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دوشنبه 30 بهمن‌ماه سال 1385

SaaS and the Open Source Influence: Is Open SaaS on the Way?

Question: Software-as-a-service is becoming increasingly popular. How has open source software or open source development contributed to this trend?
Gillin: Open source has revolutionized the software business in general by dramatically lowering the cost of entry for software providers. Development tools and infrastructure components required to deliver software as a service are now inexpensive or free. This has opened the software market to a much wider audience of developers who can now start companies and deliver their products for far less money than was required just a few years ago. In short, open source is making software cheaper in that it lowers barriers to entry and creates a more competitive market.

Question: Along the same lines, how has SaaS impacted the open source space?
Gillin: Others may differ with me, but I do not think the impact has been substantial. Perhaps the greatest contribution of SaaS has been in tools like Google's Gmail and Google Calendar, which make collaboration cheaper and easier. Google and others have also changed the industry by the legitimizing the concept of a public beta test. It used to be that software was not released to the market until it was "ready;" however, SaaS products are typically developed in public long before they are formally released. This new mindset has been a significant change in the way companies develop software and it is the SaaS providers that have really lead this charge. I can't say, though, whether this is a good or bad thing for software overall. There are arguments on both sides of that equation.

Question: Is the same true whether you're talking about the enterprise or the SMB? If not, what differences come into play?
Gillin: I think the issues are quite different. Enterprises are concerned with deployment times, and SaaS has certainly helped to reduce those. I believe SMBs are more interested in the best practices that they acquire when they use SaaS applications. For example, Salesforce.com represents the knowledge not only of its developers but of its customers who have contributed their best practices over years. This access to the experiences of others is something that small businesses find to be of great value, because they could not get it otherwise.

Question: About a year ago, you wrote that if an SMB was forced to choose between SaaS and open source, SaaS was the clear winner. Do you still feel that way? Why or why not?
Gillin: I believe that SaaS is a fundamental shift in software development and delivery and that it will be the defining mechanism for delivering new software applications in the future. Open source is revolutionary, but not for the user as much as for the developer. The user wants simplicity, and SaaS provides that. If you look back through the paradigm shifts in computing history, it is always advances in ease of use that change things. SaaS is a revolutionary development in the user's access to powerful software. It will change everyone's expectations about the complexity and accessibility of applications. That is what is revolutionary about it. Open source is a huge contribution to this shift, but mainly in its role as a development resource. It will not revolutionize user computing the way that SaaS will.

Question: Responding to your article, a blogger said he could see the day when SaaS and open source would combine. Is that a realistic possibility?
Gillin: I'm not sure that's actually a very important issue. As I noted earlier, SaaS and open source are complementary. Many of the tools used to develop and deliver SaaS applications are open source tools. There is a symbiotic relationship, but the two are also exclusive in some ways. Most notably, open source software must be downloaded and installed and maintained on the user's premises. The value proposition for SaaS is that it does not need to be installed for or maintained by the user. People will use both approaches, but I believe that SaaS is the delivery mechanism that will redefine software. It is, essentially, a new platform, and platform shifts are the most dramatic changes in the computing landscape.
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