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Build vs. Buy becomes SaaS vs. PaaS

In the nascent years of Distributed Computing, a whole industry emerged; COTS. Off-the-shelf applications, or "commodity" programs became available. Due in large part to the ubiquitous nature of the x86 platform, sales of “shrink-wrapped” programs saw a volume large enough to support the creation of thousands of new businesses.

At the same time, the liberation of PCs by end-users created a whole class of what futurist Alvin Toffler called “prosumers.” Business professionals, armed with new software were suddenly producing and consuming their own applications. The promise of COBOL, which never REALLY trickled down to end-users was realized by spreadsheet macros and simple database programming languages like dBase II and its variations.

The upside was that suddenly, accountants, financial analysts and small business owners were no longer limited to the inflexible apps offered by Service Providers or “Data Processing.” Applications could get as granular as one’s imagination allowed. The downside was that business professionals, unaware of the reason for the existence of policies and procedures crafted highly complex undocumented monstrosities, whose underlying logic was understood only by themselves. A few horror stories about low-level staff leaving a company with now mission-critical apps unsupported and unmodifiable(without possibly calling in expensive consultants) led to a pendulum swing back toward putting application development and maintenance in the hands of trusted professionals.


Published Friday, February 05, 2010 6:36 PM by David Marshall
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