Written by Michael Friedmann, VP Corporate Strategic Projects

As you might already assume there isn’t one “Cloud”. The Cloud is, as with many other words or acronyms in IT, just another Buzzword. But what is really behind a word that is used so frequently nowadays in so many different contexts?

It is the wish of companies to be able to focus on the core business and outsource everything else. Ok, that might be exaggerated but most companies try to reduce CAPEX and Working Capital and shift it to OPEX instead.

Having this underlying idea in your mind we should now take a closer look at IT support or the IT departments that are necessary to run a company in the Internet Age. There is a tremendous need for supporting IT in all business areas and this results in growing IT departments and budgets. Instead of building up all the IT capacities in-house companies look into outsourcing parts, or specific tasks of it, to third party service providers.

What has all this got to do with the Cloud? The Cloud is a new way to outsource Infrastructure, Platforms or Applications.

IaaS

Let’s start with the outsourcing of Infrastructure to the Cloud which also known as “Infrastructure as a Service” (IaaS).

Companies outsource parts of their infrastructure like servers, storage or networks to a Cloud Service Provider. Well known providers of IaaS are GoGrid, Amazon, EC2 or Rackspace. The advantage is savings on data center and hosting costs in addition to procuring peak on-demand capacity needs from the cloud. The disadvantage is that companies still need administrators who can manage both in-house infrastructures in addition to cloud infrastructure.

PaaS

The Cloud also offers “Platform as a Service” (PaaS) for further cost savings. With PaaS a Service Provider not only provides servers and storage but also the complete Software Stack needed to run an Application. Typical providers of PaaS are Google AppEngine, Amazon Elastic Beans, Microsoft with Azure or Salesforce with Force.com.  These platform providers typically offer libraries or APIs that need to be integrated during application development but which have the advantage of automated deployment, automatic failover in the case of errors or auto-scaling if more users are using the application with the result of reducing administration time. Companies are therefore not only saving on infrastructure costs but also on administration and human resource.

SaaS

Software as a Service (SaaS)? Also nothing new.

Are you familiar with Application Service Providers? ASP is another famous Buzzword that was used some years ago which addressed the same problem. The challenge is that more and more applications are needed to support a company’s core business . Outsourcing the operation of the whole application stack, including operations, to specialized companies saves costs, solves maintenance issues and leads to a more lean IT organization. ASP and SaaS promise the possibility to save the development of the application itself and configure an existing application to serve your needs. Most of the SaaS offerings are based on PaaS offerings and are developed and designed to serve a specific need. Of course using SaaS implies that there is an offering in the market that fits your requirements. But if you do find one you will no longer need a system administrator or developer.

This would explain why the first SaaS offerings where targeting standard office applications that can be used unchanged across a lot of industries. Very famous examples are Google Apps or Sales Force with their typical SaaS offerings in the area of Office and CRM Applications.

This explanation answers a question you may ask on where lies the difference between “Force.com” and the “Salesforce CRM”: The first is a PaaS that allows you to develop and to operate your own application by using Salesforce Force.com platform and the second is a SaaS offering that is provided by Salesforce on top of the PaaS Force.com.

eZ Cloud?

What kind of service and features does eZ Publish Cloud have then?

We offer a managed eZ Publish Enterprise environment that runs on a hosted LAMP-Stack (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) and DB-System accompanied by some managed services like eZ Find or an integrated CDN (Content Delivery Network) access.

Although, most likely with a solution partner’s assistance, eZ Publish needs to be customized to the customer’s requirements all the components needed to run are already there. So eZ Publish Cloud Edition is clearly a PaaS offering.

But can’t we also offer a SaaS? Of course! And you might be surprised that we already do.

With the Sitefactory used by Mamut up in Norway we have a typical SaaS offering already in place. You can’t change the underlying eZ Publish installation (e.g. adding own extensions) but you can adapt your Site to your specific needs, for example, by using the Style Editor.

As previously said, this does not offer the possibility to change eZ Publish. As eZ Publish is well known for its flexibility the PaaS approach does fit better with our product. An integrator can adapt eZ Publish with its development resources to the needs of a customer while saving a lot of time in administrating the platform. In addition, the customer benefits from the PaaS offering with a reliable and certified platform supported by eZ.

Both approaches target different customer groups and address different needs. They are therefore useful and complementary offerings.

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