In an industry already littered with three-letter acronyms, we have yet another to get used to. This time, however, it’s a three-letter “extension” to previously solitary technologies.

That acronym is “aaS,” also written “as a service.”

The core methodology behind cloud computing hinges on the service-based delivery of technology for application processing, data analytics, data storage, and other ancillary functions. Within the cloud, we tier infrastructure as a service (IaaS) below platform as a service (PaaS) and place software as a service (SaaS) on top.

But we can go further with “aaS” than this core trinity.

Everything as a Service (XaaS)

Everything as a Service (XaaS), which is sometimes known as anything as a service (AaaS), expresses the notion that anything, literally anything, can be delivered as a service. Outside of technology, this could mean anything from transportation as a service (Uber for example) to marketing or health care as a service, and so on.

But inside our world of tech—and with specific reference to XaaS within the SAP world for ASUG Members—there are a number of key service extensions to think about.

XaaS for ASUG

Let’s now briefly cover a top seven aaS streams that ASUG members might currently be considering or already using to some degree.

Storage as a Service (STaaS): Customers may opt to rent their storage infrastructure from a Storage Service Provider (SSP) as a strategic move to avoid the overheads associated with maintaining their own data foundations. STaaS is usually charged on a cost-per-gigabyte (or terabyte) stored, as well as a cost-per-data transferred basis. Additional charges for Disaster Recovery-as a Service (DRaaS) may also apply. ASUG Members should note that SAP and AWS have collaborated on storage since 2011.

Containers as a Service (CaaS): Container technology works by creating discrete zones of defined compute logic that exist independently. This is software where code is packaged alongside all its dependencies so that it can be moved effectively and reliably from one cloud-based virtualized environment to another. In the SAP universe, we know that SAP Data Hub uses open source CaaS technology to provide a data sharing, pipelining, and orchestration solution that helps accelerate and expand the flow of data across diverse data landscapes.

Hadoop as a Service (HaaS): Hadoop is a software library framework that allows for the distributed processing of large data sets across clusters of computers using simple programming models. In other words, Hadoop offers cloud-based big data analytics. For ASUG Members integrating Hadoop with their other data tools, which may of course include SAP HANA, HaaS can be provided and managed by a third-party vendor and may also logically work alongside SAP Cloud Platform Big Data Services, which provide a full-service big data cloud, based on Hadoop and Spark.

Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS): This is a model for providing web and mobile application developers with a method to link applications to cloud storage and to those APIs made available and exposed by back-end applications. ASUG Members may consider MBaaS in the context of mobile application development platform technology from SAP in relation to its mobile platform. As SAP’s Martin Grasshoff clarified at the start of 2018, “Going forward, our mobile investments will be heavily focused on SAP Cloud Platform Mobile Service. This includes continued innovations in the software development kit (SDK) for iOS, enhancements to the micro app tool, and a priority on the low-code mobile developer kit.”

Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS): This is a cloud-based delivery model that provides communication and, usually, collaboration applications and services. UCaaS can include video conferencing technology as well as telephony and messaging. To integrate SAP Business ByDesign with a firm’s existing local telephone systems, ASUG Members may consider using SAP Collaboration Window. This is a desktop integration tool that coordinates multiple aspects of daily work into one application.

API as a Service (APIaaS): The use of APIaaS can be an internal (and integral) part of software as a Service (SaaS) models in general. As many ASUG readers will know, an API acts as a kind of gluing mechanism to connect one element of software application functionality to another. The nature of software created using APIs connected across the web and the cloud now typify the way many modern apps are being created.

AI as a Service (AIaaS): For ASUG Members who have yet to embark upon their own AI initiatives, AIaaS is a means of plugging into cognitive computing services (often running on specialized hardware) that might include AI subdomains such as image processing, speech recognition, text analytics, and more. ASUG Members interested in this area could consider investigating the SAP Leonardo Machine Learning Foundation, a technology offering designed to infuse your existing applications with intelligent services based on AI-centric machine learning.

How XaaS Could Affect ASUG Licenses

SAP appears to have understood the growth of XaaS and has modified its licensing structure to offer a more granular and compartmentalized billing structure. As Phil Wainewright reported on diginomica, “SAP’s chosen solution to [the rise of XaaS] is to introduce a completely new licensing regime based on documented transactions. This can be measured programmatically and reported transparently.”

This type of technology and its likelihood of exposure to what SAP considers indirect access means that SAP customers must be very educated about what is or isn't covered in their SAP licenses. SAP differentiates between direct/human access to SAP platforms, which can be charged for by number of human users, and indirect/digital access via third party, Internet of Things (IoT), bots, and/or other digital access that can be licensed based on transactions/documents processed by the system itself. The latter scenario is why SAP introduced its documents-based licensing model in 2018.

The prevalence of XaaS offers choice on the one hand, but it also brings with it a new and potentially larger responsibility for management, integration, and technology orchestration. Thankfully, we might someday have orchestration as a Service (OaaS) to shoulder some of that burden and help us play to the new XaaS tune.

Visit ASUG's Licensing Resource Center to learn more about SAP's definitions of indirect use and its licensing models.