99 problems but the cloud ain’t one: XaaS - “Everything-as-a-Service”

The whole of the IT sector took a big leap forward when cloud, colocation and managed infrastructures became available. They gave organisations the option to adopt more flexible and cost-effective solutions, transitioning some organisations away from their pre-existing on-site, conservative procedures for enabling IT and into full blown cloud based businesses or hybrid cloud configurations.

Naturally, it took time for businesses and their customers to digest the idea of outsourcing some or all of their existing IT into the cloud and into managed services and to integrating this into their IT planning and provisioning cycles. As this transition took place, IT professionals understandably began their migration to cloud services with many apprehensions around security, performance, reliability, continuity and so on.

However, as the industry started to counter these concerns with improved services & new ways of working, cloud technologies have evolved into high performance, effortlessly provisioned, scalable environments, and products that are frequently API-driven and hence customisable. And part of the reason and ultimate appeal of the cloud has been the development of “pay as you go” models for how services can be consumed: Software-as–a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, and Platform-as-a–Service. Once these fundamental IT infrastructure elements became available “As-a-Service,” it didn’t take long for other parts of the IT industry to follow suit.

In many cases, IT’s turn to the as-a-Service model has come with the acceptance of the technologies that have made cloud more palatable to the consumer, vendor and the service provider. Common offerings include DB-as-a-Service, Storage-as-a-Service, Backup-as-a-Service, Disaster-Recovery-as-a-Service, Desktop-as-a-Service and others creating “Everything–as-a-service.” This even has its own abbreviation, ‘XaaS’. The X, algebraically, stands for anything – and it’s pronounced ‘Zass,’ in case you were wondering.

The appeal of XaaS comes from the realisation that businesses ought only to invest in IT provisioning in-house where these items can bring measurable value to the business, that is; where the investment is going to increase revenues and profits, or where the business can do a significantly better job than outside specialists, in a way that will have a positive effect on the bottom line. By and large, IT services, such as email and desktop software provisioning and management are a means to an end for a business, which deliver general key IT services rather than driving innovation and profit. If that’s the case, then getting an external managed services provider to deliver and manage these resources is a sensible option, that can yield cost savings, peace-of-mind and an opportunity for in-house IT to drive a renewed focus on the primary business of the organisation.

XaaS is firmly embedded among companies that deal with IT and in its related sectors. But let’s look at the world outside pure IT and see how Everything-as-a-Service is playing out as it becomes an inherent part of how services work across almost any industry.

Consider the example of HR-as-a-Service – which is now a reality for anything from HR strategy and performance metrics to recruitment and data analysis for trends. The adoption of XaaS in the IT sector has made it easier for other sectors to adopt this “As-a-service" model, either in part or as a replacement for in-house services. Arguably, this approach to professional services makes us more focused on end results, rather than focused purely on process management. The “As-a-service” model has proven to be effective in the IT sector and now can be used in other business areas to free up in-house teams to focus on business critical activity.

Another example would be in the car sharing marketplace, where examples such as ZipCar us a variant of the “As-a-Service” model – in a different sector. Buying a car is a big, expensive, complicated decision with many associated decisions needing to be taken – such as servicing, parking, insurance and recovery services. The long term consequences and ongoing costs of this decision will last the duration of the car ownership. Renting or car sharing a car for just the period that you need it for is a trivial decision in comparison, and comes with lower consequences and fewer long-term worries. It’s the automotive equivalent to a cloud computing vendor’s “As-a-Service” offering.

Everywhere that the “As-a-Service” model is being adopted, offers flexibility to the user – the ability to scale up or scale down and the possibility of selecting the right option for your specific needs rather than being wedded to something for life – because you paid for it up-front. XaaS means that the user or organisation continues to have choice even after making a decision. And it’s possible to get started with much less initial outlay.

That mind shift is one that has already taken place in the IT industry. Instead of vast capital outlay and an investment in hardware and facilities, many IT assets are now in datacentres on a public or a private cloud, managed by trusted partners. The arrangement offers the possibility of offering more, paying less and with fewer disruptions and delivering the flexibility of being able to move to other options that emerge without the transition nightmares so customary in traditional in-house hosted environments.

Building on these benefits and the general take-up of this model, we can now see these benefits on offer with a range of new “As-a-Service” options in new industries.

Vivek Vahie, Senior Director at NaviSite

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