State of the Art
SalesForce and Google Apps have demonstrated the relevance of SaaS model for enterprises and individuals: SaaS is easy to use (Anywhere, anytime, always up), it can grow on demand, it enables cost control (pay per use), and eases Time to market (no issue in deployment). Software giants like Adobe and Microsoft are releasing their “gold” applications online (Photoshop, Office) in order to increase customer loyalty. Objectis, ERP5 Express and other pioneers have demonstrated the relevance of SaaS to accelerate the adoption of Open Source. Costs of internal hosting are increasing and are difficult to anticipate e.g. electric power is the first cost criteria for CIOs and CFOs. SLA is critical as SaaS model becomes more used: SaaS providers are rapidly learning how to deliver 24/7 worldwide services with a large spectrum of prices and customization capabilities. Disaster recovery and legal mandatory backups find in SaaS the right solutions without investing in new and costly platforms. Virtualization is already in place and will ease the move from pure internal resources to external hosted applications. Bandwidth is no more an issue: ADSL delivers useful user experiences and Wifi, 3G, Wimax networks add the necessary mobility dimension to SaaS services. The SaaS architecture can be applied naturally as Web applications at the beginning of the Internet: communities and home workers act on SaaS model though mail, wikis, blogs, forum, office productivity or calendar tools to share day-to-day activities. However, security is still the “number one” issue. No easy data protection are available when remotely managed on SaaS servers. Managing a global security policy is “the” challenge for CIOs but in house Single Sign On provides today a first a positive approach of this issue
The Web hosting industry relies on FLOSS: GNU/Linux is the dominant OS and provides many ways to implement the required features for hosters. MySQL, Apache, PHP are the super champions tools and SugarCRM, ERP5 and many others offer enterprise-ready applications. New filesystems (ZFS, Lustre) revolutionize the management large amount of data in a much more accurate dimension. Proprietary data format can be replaced by ODF and XML standards in order to unlock users from one particular provider.
Cloud Computing is the natural “next step”. Amazon Web Services are widely used as Microsoft, IBM or Gandi are delivering new Cloud services. The 2009 economic crisis will emphasize the requirement to reduce the cost of IT infrastructure and may help SaaS and Cloud Computing actors to emerge as strong partners … or competitors.
The IT industry will be the Eco-responsibility champion
The Green IT waveAs (almost) all human activities will be digitalized, designing, building, using and recycling digital hardware and software is part of technical and international legislation. Large data centers installed close to cheap and green electric plants will deliver an efficient number of Teraflops and Terabytes per watt. Users and customers will be aware of the CO2 footprint of each digital (trans)action. A set of market places will compete to deliver the best mix between cost, green and quality of online services. Internet highways will use “green” optic fibers to enable a global and ecological network.
A more balanced digital divideThe largest number of digital customers will be the in the Asian countries. Cost of traveling will be a barrier and virtual corporations and communities the common organization for working. This will open to the “South” many opportunities to become active economic players in a World no more dominated by the “North”. The digital divide will become an energy divide which will have driven the development of alternative energies in Southern countries. Competitive services will be offered by new players from the South as high bandwidth will be widely deployed.
Cloud Computing is the dominant modelAll corporations will have dematerialized all their activities including national administrations. Because of the fact that Green IT requirements cannot be applied by small and medium companies, Cloud Computing services will be the dominant model for delivering. SLA will be the way to compete including green, “no time to deploy”, easy to use and manage services. The Internet will be replaced by a set of automatic workflows where individuals will customize, using Desktop Gadget and WebOS features, their personal, highly mobile et secure environment. P2P will provide the flexibility needed by the trillions of every day transactions and will rely on Cloud resources (CPU, network, storage). Semantic search will hide the “old fashion” of data files. The Clouds will allow dynamic and intelligent data aggregations that will fuel the network and Saas is a (small) part of a Total Information Outsourcing (TIO) through online Web services. Clouds services become utilities (like water or electricity) relying on big players to ensure continuity of services on top of which differentiations will be offered through services where tons of actors will contribute.
