With the ubiquity of high-speed broadband Internet access across the world, and North America in particular, new software models are able to flourish.
The old software delivery methods had many problems. Before the Internet, or in some cases even with slow Internet connections, you had to go to a brick and mortar store or have the software delivered to you on some type of physical media. It was just easier and quicker than letting your computer download huge files. In the very old school days, if your Internet connection was via the phone lines, you could have disconnected and you had to start your download all over again. Some "smarter" download programs could resume where the download left off, but even so the frustration level was just not worth it.
Now software updates are applied over the Internet. For instance your Operating System will get patches as needed and install in only a few steps, and typically in only a matter of minutes or sometimes a couple of hours.
Software as a Service (SaaS) takes advantage of high-speed Internet connections and there are many advantages to this software delivery model. In SaaS, software is not downloaded and installed on each client machine, but rather the software exists in "the cloud".
Now, "the cloud" is a term that's thrown around a lot but still seems to mystify some people. It's really very simple. The cloud is, in essence, the Internet. Think Google Apps. You do not have to download anything to use Google's word processing app. Any computer connected to the net with a modern browser can access Google Apps. You can log in and access your files from anywhere in the world (although sometimes not China or other countries where the Internet if filtered by the government).
This is a wonderful thing for both Google and for consumers. Google can roll out patches and features whenever they're ready and the entire user base will have access to them immediately.
Not only can users access their Google App files from anywhere, but they do not need to install anything or manage any sort of updates. Sure, they need to update their OS, but updates to Google Apps will keep happening behind the scenes. Google keeps a blog of new features that get added that you can check out if you like. http://googleappsupdates.blogspot.com/
This is SaaS in a nutshell and it's an incrementally prevalent software delivery model – especially in our industry as an intermodal software solution. It's also a great use case for a container management system. The Google App example is very similar to how SaaS would be used in the world of supply-chain management software (SMS). As a side note, SaaS is growing by leaps and bounds in the realm of Intermodal software and it's the main method of software delivery.
There are some drawbacks to SaaS, to be sure. It's not a pie in the sky panacea of software delivery that solves everything without throwing it's own issues into the mix – but overall, SMS delivered in this fashion promises to change the industry as we know it for the better.