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By James Maguire
April 5, 2007
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is certainly a trendy topic these days in IT departments across the world, and with that rapid rise in popularity has come a fresh trove of new-fangled buzzwords. Pick up a press release from a SaaS vendor, and you'll see a heady array of terminology used in fresh (or hype-filled) ways.
For example, if your SaaS mash-up is going to enable parametric applications, than your integration connectors must be compatible with your solution extensions. I mean, obviously.
Clearly, if a new technology requires all these buzzy terms, it must be worthy of a hefty line item in next year's budget request, right?
Given that many IT departments still view SaaS as a newish approach, it's likely that many decision makers can't decode SaaS jargon without some head scratching. As a public service, we set out to translate this brave new buzz-speak into human language. For help, we turned to Rob Desisto, a Gartner analyst and confirmed expert-guru on all things relating to SaaS.
The following list is by no mean all-inclusive. Many vendors use their own terms, and buzzword inventors are minting new terms even as you read this. But this should get you started:
1) SaaS mash-ups
The term mash-up comes from pop music, when a studio musician combines two existing recordings to create a "new" song. This same concept applies to software hosted over the Internet.
"The notion is that when you get multiple Web services, you could 'mash them up' together into a total solution," Desisto says.
But there's a critical caveat to SaaS mash-ups, he notes. When you combine multiple SaaS services to form a larger solution, "the total solution is only as strong as its weakest link." For example, if you've combined three providers in a solution, and one of them has significant downtime, then the whole solution's down.
In contrast, in the traditional on-premise world, companies have more ownership of their apps, and so are better positioned to deal with snafus as they arise.
2) Integration connector
An integration connector is a software program that allows you to take data from one application source and load it into a SaaS solution (and also send back data the other direction). This data movement typically happens in a batch environment, in which an enterprise performs an initial data load, then does a periodic refresh as needed.
For instance, Salesforce's SAP integration connector "is a mapping of SAP customer and account data to the Salesforce data model of customer account data," Desisto says.
3) Solution extension
SaaS solution extensions are service offerings delivered over the Internet that add additional tools or functionality to your existing infrastructure. Desisto points to Salesforce.com's App Exchange applications as the ultimate example of solution extensions. For example, one App Exchange offering (one of the most popular, in fact) is "Salesforce for Google AdWords." This app piggybacks on to the main AdWords app, allowing greater functionality.
"The other thing you could do with some of these SaaS solutions is extend the data model and provide your own user interface screens, which is a further extension of the service or the app," says Desisto.
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