Regardless of whether one believes that Darwinian evolution is how the species of this planet came to be, most will agree that the premise and underlying structure of evolution is both powerful and to some degree measurable in the real world. One of the most important things to ask IS “Why study history and why attempt to understand the underpinnings of our origins?” The answer, in my opinion, is simple: we study history to mitigate risk in the present and future, and build on a foundation of measurable results. That said, understanding how SaaS came to be, and where it’s heading with the powerful concepts of the SaaS Platform and ecosystem. This complements one of my earlier posts regarding the categorization of SaaS, and I’m definitely looking for input as I view the unfolding of these definitions a communal effort.
I find that diagrams do a much better job at explaining concepts rather than multiple paragraphs of banter. As a result, I’ve put together a brief overview of how I see the evolution of SaaS unfolding. The evolutionary variable (measured over time) is how SaaS was/is implemented:
The timeline focuses how SaaS (On Demand) implementations have changed. Generally, implementation can be hidden from a user, but that’s not always the case. For example, a “streamed” application like Office 2007, while it would fall under the category On Demand, is far different than say Zoho’s web office, both from the implementation standpoint and the viewpoint of the end user. Looking at the timeline, however, one underlying theme is present: overtime, implementations converge to abstraction. We see this all the time in the IT industry, whether it’s the operating system abstracting the hardware layer (HAL), development languages such as C# and Java abstracting away some of the more difficult concepts such as memory management, our industry noticeably thrives on simplifying through abstraction. This is how we become more efficient, less vulnerable; abstraction helps us become a well-oiled machine and helps the end user see more and more value. With this abstraction also comes the ability to harness it as a common ground through concepts such as valuable SaaS ecosystems. Prior to platform and platform-esque implementations, the concept of the ecosystem would have been overly difficult to introduce and implement correctly. The evolution of SaaS is continually refining the various SaaS species to be more in-tune with the long term, ensuring that it’s here to survive the long haul (short of a catastrophic asteroid landing, of course).
SaaS is continually pushing towards a day where both use and development of SaaS applications is easier. Nonetheless, many of the early SaaS successes (Salesforce.com, WebEx, RightNow, etc.) were the precursors to this abstraction, which is something that the industry should value since they laid the groundwork for moving forward and turning SaaS into a viable delivery mechanism. Now, these same industry leaders are trying to move into a more abstract space with their own product-centric platform introductions. While they may succeed, history has shown us that it’s not the oldest species that survives, but the smartest, and these companies are going to face a slew of new SaaS platform players. These SaaS players are looking to enable the next-generation of applications for the enterprise, and hope to carry the genetics of SaaS but leave those early species behind with the dinosaurs.read more