Thursday, May 29, 2008

SaaS Soup: Navigating the "as a Service" Acronyms: CaaS, DaaS, DBaaS, PaaS, SaaS, XaaS

Ever wonder what all the "aaS" acronyms mean? Do you want to understand how they relate to each other? This blog entry will help. I have created a map of many of the "as a Service" terms you will see in IT and have grouped them according to category. I have also provided an explanation and links for further reading for each so you can quickly come up to speed on all. 
I put this together because I am working on the second edition of a visual map of the SaaS, PaaS, and Cloud Computing industries that I released last month. In order to make progress on that map, I found I needed to have a better understanding of all of the common categories in the "as a Service" market. The map in this blog entry has a different focus - instead of mapping out industry players I am mapping out industry terminology. Both maps complement each other.

Map of the "as a Service" Terms

This graphic shows the groupings of the "as a Service" terms that you may encounter in the IT industry. Click the map for a larger view.


Top Level IT Service Categories

This section lists the primary categories around computing as a service. These categories serve as the larger buckets into which we will place the finer grained "as a Service" terms.


Hardware as a Service
Humans as a Service
  • What: service offerings that primarily require humans beings to deliver (aka professional services)
  • Not an industry term, but necessary to properly categorize some of the "as a Service" offerings
  • OK, I don't mean prostitution wise guy


Platform as a Service
  • What: hosted software that serves as a platform for building SaaS offerings
  • There are different types of PaaS products, and sometimes HaaS products are mistakenly called PaaS
  • Some PaaS products may be optionally deployed on HaaS products such as Amazon's EC2
  • Examples of PaaS:, Bungee Connect, Google App Engine, Etelos, QuickBase, LongJump, Apprenda SaaSGrid


Software as a Service
  • What: in its most generic form, any software offered remotely as a service. Since this definition includes the entire world wide web, there are generally agreed on criteria for SaaS products to narrow the scope:
    • Primarily business software
    • Usage based pricing (pay as you go) with no long term contracts
    • Delivered over the internet, primarily via a browser
    • Managed by the ISV that developed the application (as opposed to the former ASP model)
  • Wikipedia: SaaS
  • Alternate form: Microsoft has pushed the term "S+S", which is a SaaS solution paired with on-premise software

List of "as a Service" Terms

This section lists many terms you will find referring to a "as a Service" offering in the IT industry. They are organized by acronym - sometimes the same acronym may refer to multiple terms. For each term, a few links are provided for further reading.


Backup as a Service


Communications as a Service
Compliance as a Service
Content as a Service (aka Content On Demand)
  • Category: SaaS  (note it may directly employ Storage as a Service for the actual storage of the docs)
  • What: offering a hosted content repository, including workflow, versioning, checkin/checkout
Crimeware as a Service
Computing as a Service
CRM as a Service


Data as a Service
Data Warehousing as a Service (or DWaaS)
Data Mining as a Service
Database as a Service (or DBaaS)
Development as a Service
Desktop as a Service
Document Management as a Service


Ethernet as a Service
  • Category: HaaS
  • What: a solution provided by network carriers to provide virtual ethernet capacity from a much larger line
  • Ethernet as a service (EaaS)
ERP as a Service (or ERPaaS)
Email as a Service


Human Resources as a Service (HRaaS), Human Capital Management as a Service (HCMaaS)
  • These terms are not used yet, but probably coming soon to a Workday blog near you


Information as a Service
Infrastructure as a Service
Integration as a Service
Identity as a Service


Malware as a Service
Manufacturing as a Service
Mashups as a Service
Media as a Service (as in: video, audio)
  • Category: SaaS, a subtype of Data as a Service
  • What: providing hosted access to audio/visual services
  • Chris Saad: MaaS - Media as a Service 



Queue as a Service


Security as a Service
  • Category: SaaS
  • What: the delivery of security capabilities using a SaaS model
  • Wikipedia: Security as a Service
Storage as a Service


Testing as a Service
  • Category: Humans as a Service
  • What: outsourcing the testing of software
  • TAAS Services 


UI as a Service


Voice as a Service

Everything Else

Confused? Think all of these acronyms and terms are ridiculous? You aren't the first.
In recognition of the proliferation of "aaS" terms, umbrella terms have also appeared:

Previous Acronym Round Ups:

This isn't the first attempt at rounding up all the XaaS variants. You can find previous attempts here:

Technorati Tags: ,,,


Kent Dickson said...

Peter - Thanks for creating these useful naming frameworks. The rapid explosion of "... as a Service" has lead to a desperate need for organization. You are the man!

