What is an “as a service” offering? 

Published: 25 January 2024

Author: Simon Barnes, Xperience CTO

In the not-too-distant past, it was necessary to build out servers routinely to supply core services such as SQL/database platforms, backend/frontend application servers to execute code on and web servers to run web components. Ultimately this approach stood the test of time but came with several drawbacks.

Drawbacks of building out servers:

  • Updating the platforms/software is challenging, from downtime through to expertise
  • Upgrading versions to gain new functionality was often a chargeable exercise, leaving many organisations on a legacy version 
  • Spend predictability was complicated, in-frequent cap-ex and op-ex requirements may come up and these were difficult to plan 
  • Complexity – many things being linked together and complex inter-dependencies being created that were difficult to unpick further down the line 

There are various “as a service” offerings available. 

Examples of  “as a service” offerings:

  • Software as a service – typically an application that is provided on a subscription basis, without the customer needing to deploy their own platform. Items such as Dynamics CRM and Office 365 all fall into this category
  • Infrastructure as a service – renting of virtual machines, storage and networking components rather than building, owning and maintaining the underlying hardware and software components
  • Platform as a service – instead of running servers and other components to enable the building of applications 

We’ve observed that in the last 2-3 years the number of servers that have been deployed actually took a sharp increase for many organisations, partly because of having to rapidly implement systems, processes and remote access options due to COVID. However, now momentum is firmly shifting towards simplifying this estate and migrating to a model that supports the minimum number of servers possible. To help with this, “as a service” offerings are now becoming mainstream. 

For example:

  • Website/Applications – Hosting a website/web application using an Azure Web App service; removing the need for a server and instead running purely as code within Azure. All updates to the underlying platform are completed by Microsoft 
  • Databases – rather than maintaining, securing and updating SQL Servers; utilising a single or multiple databases natively within a Microsoft-hosted and managed SQL platform that is highly available 
  • Data storage – retaining large amounts of structured or unstructured data for a low cost per month, making it highly available and with archiving options for cheaper, long-term storage

There are many advancements in technology that can now be leveraged to simplify infrastructure and applications, many providing a cost saving whilst also increasing flexibility. Note that these items are not something that needs to be completed simultaneously, instead a phased roadmap and desired end state vision are fantastic tools to be able to get you there. 

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