Web 3.0 is a "planet Cloud"Social networks (professional and personal) will become the way to interact, communicate and satisfy commercial and individuals' needs. Interoperability between specialized Clouds will enable corporations to deliver the right services to the right consumers. As “home working” will be the way most of us will work, employees will use customized Clouds to find the most efficient way of achieving a balanced professional/private life and adequate productivity. Mobile devices, ambient computing and smart objects will rely on Clouds services to provide a seamless digital life. E-learning, e-consulting, BPO and data aggregation services will move to the Cloud.
The 2008 financial crisis will have opened new economical models. ROI, gross margins, benefit per share will be shifted to more real value creation. The license model will no longer provide the right price to pay and will shift to the more economical and manageable “pay per use” model. The Green Planet will make the “total consumption model” over. The new business values will be “sharing” the necessary services with low ecological impacts. Green Clouds will become the next industrial revolution.
Where is my "source code"?The fundamental notion of license, including Free and Open Source licenses, will become irrelevant and replaced by Cloud Services that will hide software activities behind “black box services”. Community activism, as it is today, will have to find a new way to survive. “Free as freedom” will have a new meaning that remains to be described. As SaaS relying on FLOSS are diluted within Clouds, contributions of major Cloud players will be hard to track. Services patents (Amazon One Click Shopping) could threaten the open world and maybe kill the FLOSS momentum. FLOSS communities will have to continue to be involved by changing the license vocabulary.
The return of monopoliesCloud computing will need large amount of resources offered by a very small number of actors. This will reduce the freedom of choice and put a costly entry point to new players. Application user locks will become service user locks, a much more dangerous and “cost to exit” issue. Security of data will rely on very few players and put users, citizens and even countries at risk of “denial of services”. Full fault tolerant delivery will become an “elite” service, the rest of the world getting only poor quality of services.
The end of individual innovationFLOSS has opened a new model of contribution and the share of free (GPL meaning) source codes has enabled a huge series of cooperations to flourish. Clouds could slow down, and maybe stop, this trend by building up walls around R&D teams who will deliver only APIs to mush-up. Innovation will then be driven by large corporations without the need or the will to invite individuals to contribute. Any new business model or technology will be locked by the Clouds provider roadmaps that nobody else but providers will control. Large efforts should be put on open access to network otherwise SaaS will increase the digital gap.
Where are my data?Cloud Computing is a global data processing model including security, availability and privacy. Any proprietary format has to be avoided as it will be the only way for users to change from one service provider to another. Clear privacy and security contracts will have to delivered to users and must be controlled by international regulatory bodies in order to protect users against any abuses. Backups will have to be kept independently of services (safe-deposit-box) and must remain at the choice of users.
Recommendation #1: Global regulation is needed to ensure privacy, security and safety.
The necessity of new standards
Standardization bodies will have to follow the SaaS/Cloud trends and make formats, APIs and protocols transparent to users and communities. Governments will be involved in regulating this paradigm shift and avoid any new service monopoly. They will show the way by implementing and providing Clouds of e-citizen services based on open standards and fully opened to non governmental Clouds. SLA is the key to create new values and to to protect user Freedom. This emphasize the importance of standard certification (SAS 70 , ISO 270001) and of trusted suppliers for which data in their data-center are like money in Banks. Processes standards could be defined able to run on any workflow engine, freeing users from high level services “black box” providers . Like in Brazil where it is very hard (although not impossible) to get a patent on a process, Cloud processes will have to be described as "(virtual) devices" in an attempt to avoid not having their rights granted at INPI (Brazilian Patent Office).
Recommendation #2: Governments must favor Open Standards and Open Services.
No blind citizens, individuals or customersSaaS or Clouds are not “digital miracles” hidden by the ease of use. The delegation of responsibilities is not a “game” but must be a clear and fair contract between users and providers. Privacy is not an insinuation or the last line of contracts. Any users will have the right and the means to control every step of their digital actions. Compliance authorities will give trust to end users and protect them against any abuse of their private digital life. clear privacy and security contracts through SLA and applicable Laws and granted access to all data in relation with user inputs, including logs, configuration data and native data. Services market places open the competition and will have, like new financial markets, fair economical models. Green IT labels must be controlled by authorized authorities to provide customers with transparency.
Recommendation #3: Governmental offices or regulation bodies must ensure protection of citizens, companies and Public Administrations from facetious effects due to intrusive or invasive technologies.