In these tough economic conditions more and more organisations are looking for ways to reduce their operational and maintenance costs. Businesses are turning towards SaaS (Software as a Service) model because they no longer have to worry about buying servers and other costs that add up to maintain any software service. In fact according to market surveys, SaaS usage in organisations is going to increase in coming years.
The most popular applications being e-mail (Google), sales force, customer service management (SalesForce). A similar model/approach is being applied to bioinformatics software. Not an exhaustive list but to just to name a few, GenomeQuest, Geospiza already provide cloud-based solutions in the life sciences arena. It is a boon particularly for small and medium biotech companies and research organisations with little or no bioinformatics capabilities. Even large pharmaceutical companies are looking for a reliable service provider to avoid installing various bioinformatics software and do the plumbing around them.
According to some experts, when using legacy applications in the SaaS model users/organisations are just renting the application and loosing control over potential increase in renewal costs. This is a potential downside to the SaaS model, however, the risk is relatively minimal for bioinformatics software, the majority being open-source where there are no product/license costs involved. Clients only pay for the support and any consultancy around the hosted services and not for the product.
When we talk about SaaS, the topic leads to Cloud computing (where most services are likely to be hosted) which then leads to 'Security on Cloud' which not every client is comfortable with initially. There is a major misconception out there about the security and 'confidential data' protection on the Cloud. Many people think their data/services are better protected internally than outside of their firewalls. It is true only when the expectations between client and service provider are not well-defined. With proper Cloud-based security policy definition in place, many clients cannot afford the same security level(s) internally as Cloud providers can. As mentioned above, the security aspect has also been proved and handled better by Google and SalesForce than many organisations.