We have entered the era of Everything-as-a-service, where lowering transaction costs mean that a growing range of capacities can be sourced from the cloud.
It has become common to talk about a threefold model:
- Software or applications as a service. A particular application may be used in the cloud (for example, Salesforce.com or Webex web meetings).
- Platform as a service. A development environment is provided which supports application development (for example, Azure, Microsoft’s cloud operating system, or force.com from Salesforce).
- Infrastructure as a service. Computing or storage or some other infrastructure component is provided (an example is the computing and storage services available from Amazon).
Recently, I have been wondering about ‘network as a service’. Think of Facebook and eBay. In each case, a major part of their value for third party developers is access to a ‘network’ of other users. And this is an explicit part of the offer of Facebook and eBay. In the former case, a developer can ‘leverage the social graph‘; in the latter, developers have access to the ‘largest ecommerce opportunity on the web‘. There are cases where access to a network is a useful feature of a service, even when network creation is not its primary purpose. Take for example firms which provide Employee Opinion Survey services. A firm which provides this service to many organizations will have benchmarking and comparison data which will make them an attractive option for some potential clients.
Business models vary in these examples, and in some cases the ‘interconnectedness’ of the network provided is important, in other cases less so. Value may reside in access to the network, or access to intelligence generated by the network (analytics data).
I have been thinking about this in the context of Worldcat. Worldcat is a bibliographic database. A major part of its value however is in the holdings data: it associates bibliographic items with libraries which hold them. In other words it creates a library network. OCLC leverages this network in other services – notably resource sharing. The Worldcat network is also leveraged by services provided by other organizations. For example, it provides a switch between other bibliographic services (Google Book Search, LibraryThing, OpenLibrary, Goodreads, ec) and library collections.
It provides a network as a service …
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