At its core, software-as-a-service (or SaaS, for short) is more than just an alternative to the traditional model of software distribution. It’s a revolution, changing the way we think about software in general for the better and for all time.
Gone are the days where you have to worry about out-of-date applications, unwieldy licensing agreements and unpredictable (and often exorbitant) long-term costs. Replacing them is a cloud IT situation where everything you need is available on a subscription basis and centrally hosted, guaranteeing that every critical app you need is available on-demand, at all times, from any location on the planet with an active Internet connection.
But at the same time, at this point you’re probably thinking to yourself “wait a minute. All of this sounds very familiar. Is there some other area of business that this type of delivery and distribution model applies to?” On the one hand, you’re right – because there is something that you’re familiar with that operates in many of the same ways that SaaS does. But it doesn’t have to do with business or even technology at all.
You’re thinking, of course, of baseball. Obviously.
That’s right. On the Venn diagram showing the differences between the great American pastime of baseball and software-as-a-service, that part in the middle where the two circles overlap is a whole lot bigger than you probably realized. Regardless of whether you’re looking at it as a concept or a way of life, it’s something that is absolutely worth a closer look.
To get a better idea of this concept in action, consider it within the context of a baseball field itself. You’ve got your infield, and all of the players located there – your first baseman, your second baseman, your pitcher, your catcher, etc. You’ve also got your outfielder, containing your left, right and center fielders.
In terms of your standard SaaS application, you’ve got all of the same elements at play (pun absolutely intended) – just in a slightly different situation.
There are a lot of different elements in an SaaS application beyond the functionality of the application itself. You’ve got the code that runs the application, your app server that stores the code, your database, your network that delivers the app, the clients that use it (PCs, mobile devices, laptops), and so on and so forth.
As is true with a baseball team, all of these elements need to be firing on all cylinders in order to make sure that your people have access to the functionality they need when they need it the most. All of those elements must be properly aligned to not only deliver consistent performance, but to also adapt on the fly – to take into consider updates that need to be pushed out or changes that need to be made, almost in real-time, the same way a baseball team responds to a member from the opposing team who is at-bat.
So a batter hits a fly ball with a man on first and third. The center fielder catches it and fires it home. The catcher tags the runner out and fires that ball back to first, forcing another runner out. That team had every element in exactly the right place in exactly the right time, and now you’ve got yourself a triple play.
Now, let’s say that a critical flaw was discovered in the SaaS application your business uses – some vulnerability was just discovered that hackers can take advantage of from a security perspective. The app developer updates the code, pushes it out to the server, it makes its way across the network and is delivered to all of your client devices – all without you having to do anything at all. You don’t have to worry about security and you’re automatically using the most updated version of the application.
That, my friends, is what we call a triple play. That’s the power of cloud IT in action.
Without all of those pieces in place – and without a big picture look at the consequences to each potential event, no matter how small they may be – both that baseball team and that application would have failed you at the worst possible time.
But they didn’t.
So from that perspective, a great SaaS developer isn’t just a great baseball team. They’re the 1927 New York Yankees.
The Game is Far From Over
But if there’s one important takeaway to be had from this SaaS-as-baseball metaphor, let it be this one.
You know how when you go to a baseball game, the “7th inning stretch” is called that because the game is winding down? By now, one team has probably pulled ahead and everyone is getting up and onto their feet and thinking about where they’re parked or when they need to leave to beat traffic? Though there are rare (and thrilling) exceptions, the game has more-or-less peaked.
In terms of the innovation, ingenuity and positive disruption that software-as-a-service has already brought with it, the industry and the concept in general are far, far away from that 7th inning stretch. In a lot of ways, we’re – at worst – still in the bottom of the first.
For every force for positive change that SaaS has brought with it, we still have a long way to go. When you think about all of the incredible things that have already been accomplished, with this idea in mind, it’s easy to see why the next decade and beyond are going to be exciting ones for us all.