December 31, 2010, 10:06 AM — More than anything, 2010 will be remembered as the year Microsoft jumped into the cloud with both feet. Less obvious, but just as important, was growing clarity around the discrete services offered by public and private clouds -- and who is likely to use them.
The cloud is a matrix of services. The categories along one axis should sound familiar: SaaS (software as a service), where applications are delivered through the browser; IaaS (infrastructure as a service), which mainly offers remote hosting for virtual machines; and PaaS (platform as a service), which offers complete application development and deployment environments. On the other axis is the public vs. the private cloud.
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In the public cloud, SaaS showed phenomenal momentum this year. Salesforce.com, the leading SaaS provider, saw its revenue nearly double in 2010 to $2 billion. Microsoft, SAP, and even latecomer Oracle all have SaaS offerings and major SaaS initiatives underway. And Intuit has quietly evolved into a company that enjoys $1 billion in SaaS revenue serving individual and small-business tax and accounting needs.
By contrast, leading IaaS provider Amazon.com was expected to earn just $650 million from its Amazon Web Services business in 2010, according to a Citigroup estimate in April, which also noted that second-place Rackspace would likely come in at a mere $56 million. While revenue numbers for the three main PaaS platforms -- Salesforce's Force.com, Microsoft Windows Azure, and Google App Engine -- are not readily available, by all indications these top three play to a very small market.