The cloud is here — and so are its acronyms. Since software as a service (SaaS) hit the world in 2001, the ‘as a service’ model has been extended to just about everything you can think of.

Along the way, the definition has become a little muddied. It used to be that -aaS meant something delivered on a subscription basis via the cloud, without a physical component. Hence software delivered to your computer continually via the internet rather than a program you purchased for a one-time fee and installed from a disc.

These days, though, -aaS can mean just about anything delivered by subscription or even just a plain old outsourced service, whether the cloud is involved or not. Some -aaS models are an industry category and some are proprietary to a single company. It’s enough to drive an IT pro mad trying to keep up.

So if your head is spinning, don’t worry—you’re not the only one. To help, we’ve pulled together a list of 53 ‘as a service’ offerings, everything from BaaS to XaaS. For 22 of the most important, we provide a brief description and a look at the market opportunity.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.

letter B as-a-service offerings

Backend as a Service

Backend cloud storage and processing for faster application development. Helps developers focus on their app’s features instead of spending time wondering how to scale.

Market: Young sector growing at lightning speed, shows no sign of stopping. Expected to balloon from $1.32 billion in 2015 to $28.1 billion in 2020.

Backup as a Service
Blockchain as a Service
Building as a Service

letter c -aas list

Containers as a Service

A complete runtime environment hosted in the cloud. Containers package up an app with all the bits it needs and standardize how it runs. Cloud containers make it even easier to test from anywhere, so no wonder the sector is exploding.

Market: Too soon to comment on size. Google and Amazon already involved, so clearly big opportunities exist.

Country as a Service

What if you’re Estonia—technically advanced with high living standards—but no one wants to live there? Offer e-residency with access to a variety of digital services in the country. Where could this go in the future? Watch for developments in banking, tax, and business.

Market: Unknown

Cloud as a Service
Commerce as a Service
Communications as a Service
Compiler as a Service
Compliance as a Service
Content as a Service

letter D as-a-service list

Desktop as a Service

See Workspace as a Service

Data as a Service

When data is siloed off, it’s not working as hard as it could. By centralizing data in the cloud, it can be accessed easily and analyzed far more deeply.

Market: Relatively new but growing quickly. Compound annual growth expected to be 43% between now and 2020.

Device as a Service

(aka Hardware as a Service, Notebook as a Service)

Companies pay a monthly fee to lease the latest hardware, along with ongoing management and support. A recurring revenue opportunity for MSPs—or a chance for hardware vendors to disintermediate them? HP, for one, offers device aaS as a channel program. Seems most vendors will. See Surface as a service.

Market: Corporate IT buyers are interested. A 2016 IDC survey says a quarter of them are actively looking at device aaS, while another 20% are planning to do so in the next year.

Database as a Service

Disaster Recovery as a Service

Leaps into action in the event of a catastrophe to repopulate your client’s data, infrastructure, and applications—ideally before they’ve even noticed a hiccup. More robust than backup aaS.

Market: Another new and quickly expanding market. Expected to grow from $1.68 billion in 2016 to $11.11 billion by 2021.

letter E as-a-service offerings

Environment as a Service

Going further than virtual machines or containers, provides test management, test case development, and test execution.

Market: A new market seeing strong growth. Compound annual growth forecasted at 23.5% from 2016 to 2020.

letter F -aaS list


Framework as a Service

letter H


Hardware as a Service
(see Device as a Service, Notebook as a Service)

letter I as-a-service list

Infrastructure as a Service

One of the fundamental -aaS offerings. Makes world-class IT infrastructure available to any size of business, with setup and maintenance outsourced to third parties. A huge number of platforms, applications, and software have been built on cloud infrastructure.

Market: A booming sector that keeps growing. Expected to skyrocket from $15.8 billion in 2015 to $56.1 billion in 2020. Behemoths AWS, Google, IBM, and Microsoft dominate.

Identity as a Service

letter K as-a-service offerings


Knowledge as a Service

letter L -aaS list

Location as a Service

Retail (and other) companies sit on an enormous quantity of customer location data without the tools to pull business insight from it. Location aaS lets them rent high quality location data analysis.

Market: An emerging sector, few big players so far.

