I had a chat this morning with Doc Searls, who mentioned “Service as a Software,” obviously as a reversal of the common “Software as a Service.” A little Googling reveals that Netsuite has used the Service as Software term for a while now, but I had not heard it before. Obviously RightScale is a Software as a Service business; we sell the RightScale software in the form of a monthly subscription service. We run this software for you and ensure that everything scales according to your needs so you don’t need to think about where to run it or how to upgrade it.
But the RightScale product is also “Service as Software.” Most people think of IT or system administration as being a service performed by humans. We are selling sysadmin expertise in the form of software. What we experienced when we started to use Amazon EC2 is that the sysadmin tasks just explode. We want to launch many more servers than before because now that it’s easy to do so, we see more cases where servers make life easier. If a couple of extra servers can solve a problem, then chances are high that it’s the cheapest way to solve the problem. But, and it’s an all-caps BUT, only if these extra machines don’t create a sysadmin nightmare and escalate the sysadmin costs to the point where the savings evaporate. The goal of RightScale is to automate the sysadmin tasks such that they don’t escalate, such that launching 10x more servers doesn’t cost more sysadmin time. So we’re trying to encode the human sysadmin service into a piece of software which we sell as an online service (SaaSaaS?).
Is RightScale a sysadmin killer? I don’t think so. We expect our customers to have a sysadmin, or to dedicate someone’s time to sysadmin functions. RightScale multiplies that sysadmin’s efforts so he/she can focus on the interesting stuff that requires a brain and not get bogged down in busywork, such as setting up the Nth web server, or restarting a server that failed at 2 a.m. RightScale empowers sysadmins to manage more machines.