Defining applications vs services

One of the perpetual tasks in telecommunications is defining the terms that we're talking about. For example, we all talk about "the Cloud," but we bet that most folks when asked would have vastly differing definitions - if able to define at all.

One of the perpetual tasks in telecommunications is defining the terms that we're talking about. For example, we all talk about "the cloud," but we bet that most folks when asked would have vastly differing definitions - if able to define at all.

On an even more basic level, there seems to be an increasing lack of definition of and distinction between "applications" and "services." In response to Jim's "2011 Application & Service Delivery Handbook," we received the following query from a reader:

"Recently, I took a look at your handbook. One concept that is muddy to me is the distinction between an application and a service. A detailed search through the Internet didn't help me. I have not seen any good definition yet. Often people (myself included) are confused and we use them interchangeably.

"Would very much appreciate your help. Thanks."

This lack of definition can indeed cause great confusion, so here's an attempt to get started.

One of the best sources for definitions of telecommunications terms is "Webster's New World Telecom Dictionary" by our friend Ray Horak.

Ray defines an "application" as "A program designed to perform a function or suite of related functions of benefit to an end user, with examples being accounting, mathematical analysis, video editing, and word processing. Application software differs from utilities, which are devoted to system management tasks."

So far as "services" are concerned, Steve starts by suggesting that a service is a mechanism for delivering an application. But this "service" has evolved over the years from being simple transport of data - or, from an even earlier telecommunications service - delivering information from one point to another (like a telegraph) - to a model where access to an application may be delivered as a service.

In the next newsletter we'll look at where this evolution of the definition of "services" is taking us. In the meantime, please join in this discussion at the Webtorials Public Forum.

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