Some credit the dotcom boom as the birth of software-as-a-service or SaaS (and all the succeeding xxxx-as-a-service offering). Back then it was called ASP or application service provision. Today, we call is SaaS and there are trends indicating it might eventually called cloud service in the very near future. Before you mis-quote me, let me be clear… ASPs are NOT SaaS vendors. There is a difference.

Around 2002 if you were to asked around the vendor community how many had any SaaS-like offering, you’ll be surprise at how few would admit to this. In fact most traditional on-premise vendors tout the importance of customization and keeping your data close to you.

Today, its hard to find any major software vendor who doesn’t have a SaaS strategy somewhere. Some even dare to say that the only future is a SaaS one?

Treb Ryan, CEO of OpSource, a provider of infrastructure for delivering cloud services, says there are lots of SaaS-wannabes and you should learn to spot these from the genuine McCoy.

Andrew Antal, senior director of Marketing in Asia Pacific Japan at MessageLabs, notes that not everyone can be a SaaS vendor. It takes more than just adding the SaaS label in the product literature.

Ask your SaaS vendor to look you straight in the eye and tell you that their SaaS offering isn’t the same old product they used to sell with but with a web UI bolted to it and served up at an ASP-style data center.

According to purists, a true SaaS applications is built for the web. Being web-ready or web-enabled does not mean SaaS. So if a vendor approaches you and tells you they have a SaaS offering just right for your business, dig very deep into their history before you commit to anything. You might just become another ASP victim.