After spending nearly 30 years in the IT Industry, I have experienced first-hand some pretty incredible developments in technology. My experience harkens back to the days of the BBB, Mosaic browser, punch cards, and mainframes in the computer lab to compile my homework. To some of you that may be “civil war” stuff. But I remember how excited I was about the possibilities when I connected my 300 baud modem to Prodigy (yes I said it) so I could upload my first web page complete with gray background and blinking links. Compared to today’s technology, the “ooo-ahhs” of the 80s are caveman paintings. But the possibilities were enough to get me hooked for life.
I've seen and heard every "buzzy" marketing blurb about every world changing web technology since, well pretty much since you could change the color of the background on a web page. I consider myself fairly selective and a skeptic when it comes to adopting new technology. So, writing about Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) and Software as a Service (SaaS) in positive light is quite a departure for me. I beg you bare with me.
What's so Great About RIAs and SaaS Anyway?
Good Question. If you been around the internet for a while, you have undoubtedly had your throw the mouse through the monitor moments wish either the page would load faster, or you wouldn't have to keep entering the same data over and over again. If this has never happened to you, I have a few cracked monitors to sell you. The work great tho! Here are a few of the best reasons I feel that RIA and SaSS are for real:
- Rich is Good : The times when having a website for your company was a "differentiator" are long over. Everyone has a website. And thanks to Social Media, the information boom is only getting more intense. This may shock you but No one is looking to read flat boring static website content anymore! Now that we ripped the scab off let's admit that whatever we did last decade is definitely not going to work in this evolving information storm. So we must increase the engagement of our audience by giving them more content, more functionality, and more interaction. And that is exactly what RIAs can do.
- Fat is Bad : And by "fat" I mean fat client software. That may sound like a bold statement. But after spending 20 odd years running IT Departments I can tell you that the cost to acquire, manage and support on-premise software should go the way of the dinosaurs. Why would anyone invest capital in software purchase for licenses that will be obsolete in three years? It's a worse investment than buying a new car. Yet, that's the way it's been for decades, and most in the IT world have resisted such a fundamental change in the way they deliver service preferring to keep it all " in house". And the more functionality you need, the more ssoftware you need to buy and support.
Compared to today’s technology, the “ooo-ahhs” of the 80s are caveman paintings. But the possibilities were enough to get me hooked for life.
- Cheaper is Better : Paying for only the Software you need for only as long as you need it (yes I mean SaaS) is a far better model which frees up capital for other more strategic investments and insulates your company from having to "marry" your software provider. And SaaS subscriptions are virtually instantaneous to acquire. Say so long to long expensive deployments of in-house systems. RIAs and SaaS applications allow you to turn Capex into Opex. And who doesn't want a little more cash on hand?
- Quasi-Custom is Faster: Quasi-custom means only having to modify something that already exists to meet your needs. If your company happens to need a custom SaaS or RIA application, the ultimate cost of that solution will almost always be cheaper. This wasn't true 5 years ago. But, today just about every type of application you could need to run your business is already available. So take that slightly-used otherwise gorgeous pink house and paint it your color and be in it tomorrow rather than going through the build process all over again.
Where am I Coming From?
For the record, I receive no monetary gain related to the adoption of either RIAs or SaaS. I am a solutions consultant with over 25 years in IT both managing IT Departments and developing enterprise solutions and web technologies. It is the sum total of my experiences that give me an non-biased and honest perspective on the value and viability of emerging technologies (most of which I pass up and almost never write about in a positive way), and their real world applications for my clients.