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Continuing our exploration of the Top 10 cloud technologies changing the world, in this post, we’ll go deeper into the second item on the list: Software as a Service, or SaaS.
By now most computer users are familiar with software that runs in the cloud. It’s how online productivity apps work. You just fire up a web browser and log into a service from any device to fetch and compose email, schedule meetings, create documents, and perform any number of other tasks.
Researchers articulated this concept, as time-sharing, as far back as the 1950s as a way to make economical use of then-expensive computing time. Their primary concern as they discussed ideas at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): subscribers to a time-sharing service might not be able to afford their own “input-output equipment.”
These days, of course, billions of people of ordinary means commonly own multiple “input-output” devices, in the form of desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Even devices of relatively low processing power can log into individual user accounts of applications hosted in the cloud and take advantage of the power and storage of cloud resources.
Behind the scenes, servers at data centers around the world not only run SaaS applications but also preserve the settings and leaving-off points of those billions of users, all of whom have the subjective experience of running their own copies of applications locally.
Especially as new generations of users work out of the office on their own devices, businesses increasingly depend on SaaS applications for vital functions. Besides convenience and mobility, SaaS offers many additional benefits to organizations, including lower up-front costs, greater oversight for data, and always-up-to-date software. Thanks to these benefits and more, Gartner predicts that cloud application service revenue will hit $85.1 billion in 2019.
Along with all the benefits of SaaS, the growth is fueled in part by ever-increasing capabilities thanks to high-speed data connections and economies of scale in processing power and storage provided by global data centers. Even in such a computationally intensive field as computer-aided design (CAD), SaaS is proving itself as a platform of choice for many manufacturing and engineering firms, thanks to the pioneering work of Massachusetts-based Onshape.
Onshape CEO and co-founder Jon Hirschtick got his engineering degrees from MIT, continuing MIT’s influence on SaaS firsts. He started Onshape after co-founding and heading locally hosted CAD company SOLIDWORKS. Just as he had with SOLIDWORKS when he helped move the field from specialized computer systems to Windows PCs, he saw an opportunity with the concept behind Onshape to take CAD to the next level with modern technology.
“Onshape is building a new generation of CAD,” he says in a promotional video, “one that’s designed for teams to use. Everyone on the team can use it anywhere, on any device, any time.” Everyone on a team can also use the same design files at the same time, enabling a degree of collaboration never before possible in CAD. In an endorsement of the company’s potential, CB Insights and The New York Times recently named Onshape as one of 50 startups on track to reach $1 billion in valuation.
Data centers like those run by T5 Data Centers make it all possible by providing the robust, flexible, and secure infrastructure needed for everything from meeting scheduling apps to powerful design software to run in the cloud.