When you wake up in the morning, turn on the light, switch on the television and start the coffee maker, your thoughts are likely on the day ahead and not whether you have enough capacity to power these items. You're free of these worries because the power company has created a reliable service, shared among the community, that scales to your individual, immediate demands. Since the service is metered and based on use, you pay only for your fair share.
The basic concept behind cloud computing is similar. Many companies are creating cloud services in a "pay as you go" scenario. These include sharing networks, computers, storage and even software applications.
Software as a Service, or SaaS, is the moniker for software applications delivered via the Internet from companies such as: Amazon, IBM, Salesforce.com, Microsoft, Google and others. SaaS is contrasted with the traditional "shrink wrapped" model for application delivery where the user installs and configures the software on a machine they own and maintain.
Growth trends for SaaS are strong: Gartner Inc. predicts the SaaS market will continue to grow more than 22 percent per year and that by 2011, 25 percent or more of new software systems will be delivered as SaaS applications.
So why is SaaS emerging as the dominant computing model today? The answer is the way in which the technology addresses the key needs and concerns of consumers, or what we call "the 5 C's:" Change, compliance, cost, continuity and coverage.
SaaS providers create multi-tenant software hosted in the cloud with the following basic attributes: All applications, databases and servers are hosted on the service provider's own infrastructure, typically at sophisticated outsourced data centers;
The public Internet is used as the communication path from the SaaS provider to users, with appropriate security measures in place;
Local users require no dedicated PCs or software applications, but gain access to the resources they need from a range of Internet-connected devices.
In the physical security world, the client/server model for delivery of applications has dominated most complex applications while an early precursor for SaaS, namely central station alarm monitoring, has dominated the less complex applications. Alarm monitoring is essentially a model for efficiently delivering pooled central resources to a group of users. The infrastructure, computers and personnel in today's central stations are shared among a group of clients. Each client pays a small fraction of the cost they would bear if they had their own dedicated central station.
Security as a Service takes the central station model to a new level, providing unprecedented end-user control over system functions while preserving complete segregation of data. Leveraging multi-tenant software and efficient hosting environments, SaaS for security drives costs down and service levels up.
Physical and logical security are among the top priorities for most organizations today. Having a sound risk management plan for security is as basic as having a sales and financial strategy. To understand the potential impact of Security as a Service, we will explore in depth the 5 C's, or the five areas of strategic importance for all organizations.
Organizations face a constantly changing array of pressures-competitive threats, new regulations, financial uncertainty, technological shifts and business risk all force managers to maintain a state of perpetual vigilance. Savvy managers are building lithe organizations with systems and infrastructure capable of responding to threats and capitalizing on opportunities with amazing speed. Today's CEOs look to their CIOs and CSOs for answers on how to be more competitive, not simply to deliver a service.