Software as a service maintains narrow lead in cloud popularity contest

IaaS and PaaS gaining in popularity as agencies grow more comfortable

Software as a service (SaaS) — accessing software applications in the cloud instead of hosting them on-premises — remains the most popular form of cloud computing used by federal, state and local government agencies. However, interest in platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS) are growing faster, according to a January 2012 survey of government IT officials by the 1105 Government Information Group.

Roughly one-quarter of respondents use some form of SaaS compared to 19 percent using IaaS and 16 percent using PaaS. And even larger numbers of respondents are considering types of cloud computing, especially SaaS and IaaS.

“SaaS has been the strongest cloud category in government since the beginning, and for good reason. You can use your existing infrastructure and sign up for an application in the cloud, and it’s easy to switch on and get started,” said Kyra Kozemchak, a senior research analyst at Deltek, of Herndon, Va., which sells software and services, such as research on government IT patterns.


The 1105 Government Information Group survey found that although all areas of SaaS are generating interest, some are more widely adopted than others. The most popular SaaS functions are:

  • Collaboration,
  • Content and document management and
  • Customer resource management.

SaaS applications for billing, health and wellness, human resources and enterprise resource planning were among the least used applications in government, probably because of the sensitive nature of the data. The survey found that SaaS was most commonly implemented in a private cloud environment.

While only 19 percent of respondents use IaaS — a model in which an organization uses computing equipment in the cloud to run their internal processes — that number is up from just 9 percent last year. The most popular uses of IaaS by federal agencies include backup and storage, recovery, and compute cycles.

Use and interest in PaaS — the process of relegating an entire platform, including hardware, operating systems, storage and network capacity, to the cloud — shows a similar pattern, with 16 percent using some form of PaaS. That is up from 9 percent a year ago. The most common uses of PaaS by federal agencies are development and testing, database management, and business intelligence.

One of the reasons PaaS and IaaS score lower than SaaS for government agencies is because they are more critical parts of the computing paradigm. Many IT decision-makers aren’t quite ready to turn that part of their IT foundation over to the cloud. That’s partly because of security concerns and the culture that has grown up around infrastructure and platforms in the government, Kozemchak said.

“Even within the government, there is the idea that people own their piece of the pie and, with IaaS in particular, they have to give up some of that ownership when they go to the cloud,” she said.

Still, both PaaS and IaaS — not to mention SaaS — are expected to grow. The survey reinforces that claim, finding that within two years, 39 percent want to be using some form of PaaS, 47 percent some form of IaaS, and 53 percent some type of SaaS. Prompts from the federal government are surely helping those numbers along. On the PaaS side, the National Institute of Standards and Technology consider PaaS part of the federal Cloud Computing Reference Architecture, and Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel has said that PaaS is an important part of his shared-services initiative. On the IaaS front, the Homeland Security Department’s award of the first task order using the General Services Administration's IaaS blanket purchase agreement in October 2011 speaks well of the use of IaaS in government over time.

About this Report

This report was commissioned by the Content Solutions unit, an independent editorial arm of 1105 Government Information Group. Specific topics are chosen in response to interest from the vendor community; however, sponsors are not guaranteed content contribution or review of content before publication. For more information about 1105 Government Information Group Content Solutions, please email us at [email protected]