Is It Time For A Cloud vs SaaS Reality Check?

Adrian J Cotterill, Editor-in-Chief

The more nimble digital signage software vendors in our industry are still arguing over what constitutes true cloud based digital signage but an interesting press release landed on our desk this morning “Rackspace Cloud Reality Check: In-House IT Still Chained To Server Management”.

There’s a nice quote from a certain Jason Cremins in said release – CEO of course of digital signage provider, signagelive, we quote “We’ve seen dramatic reductions in operational costs and major improvements in the speed and reliability of our infrastructure after moving to the Rackspace Cloud. The move has also helped our customers. The content delivery business is moving away from in-house physical servers because the near-infinite scalability and reliability of cloud hosting lowers the barrier of entry for our customers and enables them to focus on their core business.”

See our story of a few weeks ago ‘signagelive Teams With Rackspace‘.

At the office we are wondering if the industry is ready for a DailyDOOH style (think of hard hitting #DSTop10 approach) reality check on what constitutes SaaS and what constitutes Cloud when vendors talk about digital signage?

6 Responses to “Is It Time For A Cloud vs SaaS Reality Check?”

  1. Bryan Crotaz Says:

    SaaS and cloud are not the same thing. SaaS can be delivered by in house servers or by cloud servers.

    The usual problem with moving the CMS out of the customer’s premises and into a 3rd party SaaS supplier’s premises (whether cloud or not) is the WAN bandwidth of the client. Most networks that we work on have tunnels from the branch site to the central customer data centre, so all traffic is routed over the data centre internet connection, forming a bottleneck.

    The general advantage of a cloud is that it is hosted in multiple data centres. However taking advantage of this requires changes to the CMS software to allow it to load balance across multiple servers. Systems that were designed to run on a single machine will not get much benefit from the cloud, except that they can be restarted in another location pretty quickly if the server should go down.

    Customers need to be helped to understand the difference between “walled garden” (nothing to do with hardware), “SaaS” and “cloud” – there is some naughty marketing around that conflates these issues.

  2. Mike Nield Says:

    SaaS is more about how the service is delivered, and Cloud is more about where it is delivered from. Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) can also be delivered from the cloud by buying virtual servers and storage acoss multiple data centres bringing resilliance and redundancy to the digital signage delivery operation.
    In my former life in digital media it was always the issue of guaranteeing uptime and delivery of content that caused most fear.
    Bryan is completely correct when he says the need for education is paramount.

  3. Tom Milner Says:

    Good comment Bryan,

    You also have the issue with some end user customers that unless they can have their own ‘dedicated’ server in the cloud (or rackspace!) they have security concerns about sharing servers in the cloud (rightly informed or wrongly).

    I know of at least 2 instances already where a popular ‘cloud based’ signage company was removed from the tendering process due to the above issue.

    I guess the moral of the story is that not everybody understands or at this stage is potentially interested in a fluffy white thing!

    My own take on this is that when you fly through a cloud, you normally encounter turbulence! 🙂

  4. Ken Goldberg Says:

    Brian is a smart guy, and his first sentence is of course the crux of the non-issue. There is no SaaS vs. Cloud debate, because they are not mutually exclusive.

    Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) is a *business model* in which applications are provided on a subscription basis from a hosted environment, taking the customer out of the business of buying and maintaining software and servers. The concepts of co-tenancy and single development stream are core to the model. And yes, a SaaS product can be cloud-based. Many are.

    Cloud computing is an *infrastructure choice* that takes the operator out of the server ownership and maintenance business. Virtualization and on-demand, scalable capacity are among the driving concepts of cloud computing. Cloud computing is a business model for Terremark, Rackspace and other providers. It is not a business model for their customers, simply a choice made for strategic reasons, just as SaaS is a choice made by software users.

    These pages have hosted this pissing match before ( So despite Adrian’s love of a good dust-up, I’ll end by saying this: Those who choose to co-opt the word “cloud” and conflate it with SaaS do themselves and their customers no service.

  5. Jeremy Gavin Says:

    Well put Ken, nailed it right on the head.

    I think the term Cloud may mean something different based on your perspective. To our customer it all comes over the ‘cloud’ meaning over the world wide web. As software folks, we know the difference between ‘dedicated’ hosting and cloud-based servers and services, but to end users – Cloud generally relates to their players connecting directly to a remote web server outside of their network rather than connecting to a server inside their network/firewall to receive commands and content.

    At Screenfeed we provide Content-as-a-Service (CaaS if you will), taking some of our customers out of the business of creating and delivering daily content and we deliver it over Media RSS from our web service. Our customers purchase our services as a subscription.

    The best infrastructure choice for our business is a use of both ‘dedicated’ servers AND Cloud-based servers, so the infrastructure choices are not mutually exclusive either.

  6. Barnaby Page Says:

    I agree there is little need for a major drama here – the two are different things although very often the one (SaaS) runs from the other (the cloud).

    From the digital signage end user’s POV, I would have thought it much more important whether or not a system is SaaS than whether the SaaS provider happens to operate their own servers or push it out to the cloud. Obviously security and uptime are issues, but if you’d trust a vendor to guarantee those on their own servers, you probably ought to trust them to choose the right cloud provider too.

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