A lot of us in the technology industry think of concepts like open source, SaaS and now cloud computing as old hat. And for most buzzwords, there is usually a generally accepted definition – and that’s that. But the marketing engines in Silicon Valley (and beyond) have done such a number on SaaS and now cloud computing, that even the journalists covering these topics are getting confused. And that’s not even trying to throw open source into the mix.
Take a Computerworld piece I read this morning. I have a number of issues with this article – probably the most pressing is that it focuses the initial brunt of the story about open source, cloud-based CRM and ERP on RightNow – a product which in my opinion is neither of these things. (I did like the part on Compiere, however, for obvious reasons.)
The article in total tells me that there is still a lot of lingering issues around open source, SaaS and the cloud. Just because a company (like RightNow) uses open source in the back end and sells via a multi-tenant SaaS delivery model – does not make it an open source, or cloud provider.
The cloud – like open source – is about choice, portability, freedom, access, etc. None of this is available in the traditional SaaS model. Where is the parallel open source offering? Where is the ability to move products like RightNow or Salesforce.com to Amazon’s servers, or your own?
It is very easy today for software providers to take an already amorphous term like the cloud and twist it to their benefit. And until stronger and clearer definitions are agreed upon (here’s hoping movements like the Open Cloud manifesto take greater effect) – we will continue to confuse end users, which in my mind is never a good thing.