Web technology

The confusion about the Cloud, Web based and SaaS

I'm often caught up in discussions about 'the cloud', web based, SaaS and so on. There seems to be a lot of confusion and different understandings around this topic.  

First of all, 'the cloud' is (foremost) about marketing

The use of Internet didn't start with the word 'cloud', but I see three main reasons why the use of the word 'cloud' has spread so fast:

  1. people's eager to find new things  (the fuel for marketing)
  2. the use of Internet was matured enough for the corporate world 
  3. the growth of PasS and IaaS liked services    (see below)  

I believe the strongest reason is the marketing part. Never underestimate the eager to sell old stuff in a new package. The 'cloud' was also the perfect excuse to create events and for journalists to write articles.  

The levels of 'the cloud'

On a high level 'the cloud' is all about "using the the Internet". However, the Internet has evolved so much over the last years that it make sense to divide it into different levels. It is now common to divide Internet based services into three levels:

  • SaaS - Software as a Service     
  • PaaS - Platform as a Service           
  • IaaS - Infrastructure as a Service 

Software as a Service (SaaS) 

Probably the most common 'cloud' service is the 'Software as a Service' (the name was started to be used in 2001). Instead of installing the software on your computer, you only 'run' it in you web browser. (No installations or upgrades.) More commonly known as 'web based' or 'Internet Based'. Of the different cloud versions, this is the only one the end user every will see.

OpenCrowd describes it as...

Examples of SaaS services are Projectplace (Swedish collaboration tool), Fortknox (Swedish accounting 'software'), Real09 (property management tool), Squarespace (brilliant blogging platform) and, of course, the most common examples, Salesforce (CRM) or Google Apps (email and more). More examples at OpenCrowd.  

Platforms as a Service (PaaS) 

This one is a bit trickier to understand for many end users. A 'platform' is for "application development and delivery". In other words, this is a service used by companies to create and deliver SaaS solutions. 

OpenCrowd describes it as...  

Salesforce is marketing it's service with the words... 

"What Does It Take to Develop PaaS Apps? 
A lot less than it used to. To develop software, you once had to buy databases, servers, networks, and a host of development tools. And then you needed the staff to install, optimize, and maintain it all.

With PaaS, you can avoid those investments and focus on developing applications instead." 

Examples of PaaS are Amazon AWS, Google App Engine and Salesforce Force.   

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)  

This level is all about the foundation of running a software in the first place. For example, servers and storage. 

OpenCrowd describes it as...  

Examples of IaaS are Amazons AWS services like EC2
Read more about IaaS here

Is ASP the same as SaaS?

Two concepts that are similar but have some differences. 

ASP - Application Service Provider 
"One instance of a software running suitable for the one customer". 
(It is then possible to then have several instances on the same server, but one per customer.) 

SaaS - Software as a Service  
"A single software will serve many clients."

In other words 
An ASP supplier commonly focus on a packaged-base approach (for example, they could offer many different solutions from different software companies) while SaaS takes product approach. An ASP provider need not be a manufacturer of the product, but a SaaS solution has been designed, built, delivered, configured and implemented normally by a single party who has total control of the system. However, it is quite common for providers of 'old' client/server products to offer their solutions as an ASP solutions from their own data centers, but still one instance per customer. In other words, no SaaS. A great paper on the difference of ASP and SaaS is found at Luit InfoTech

The great SaaS test 
I recommend to ask the supplier if they are able to set a demo account within 15 minutes. If they can't, they aren't a cloud supplier.  

Is web based always SaaS?

As always when something is popular and in the press, "everyone" wants to shine. However, a service could be web based but not (according to me) in 'the cloud'. This is when a software is installed locally and the reached using a web browser. Yes, it is web based but not part of 'the cloud'. 

Below is a great example of this from a 'cloud' supplement to SvD (one of the two largest daily papers in Sweden). Out of 37 services listed, only 9 was actually 'cloud' services! 

