Microsoft's approach to SaaS
Much has been said about SaaS - Software as a Service, and how this will affect the way we Think/Architect/Develop/Support and even Buy our applications, and for this reason is important to stay in touch with how a vendor like Microsoft, is applying this principles to their technologies.
So let's think a little bit about the subject and try to identify some offers in this spectrum.
SaaS is when you have an application that is served to you the same way as a Service is.
When you buy an insurance you don't need to buy all the services that came along to make the insurance company to work, you only need to have that insurance service, and the same can happen with Software, because imagine that you need to use a CRM tool, why do you need to buy also the infrastructure for the tool to work?
This is precisely the SaaS view of Applications, and that's why they are so interesting for vendors and customers. For vendors because they can catch the Long Tail as they can provide the Software based on SLA's (Service Level Agreement) and by doing this they can increase they sales and product usage. For customers because the tend to have a more simplistic way to use Software, because they don't need large amounts of investment when they need a Tool, and even if their business is seasonable they can use the same tool, and reduce costs during the time the business decreases. Another important thing for Customers is that SaaS normally provides the possibility to "Try before you Buy" and this is always important because the possibility to address the issue, "Is this the right tool for my business".
But there's nothing easy in this world, and so to do SaaS it's required to do some major changes in the way vendors make all the product stages, primarily on the way applications are designed or architected.
About Microsoft's approach to SaaS there are some samples, like:
A set of tools that can be used to in development or even only as a consumer working on usage basis. Things like Windows Live Id (Previously known as Passport), Windows Live SkyDrive, Windows Live Messenger or even Virtual Earth are the type of Consumer based SaaS that are made available for the customers.
A set of Services that are made available for professional use and allow developers to address things like Identity and Connectivity Services as they provide an ISB - Internet Service Bus.
An online CRM Application that works based on the usage and reduces the need for investment that is generally associated with this type of Professional Business Tools.
These are some of the things Microsoft is making possible to Customers, and a lot more is coming for both Customers and Developers in this area, and a lot is being done both by Microsoft and other Vendors like Google, Amazon and so on, so keep in touch.