There are a number of building blocks which can be assembled together by ASPs to bootstrap the process of building the SME Services Grid.
1. Applications Grid Infrastructure
ASPs need a centralised computing and storage platform for delivery of applications. This is akin to the Internet OS that Google, Yahoo and MSN have built for enabling them to deliver consumer services, and IBM and Sun are offering to large enterprises for running their applications. This would be built out of commodity server hardware and open-source infrastructure software. It would make it easy to deploy and manage applications as they get deployed on this grid.
Salesforce.com is doing just that with its Multiforce initiative. Tech Beat writes about what Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff calls “the first on-demand operating system.”
Salesforce.com started off as a simple thing. It was software running on the company’s own computers that customers could use to manage their sales forces. By subscribing to Salesforce.com, customers avoided the cost and trouble of buying their own software and computers, setting up a system, and keeping it running. Over the years, Benioff added more capabilities, including tools that clients could use to customize their service and that independent software outfits could use to build related applications. That helped Salesforce.com round up over 13,900 customers with 227,000 individual subscribers.
Multiforce takes things a big step further. The technology, which is to be introduced in June, turns Salesforce.com into a platform upon which customers can run any number of on-demand applications–all of which run on its farm of computers and tap into one gigantic database. Computer users can essentially live their professional lives in the Salesforce.com interface and click back and forth between their most-used programs. This positions Salesforce.com as the counterpart in the online world to the role Microsoft plays in the PC world.
Siebel has lined up its Universal Application Network initiative to counter Multiforce, according to InfoWorld. UAN is the moniker for Siebel’s integration platform, which, according to Keith Raffel, group vice president of products at Siebel CRM OnDemand, does more than just connect applications to the Siebel infrastructure. UAN offers prebuilt connections to applications that can be reused and will speed deployment.
IBM too is working on its own platform. eWeek writes: IBM and a group of ISVs (independent software vendors) including Seibel Systems Inc., Intacct Corp., Concur Technology Inc., Employease Inc., Peopleclick Inc., and Ultimate Software Group Inc., have formed what’s informally referred to as the IBM SaaS (Software as a Service) Partner Council to develop and deploy a model that enables users to pick and chose software that is pre-configured and pre-integrated, and available on demand. IBM’s work with the model boils down to the development of an architecture that provides a common framework for application integration. The pre-configured building blocks from hosted vendors would sit on top of that platform, and users would have the ability to choose capabilities at will, for whatever length of time that capability is needed.
These applications grids are targeted at ISVs in the developed markets and the mid-market enterprises. SMEs in Emerging Markets (SMEEMs) need their own equivalent platform at much more affordable price points.
Tomorrow: Technology Building Blocks (continued)
TECH TALK The Coming Age of ASPs+T