In much the same way that applications have, in the past, been developed to run on a known operating system – with Microsoft’s Windows being the not the least significant target example – so it is time for the same approach to start appearing at the next level of abstraction.
This is the service provider level, which is going to be the new common ground through which users will have applications – and more specifically the services those applications generate – delivered to their PCs and laptops.
In the same way that any application written to run on Windows was guaranteed a huge potential marketplace – even if it still died a strange and horrible death – so applications that are written to run on, and integrate with, Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms should, as the market grows, find far more ready access to a potentially huge user base. That, at least, is the idea behind Application Packaging Standard, which has been created by SWsoft.
The company has announced the first implementation of the standard, by 1&1 Internet Inc. in the form of Click-n-Build, a control panel bundled with the company’s web hosting packages. SWsoft has also initiated a certification programme for software vendors, and will soon be launching a similar programme for hosting service providers. Two levels of certification will be available to software vendors. Most are likely to start by going for the Silver level, which will indicate an application that works with APS.
The real test is likely to come with assessing the take up by software vendors of the Gold standard. This is for applications that are specifically designed for APS environments.
The standard is based around a specification that will allow software vendors to create pluggable applications that will then require no further integration or tailoring by the service providers. The providers, and the users, will get a plug-n-go environment which should, if it both works and becomes widely accepted amongst the SaaS community, create a marketplace where the providers and users have increasingly levels of flexibility and choice in the applications and services available to them.
Not surprisingly, the lynch pin of all this will be the rate of take up by the service providers. Here SWsoft is up against some strong competition. Microsoft is just one of the big name vendors that is already starting to push its partner channel into the SaaS marketplace and then of course there is always Google, where anything involving service delivery to end users of all sizes is its natural territory.
To check out APS, start here for a free download.®