Guy Creese is an Analyst with the Burton Group, talking about the Pros and Cons of Software as a Service.
During 2007 the major players have all jumped into Saas productivity applications. From Burton’s point-of-view the market is immature, but over the next couple of years there will be lots of progress and it will become a buyers’ market.
Different user types map differently into different parts along the Communication-Collaboration and Asynchronous-Synchronous axes. Some are better at living in the cloud than others, based on roles, generations, and skills.
CFOs love SaaS because they can treat it as an operating expense.
SaaS typically has faster development cycles than packaged software.
In commercial institutions SaaS is more epxensive than packaged software in the long run, though that’s not true with educational discounts.
You can configure SaaS, but not customize it. And it doesn’t usually support offline work. UIs are not as rich as local software, though that’s not quite as true as it used to be before Ajax.
A third party is hosting the content, leading to security and intellectual property concerns.
Customer has no control over product rollouts – clients instantly get what the provider releases.
Records management is difficult and requires extra qork.
Lots of players in the market now:
Adobe – going for platform-neutral collaboration, with flash-based apps. THey offer word processing (Buzzword), web conferencing (Connect), and document sharing (Share).
Cisco – Collaboration is key and will generate demand for network gear, They acquired WebEx primarily for the web conferencing, but got WebEx WebOffice in the bargain, which offers shared calendar, web meetings, email, and database.
Google – SaaS is the wave of the future. Premier/Education edition – 5+ GB mailbox, IM, Collab office apps (docs, spreadsheets, presentations), shared docs.
Microsoft – Software sandbox_comments.diff Sandbox.zip sandpress.zip services. Live@edu suite – 5 GB per mailbox, 500 MB of storage (SkyDrive), IM, Alerts, Collab.
Salesforce.com – SaaS is the wave of the future. Acquired Koral.com and is rolling it into Salesforce. Salesforce Content – Content tagging, automated content recommendations, community feedback and ratings, version control. Initially rolling out for CRM customers, but the company has worked a lot with k-12 schools.
Yahoo – strong email and API offering through the acquisition of zimbra.
Folks seem to accept as valid that SaaS is here to stay. For higher ed, better infrastructure at a lower cost is a big driver. Hosted email is the typical point of entry. Common calendar is next, then document collaboration. User segmentation is key.
Guy had a good list of evaluation questions to ask when evaluating SaaS products.
Clemson offered fac/staff an opt-in to Exchange, then asked students what they wanted, and students told them they wanted Google Apps. This semester: 1848 students opted in, but only 694 forward their clemson.edu mail there. 195 employees opted in to gmail, with 69 forwarding.
Bruce Maas from UW Milwaukee notes that the policy issues are key.