Search Whiz said...

Please add to your list :

Search as a Service by SearchBlox on Amazon EC2.

Randy Bias said...

Peter, thanks for commenting on my most recent blog entry. I wanted to read and post a comment on yours in return.

I like that you've created an extensive taxonomy. I think it generally helps the conversation. My concern is that it's easy to get lost in the soup.

That's why I lean towards thinking that aaS is over-saturated. In reading your article I'm left feeling that anything that can be outsourced and delivered as a service, in any form can be aaS.

Which was the main thrust of my article: cloud services are basically 'web services' outside the firewall, not SaaS. SaaS is fundamentally different.

'Web services' are usually fairly simple services, but I do think it can encompass messaging/queuing (a la Amazon's SQS) or even databases (e.g. Amazon's SimpleDB or Microsofts new Data Services). I think you mostly agree when you say one of the requirements is "Primarily business software". I wouldn't identify database or queuing software as business software. I would identify them as infrastructure software.

In my mind, Salesforce.COM and related are typical of the SaaS crowd, being fully baked applications that provide an end-to-end user experience and focus on UI and user interface-based use cases.

In contrast, queuing, databases, etc. might have a management interface, but are inherently machine-consumed. And that's really the difference. By lumping in Cloud Services with hosted applications (SaaS) we muddy the waters too much. While they are both software, they aren't designed, used, or consumed in the same manner. That should be a key criteria in differentiating these offerings. How they are consumed.

Keep them coming. I added you to my RSS list so I won't miss any more. ;)




Just a bit of a nitpick, BTW. I realize this is just semantics, but I think words are important and 'hardware as a service' doesn't make sense to me.

For me 'cloud computing' can't ever be in the 'hardware as a service' category. You aren't getting hardware as a service, you're getting an OS on-demand. The hardware is not in the picture. In that same way, 'cloud storage' (using S3 as an example) isn't disks either. It's files. If it were disks on demand Amazon would actually surface a block device to the customer.

At least, that's what I would assume if I heard 'hardware as a service'. In this particular case I like 'infrastructure as a service' better.

Another reason I mention this is that I know of folks actually working on hardware as a service offerings and I think they will fit more cleanly into this category than EC2/S3. Just my $0.02. ;)

Peter Laird said...

Randy - thanks for the thoughtful response (and sorry for the delay in my follow up).

I think you bring up a couple of intersting points:

1) there is a natural dividing line between human consumed and computer consumed SaaS solutions

2) hardware as a service is misleading, as what is exposed to the user is not hardware constructs (disk blocks)

Both interesting points. As for #1, I wasn't too happy with my division of front, mid, back office buckets. I think you might have the better solution.

As for #2, I am focusing more on what people are paying for (use of hardware) as opposed to what the API looks like to access it. Take Twitter for example, it ultimately offers Messaging as a Service regardless how to interact with it: their web site, Adobe AIR client, raw API, etc.

Thanks for the comment!

Sam Johnston said...

I'm maintaining a Wikipedia article on the subject of everything as a service with a view to capturing the common elements of the aaSy offerings (utility billing, low barriers to entry, etc.).

That's not to say that I approve of this terminology... it's an absolute mess (especially when you start looking into the trademarks; see Sanity as a service: marketing gone mad). Rather I'm pushing for simply: Cloud applications, Cloud services, Cloud infrastructure, Cloud platforms, etc.

See the Wikipedia cloud computing article for more on this.

anders said...

Whats your opinion on how XaaS and all underlying aaS fits with virtualisation?

Is virtualisation encompassed by any of the aaS?

Peter Laird said...

Virtualization is not seen as an XaaS by itself, but can be (but is not required) a useful tool to provide an aaS service. For example, a SaaS accounting application may be hosted using a VM per customer (referred to as the single tenant model).

Murtaza said...


Your diagram helps in understanding how each AAS falls in a more general class.
Out of which what interests me is Backoffice where SECAAS and IDAAS are specified . I want to clarify whether IDAAS extends SECAAS or both help in extending a Security branch.


Marc Riehm said...

How about AaaS - Acronyms as a Service? I'm a-gonna patent that one, gonna make me rich.

Marc Riehm said...

How about, "BaMtDaaS" - "Beating a Meme to Death as a Service"?

Terry Johnson said...

Peter - Thank-you for an interesting and fun post. I happened to notice your "Ian Glazer: Why Compliance Cannot be Delivered as a Service" link is going to the wrong url. Again, your article is much appreciated.