Software as a Service (SaaS) and Rich Internet Applications (RIA)

I have been spending the last few months doing research on ISV/VAR/SI applications.

As part of my research, I have been looking into trends and discussing with customers where our industry may, is, or should be headed.


I would love to hear your thoughts on the following subjects.


There are 3 categories of application types I would like to talk about.


1. Smart Client applications

a. I wrote a number of articles on the application semantics, so I will just provide a link.

2. Rich Internet Applications (RIA)

a. These application semantics align with the thin client definition (i.e., Web applications).

b. Increasing the “richness” of the User Interface/eXperience through offerings like Microsoft’s Atlas is part of making an IA, an RIA.  Here is a link on an Atlas MSDN article “ASP.NET Atlas Powers the AJAX-Style Sites You’ve Been Waiting For”.  For more on Atlas check out BradA’s posts

c. It is my understanding from talking to customers, that deployment, centralized management (“server”) of components and security, are primary drivers in the affinity of this model.

3. Software as a Service (SaaS)

a. Here is the Wikipedia definition.

b. The semantics of this model include a network connection over the web.

c. The Service/Software is managed on your behalf. 

                                                                 i. In other words, a third party is providing the hardware and connectivity infrastructure and general operations (backup, resource management, monitoring …) for accessibility to the software.


In many respects I see SaaS as a business model for monetizing software via licensing, and subscriptions.  And SOA as a software design, which can among other things, support the SaaS model. 

Do you agree?


So how do Smart Client and other pay for play software design models fit into all of this alphabet soup? 


I think some examples may help.

e.g., In a past life, I was MIS director of several companies.  One of these companies was an employee leasing company that also provided payroll services to our customers.  We used the ADP payroll software that ran on our local machine and batch uploaded data to the ADP server. 

Is this SaaS?


e.g., I attempted to run a DVD on a laptop the other day using Windows Media Player.  This failed since WMP requires a codec.  The Help link connected to the Internet were I could pay $14.95 for the codec software.

Is this SaaS?


I ask these questions because I would like to provide the architectural framework for supporting the desired application platform(s).


Do you want Word/Excel to run as a browser app?


Do you want to work off-line in a Rich UI/UX Application on your document, in an OCS (Occasionally Connected System), where you have the ability to upload and/or merge your documents into a central store (e.g., Sharepoint).  A Smart Client application.


Do you want to host the applications or pay a service fee for a 3rd party (Microsoft or other “ASP”) to host the server application?


Do you want to download, and pay for pieces of the Word/Excel application components as needed (e.g., Base Word.exe, Spell checker and Thesaurus Add-in)?


Do you prefer the App install from CD or OEM model?


I suspect preferences will vary based upon whether you are IT, ISV, VAR, SI, or end-user.