Monday, May 14, 2012

Cloud: What's a Service? Who Are SPs?

My perspective of Cloud Computing has been rocked a bit.

Simplistically, I assumed I knew what IaaS, PaaS and SaaS meant, and I thought I knew who the logical public providers of these services would be.

However, there have been a number of interesting new services - and providers - that show signs of breaking the stereotypes.

BTW, when I speak of services, I'm specifically meaning Component Services. Think of that as a mapping service;  a brokering service; a credit card clearing service; a datamart.

And in an increasing number of cases, I am seeing these services  being sourced from providers that are not the traditional hosting or SaaS providers you might expect. This leads me to believe that there will be a number of business models which the cloud makes possible that we've not yet considered. And these models will come from startups and established companies alike.

The first set of services that got me thinking comes from PayPal, and is X.commerce. Somewhat analogously to Amazon, eBay has observed that its mainstay businesses of auctioning and payments could be extended by making infrastructure and component services available separately to online merchants. X.commerce is their attempt to make service products such as credit card payment processing, cataloging, auctioning etc. available as a la carte APIs outside of the eBay/PayPal site.  We all think of eBay as an online "SaaS" platform, but they now need to be re-thought of as a cloud services provider as well.

Wall Street Exchange, or Cloud Service Provider? I'm referring to NYSE Capital Markets Community Platform (CMCP) that I blogged about back in June.  In an attempt to capture more customers such as hedge funds, NYSE took quite a step to launch its own special-purpose cloud-computing (IaaS) platform, right across the Hudson from Wall Street. Not only does is it intended to host high frequency trading apps, but it also houses a Big Data repository of historic exchange trading ticks, against-which trading algorithms can test their effectiveness.  Much like the example above, we have a business that turns itself inside-out to expose internal services (and data) creating an entirely new business model.

Next, I tripped over ifttt (If This, Then That). On the surface, this looks like a simple hosted scripting site.  Anybody can set up a simple decision/action...  i.e. IF I'm mentioned on Twitter, THEN text me; IF I'm tagged on Facebook, THEN post a message... and so on.  Ifttt goes further by allowing others to create combined "recipes" that you can use.  In some sense, this is an ultra-simple service mash-up that's hosted on the web for you.  And, if you adhere to the theory that very simple actions can be combined and nested to form more complex actions, there might be some pretty sophisticated personal automation features that Ifttt will enable in the future.  Ifttt is a pure online decision service.  Not sure what I'd call them, but this is a frame-breaker.

It's a Store! It's a Streaming Service Provider! Yes, even Walmart Entertainment is arguably now in the cloud Services game, with Disc-to-Digital which (using Vudu, a video streaming acquisition) allows users to stream videos from the web, assuming they've already purchased a DVD (read: Digital Rights) in the store.  Like Barnes and Noble, Amazon, iTunes, Netflix and others, the rush toward becoming a digital media distributor is blurring the lines between brick-and-mortar vendors and digital streaming Service Providers.

I'll be keeping my eyes out for other examples of new forms of IP disguised as cloud services. I'm sure I'll keep being surprised.

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