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Cloud computing vs. SaaS: What's the diff?

We’ve all heard the terms “cloud computing” and “SaaS,” and not unlike the term “unified communications,” there is considerable disparity as to what the terms actually mean respectively – especially when paired side by side. The answer, it seems, depends on who you ask.

Don Van Doren in his blog The Definition Dance Moves from UC to Cloud Computing wrote about a session he attended at the recent VoiceCon show in Orlando that he was bemused in the “Summit on Cloud Computing” session when Eric Krapf asked the panel of network and CPE suppliers, “How does your organization define cloud computing?” AT&T, Avaya, IBM, Verizon and Cisco all had rather generic responses you can find in Don’s blog.

Jason Stamper says there’s really no difference at all between the two terms. He cites Gartner’s definition that defines cloud computing as a style of computing where massively scalable IT-related capabilities are provided “as a service” using Internet technologies to multiple external customers.

So, if we accept Gartner’s definition of cloud computing, where does that leave us with SaaS?

According to Praising Gaw, SaaS is software that’s owned, delivered, and managed remotely by one or more providers. It also allows a sharing of application processing and storage resources in a one-to-many environment…on a pay-for-use basis, or as a subscription.

So do the differences between SaaS and cloud computing boil down to size? Cloud computing being “massively scalable” and SaaS falling somewhere below the “massively scalable” benchmark? Or is there even a difference between the two?

What do you think? How do you make sense of the two terms? Do we need two terms or can we pick one and start to make straight the circuitous path of IT terms and acronyms?

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Etymologically, the SaaS evolved as a marketing/business strategy, whereas CC is an architectural description extending thin-client/server. So while I would agree they are references to current trends, it is not a requirement that they are synonymous. One can have one without requiring the other.
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