Friday, July 30, 2010

Difference between SaaS , PaaS , Cloud Computing and Grid Computing in Microsoft BI and Analytics

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BI & Analytics space is filled up with a lot of terminologies that sounds very similar and are often used interchangeably by many vendors. But in general when a client comes up with certain requirements, a clear definition of these terminologies helps where a particular product fits in the overall solution design. Also this helps to get an understanding whether a BI & Analytics vendor has all the capabilities for supporting the type of solution that fits the requirement. Below is a list of such terms and their meanings in my understanding and experience.

1) Grid Computing : This term can be put in raw words as "Computing Power". The more computing power you require, the more computing resources you add to the grid. This would sound like cloud computing theory, and indeed it is. In fact, Grid computing can be used to empower Cloud computing or it can be also seen as a service on the cloud.

2) Cloud Computing : It can be seen as a service where you scale-in and scale-out resources as per requirements and you pay as per use. These resources can be computing power as well as storage at the bottom most level, and more services can be built on top of it. Vendor providing cloud environment hosts these services at it's data centers, client subscribe and pay as per needs. Windows Azure and SQL Azure are examples of the same.

3) PaaS : This means Platform As A Service. In this term, platform can be BI & Analytics platform for example. There can be other platforms like Data Cleansing, Data Integration, Data Profiling, Data Mining and others. I see Project Houston and SQL Azure together as a PaaS offering for data storage from Microsoft on Windows Azure Cloud Computing environment.

4) SaaS : This means Software As A Service. In BI & Analytics arena, SaaS BI is an environment that is usually powered by vendor owned data centers or third-party owned cloud computing environment, and SaaS BI Vendor provides PaaS to end clients for BI & Analytics. SaaS BI is a very growing requirement due to its key advantages of almost no hardware or maintenance cost, on demand scaling in or out of resources, pay as per use model of billing, fastest possible BI & Analytics in the most user friendly interface targeted to be operated by Business Users. In simple words, business users would get a web based application using which they can facilitate their BI & Analytics requirements by just making data available to this web based applications.

In my view, I do not see any SaaS BI offerings from Microsoft as of now. Microsoft has cloud offering on Windows Azure platform, and Windows Azure Appliance Solution sounds even better as of now. Project Houston, SQL Azure, Windows Azure, and Powerpivot if available on the cloud (i.e. it should be available on Azure platform and should not need any in-premises installation) can together act as SaaS BI solution, provided all of these work in an integrated fashion. In fact SaaS also provides features for deployment of deliverables created by business users on a collaborative platform that is again on the web. Presently the same is done via Sharepoint in MS BI Stack. An example of the kind of collaborative environment required on the web is Office Web Apps on Skydrive where you can create and share documents on the web.

A well known example of product based on SaaS BI model is "BI OnDemand" solution from SAP BusinessObjects Crystal Solutions.

2 comments:

Brad said...

I don't know of any cloud BI offering from MS either, but there are a lot of offerings from other vendors, http://cloudtaxonomy.opencrowd.com/taxonomy/platform-as-a-service/business-intelligence/

The cloud is perfect for BI solutions because they tend to need a lot of servers for a short period of time.

PaulB said...

I work with SharePoint, BPOS 2010 looks to be more of a PaaS offering than the current BPOS. IaaS is the service needed to install SharePoint. Amazon is more of a PaaS but you can install sharePoint 2007 with severe limits. For now virtualisation and SharePoint as as good as it gets.

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