The rest were ASP solutions.  
Nothing wrong with that, but it ain't the cloud! 
There is even a name on that SoSaaS...   

Finally, Keep it simple 

If talking to potential clients, keep it as simple as possible. Start using the word 'web based' and if they still (?) are following you, there may be reasons to explain a bit further more exactly what type of service you delivery.

However, don't forget that the user is first of all interested in the benefits.  


The iPAD - the perfect management gadget?

Over the last week I've been delighted (yes, that's the word) to get my hands on the latest product Mr Jobs says I need to have; the iPAD.

The perfect management tool

The more I've used it, the more I'm convinced that it is perfect for any top manager.

Straightforward - I see a set up with four (4) buttons:
   1. the mail 
   2. calender 
   3. web browser  
   4. the company App (see below)

Mobile - Smaller and lighter than a laptop, but big enough to read the text

Fast - one click and it starts in a second, no waiting to boot...

Easy to use - their first requirement is always 'one-click' (here you have two)

No multitasking - Yes, that is correct, that is a feature... (for those users)

Long productive - With a 10h battery (for active use) it full have fuel for the entire day

Gadget - Yes, you will see young and stylish out using it

The company App  

A click and a dashboard with the most important parameters for their business should be presented.

For a CEO in a property company that could be:
   * income reports 
   * latest sales figures
   * ten largest rent agreements due in a month 
   * number of support issues handled per day (vs not resolved in a 3-days)
   * ... 

It should be on one screen mainly in graphs, with one one level of further details.  

The example is from a service called Roambi (check out there video).

My thoughts

I don't see the iPAD as primary an laptop replacement. More a gadget for those who don't bother carrying around a laptop but, if honest, should be more productive if they had update to date information at the fingertips. 

What's your thoughts?

Update 15th may
Found an excellent post on what an iPAD could do to your family.

Never underestimate to do something other do great brilliantly.




GPS - the killer app for mobile services in real estate

In the real estate industry there is a saying that it's all about 'location, location and location'. If that is true, then the possibilities are endless when GPS functionality is coming to the mobile devices.

Here are a few examples of the applications that have been released over the last 6 months.


This is a very impressive solution where you point your mobile phone's camera on the buildings and get information about apartments for sale. You've to see the video below.

From the Techcrunch blog post:
"Layar is a so-called ‘augmented reality browser’, an application that turns you mobile phone’s camera viewer - only on Android-powered phones for the time being - into a full-fledged information portal and local business search engine. It essentially puts an information overlay on top of your camera view, bringing digital data of various sorts into play whenever you’re looking at or for something in the real world.

Imagine being on the look-out for a great new place in a street nearby your current apartment or house and seeing all the real estate listings, with some details and pricing included right from your mobile device as you’re walking down the street. Imagine watching status updates your friends pushed to social networks roll in with location information attached to them (e.g. ‘Tweets Nearby’). Imagine finding information on ATMs, public transport etc. in a city you’re visiting just by starting up the camera on your mobile phone. And thanks to an integration with Google Local Search, how about being able to look up contact information and reviews for businesses (e.g. restaurants, bars, etc.) in your direct neighborhood with one-click dialing capability?"

It's created by the Dutch company Layer for the Dutch market. More about the service at Techcrunch, weconverse (swedish), Engadget and ReadWriteWeb.



The US based car pool service (also in London) showed off a great iPhone app at the latest Apple keynote. Below is a CNET video from the event.

I like the quote in the beginning "25% of our Zipcare members he says that his life is on their iPhone". Additional reading at Springwise and Wired.


The famous US based automated valuation service for single family houses has released a great iPhone app using the GPS functionality.

More reading at Zillow, PropertyPortalWatch, and Drew Meyers (Zillow employee).

Taxi Madrid

"Taxi Madrid is an useful tool for taxi cabs travelers to calculate routes, distance, time and fares on map.It will use GPS to determinate your actual address and calculate all the taxi ride cost to the point you want to go." From the blog.

