I've always been wary of the term software-as-a-service, not only because SaaS is such an ugly acronym, but also because it conveys completely the wrong message. It gives the impression that all you need to do is take any old software package, run it up on a server in a data center, do a bit of financial engineering so customers can pay on a monthly plan, and hey presto! you've got an on-demand application. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I think it's time to coin a new acronym that nails that model much more accurately: Same old Software, as a Service. This makes it easy to identify on-demand applications that are not worthy of the name— they're just SoSaaS.
Conventional application software simply isn't built for the on-demand model. It doesn't have the same economies of scale, agility and extensibility, and its implementation-centric architecture makes it incapable of delivering equivalent business value — as I'll be demonstrating in the coming months in this blog. Any vendor that takes their existing software and simply delivers it as an online service just doesn't get it— and their on-demand offering will inevitably be much slower, less flexible and more expensive than rivals that have rearchitected their applications afresh for the on-demand model.
Knowing this makes it very easy to detect whether a vendor's on-demand offering has any validity. Simply listen to what their executives say. Here's Bruce Cleveland, Siebel's new senior vice president of products, who also oversees Siebel's OnDemand hosted CRM offerings, talking a few days ago about "supplying our products in an on-demand form factor" (huh?):
"... the fact of the matter is that this is all software and it's only the deployment options and financial vehicles that are used to deliver them that have changed."
Oh dear. Sounds like a severe case of SoSaaS to me.