I have been working in the software and data business for twenty years and in that time there have been some pretty good innovations, but the best so far is definitely the Cloud. This is for the most practical and important of all reasons: it enables far superior client service.
Anyone who has either worked for a software company or been involved in buying a software application will know how lengthy any upgrade process is for complex applications like performance and attribution systems. With the best will in the world, it is hard to get around IT processes that are there to ensure that the upgrade does not accidentally cause the production system to crash. As each client has subtly different IT environments each upgrade is a project; sometimes a small project, sometimes a big one. Either way it costs money and takes time both for the supplier and for the customer. These are part of the maintenance costs of traditional software.
With cloud computing it is all so different. There is only one version of software in one place to upgrade. With our SaaS product StatPro Revolution for example, we upgrade it every month. We have over 20 clients using it already and they all get the enhancements as they are released. No one is on an old release. If a client asks us if we could add some functionality, we can add it for the next release and when it is released they and every other client will have use of the functionality immediately: no StatPro UAT, no discussions with their IT team about when to commence the upgrade project, no project, no client UAT - just a quick enhancement, readily done, easily supplied. Low cost for us, no cost for the client.
The consequence is that the Cloud lets us give our clients a far better service than was possible before. I love it.