepts of service provision - driven by SOA, ITIL and SaaS - they will need to grapple with the idea that as a service provider they will need to deliver services quickly, cheaply and reliably with inclusive service management, reporting, billing etc. in order to be competitive. As a result, organizations will unlikely be able to sustain   expensive, bespoke and plodding enterprise infrastructures and will start to look at external utility computing platforms."

Looking further into the future, Ian predicts that ultimately, enterprises will be subscribing to "Business as a Service" (BaaS) propositions, in which they "construct an overall value chain rather than just buy software." I agree, and have posted some thoughts on the emerging "Loosely Coupled Enterprise" that SOA-SaaS is making possible.

But will enterprises simply end up entirely on the consuming side of business services? What if part of their core business (no matter what industry) becomes service provision as well? We may see the rise of 'Intrapreneurial' SaaS, in which corporate units (probably, but not limited to, IT) that build, maintain, test, and offer libraries of SOA-enabled services for consumption either by customers within the organization, as well as external customers willing to pay for those services on an incremental basis. 

With SOA, Web services, and SaaS, we can all be both publishers and consumers of services. That's the beauty of it all. 

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