Cloud computing comes of age

Software-as-a-service is here to stay and companies in the know are reaping the rewards
Isn’t it time IT leaders stopped asking where software-as-a-service (SaaS) might
be deployed in their business, and started wondering instead where it shouldn’t?

Recently, SaaS pioneer celebrated its 10th birthday. This year it also became the first enterprise cloud computing company to reach $1bn (£700m) in annual revenue, and has about 1.5 million subscribers.

If you want an alternative snapshot of how far on-demand/SaaS/cloud computing ­ – whatever you want to call it ­ – has come, look no further than Serena Software, an application development tools provider that migrated more than 700 worldwide staff to Gmail, in about the time it takes me to get to and from work.

Here is a sizable company dumping Microsoft Exchange because it can get a cheaper, more efficient and no less reliable service from the cloud. All done in the blink of an eye.

A recent Forrester Research report confirmed that the model has evolved beyond its early roots in customer relationship management and human capital management applications and is now gaining traction in areas such as web conferencing, collaboration and IT service management. These categories will experience significant SaaS success over the next decade, says Forrester, with only business intelligence and integration technology vendors unlikely to adopt the model.

But what of the caveats to this brave new world? Gmail itself was rocked by an outage in February, which had the Twitterati tweeting furiously. It was only out for about two and a half hours, but highlighted the problems, some said, of letting loose consumer technologies in the corporate sphere, and especially of using cloud-based technologies ­ – it’s out of your IT department’s control, you see?

Well, it hasn’t bothered Serena. René Bonvanie, senior vice president of IT, told me that Salesforce, Google et al do a better job of uptime and transparency than most IT departments can manage, it’s just that outages are so much more vis ible with these vendors.

And as for security concerns – ­ they are no greater with Salesforce than they would be with an on-premise Oracle solution, he says. Recent privacy concerns around Google’s cloud computing services may rock the boat for a little while, but too much momentum has already gathered for this to spoil the SaaS party.

BY Phil Muncaster

© Incisive Media Ltd. 2009 Incisive Media Limited, Haymarket House, 28-29 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4RX, is a company registered in England and Wales with company registration number 04038503



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