Further reading at TechCrunch.


To sum up

Those where just a few teasers on what could be done using the GPS functionality in mobile devices. More examples could be found in the Wired 'Inside the GPS revolution' article.

I believe there will be great efforts to create location based applications for the real estate professionals in the near future. Just wait and see... 



Have you been Squarespaced yet?

 Do you think Wordpress is the 'the stuff' when it comes to blogging? It's time for you to get 'Squarespaced'!

I've been using this SaaS blogging platform since 2006 and has been more than happy. Tonight I (finally) sat down and tried out all the new version5 functionality. (As you may notice from the redesign of my blog.)

And have they improved!
Below is how the screen looks like when changing design template, number of columns and navigation. Just click and draw. A picture tells you more... you have to see this video.

You want more details?
This video shows the Squarespace team showing of by rebuilding the 37signals blog in 18 minutes(?).

It has been some improvement since I, in 1996, wrote my first site using notepad... 

MySQL consultants more expensive?

The most interesting presentation at the the IT fair was given by Magnus Stenberg from MySQL (an open source database provider from Sweden bought by Sun Microsystems for 1 billion USD).

The topic was if property management systems are ready for an open source approach. The question wasn't really answered. It was more about the story of MySQL and how clients in general could use their database technology. A very interesting presentation though.

Started a debate
Anyway, since I believed that there was to little debate and I wanted to increase the temperature I stated that one of the reasons when suppliers don't go for mySQL could be that they believe it will be more expansive when it comes to hire consultants in this field and referred to an article in Computer Sweden (the largest IT paper in Sweden). Not surprisingly, this point was denied. (Even   laughed at which in a sense proves the point...)

The 'fact'
Unfortunately I wasn't able to defend my point (I wasn't given the microphone) with 'facts' (it is still just an article) and showing the actual source of my point, so here is the link to the article (in Swedish). The story is about that an 'open source' consultant could cost up to 1 500 SEK/hour, compared to 950 SEK/hour for a .NET developer.

Of course, there is not one (1) truth when it comes to prices and it will change over time. My point is still that it could be one of the reasons why a company hesitates to make the change to open source program. Not saying that it's wrong to go there.

Well, at least the temperature raised....   ;-)

How to survive a major development

My blog activity has been low for a longer period (quite an understatement) due to a massive work load since we (read Datscha) had a major release on the 20th of may. Not just a release or upgrade, we're talking about a complete new platform.

Anyone being through such a technical project know the scale of it. Below is a screenshot from the Property Analysis module, where the user is able to calculate the value of a commercial property using a cashflow model. (If you're interested in testing our service, just drop me a line.)














The release has been a great success, both technically and from a user perspective. Being the Product Manager through such a project is for sure mental roller coster. One of the most challenging aspects, in the later stage of the project, is to keep track of bugs and enhancements that are needed to be done prior to release.

Too many MS Excel spreadsheets
Like in the property industry there seems to be too many Excel spreadsheets Jira_150px.gifalso in the IT industry. To use Excel to track bugs works fine in a smaller project, but it will quickly be cumbersome in a larger project. Instead use a 'Bug and Issues tracking software'. Over there years have tried a handful an no one comes even close to Jira from the Australian company Atlassian. Through it's simplicity and well designed interface it's almost fun (?) to work with.

Screenshots save time
Snag-IT_100px.gifOne great feature in Jira is the possibility to easy attach a screenshot to an 'issue', which indeed helps the developers to understand how the, for example, enhancement is supposed to work. So the next step is to have a solution to easily take screenshots and to add a note or highlight a specific part. A great solution for this is SnagIT from TechSmith.

The simplicity to take a screenshot of a smaller part of the screen, add a note and put in an issue has saved us hundreds of hours of communication. In other words, a better product in a shorter time.