Linux as a Service
Logging as a Service

letter M as-a-service list

Monitoring as a Service

Oversees from the cloud how IT infrastructure, systems, and apps are running. Avoids having to purchase and install a potentially costly on-premises monitoring tool.

Market: Difficult to define. No numbers available.

Management as a Service
Messaging as a Service
(Bare) Metal as a Service
Mobile Backend as a Service

letter N as-a-service offerings

Network as a Service

Rented network functionality from a third-party that owns the infrastructure, usually an ISP. Scale up or down on port capacity as needed—works best for companies with highly variable demand. An interesting model to explore when MSPs serve as the infrastructure provider renting to clients.

Market: Compound annual growth expected to be 36% between 2016 and 2020.

Notebook as a Service

letter O as-a-service list

Operations as a Service

A third-party services that helps businesses design, build, maintain, and monitor the IT infrastructure of their dreams. A new name for a managed service you’ve likely been offering for years.

Market: Managed service market forecasted to hit $193.3 billion by 2019.

letter P -aaS list

Platform as a Service

IaaS moves IT hardware to the cloud but opens new challenges for developers in configuring and operating their app deployment platforms. Platform aaS is the answer. Provides not just infrastructure but operating systems, software, databases, and other useful tools.

Market: Much smaller than IaaS but growing rapidly. Expected to rise from $1.3 billion in 2013 to $6.9 billion in 2018.

letter R -aaS list

Ransomware as a Service

DIY ransomware kits that would-be criminals can purchase and implement. One service you don’t want to deliver. Unfortunately there’s not a whole lot you can do about the sale of code kits online. What you can do? Protect against ransomware when it attacks.

Market: Oversupply is driving the cost of kits down—that’s bad.

letter S as-a-service offerings

Software as a Service

Centrally hosted software with subscription licences. The grandaddy of the entire -aaS market. Providers like it because regular monthly payments are better than one-time deals, and client like its flexibility.

Market: Growing five times faster than the traditional software market. Forecasted to grow from $48.8 billion in 2014 to $112.8 billion by 2019

Surface as a Service

Microsoft Surface for a monthly fee. Similar to device aaS, though proprietary to Microsoft. Watch for more and more companies to offer traditional products and services on a subscription basis in the next few years.

Market: Unknown

(IT) Security as a Service
Storage as a Service

letter U as-a-service offerings

Unified Communications as a Service

Managed and hosted communications channels. VOIP, instant messaging, LinkedIn, Skype, phones, Wi-Fi, social media… new communication channels appear at ever-shorter intervals and businesses struggle to keep their networks organized, secure, and efficient. Unified communications aaS vendors take care of all the hardware and software while guaranteeing a level of quality.

Market: Strong, established market with steady growth. Expected to expand from $15.1 billion in 2015 to $24.9 billion in 2020.

Understanding as a Service

letter V as-a-service offerings

Video as a Service

Cloud-hosted video conferencing. As more companies move from phone to video conferencing, the IT headaches of keeping them running multiply. Companies moving to cloud-based video aaS enjoy higher-quality images and fewer dropped calls, with technicians on standby to keep things running smoothly.

Market: Small sector seeing strong growth. Expected to expand from $390.3 million in 2016 to USD $1.58 billion by 2021.

Virtualization as a Service

One distant server, many accessible virtual machines. Ten years ago, turning one physical server into several virtual machines was a groundbreaking way to fully use server capacity and free up physical space. Today, it can be done via the cloud.

Market: Virtualization as a whole is considered a mature market—not many new opportunities here. Still, there’s $5.6 billion in revenue in virtualization as a whole.

letter W as-a-service offerings

Workspace as a Service

Virtual desktop environments. Just log in to access your office desktop, exactly as you like it, with all the business data and applications you need, from any device you choose. Easy to see why this sector has taken off, especially among companies with remote workers and small businesses without resources to efficiently manage their own IT.

Market: Large and growing steadily. Expected to expand from $4.76 billion in 2014 to $9.41 billion in 2019.

Wi-Fi as a Service
Windows as a Service

letter X

Anything (or everything) as a Service

Market: Expected compound annual growth rate of 38.2% from 2016 to 2020

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