Category Archives: Software as a service

More than just a low sticker price: Three key factors for a successful SaaS deployment

Teamwork. Business illustrationOne of the key challenges for businesses when evaluating new technologies is understanding what a successful return on investment (ROI) looks like.

In its infancy, business benefits of the cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model were simple: save on expensive infrastructure, while remaining agile enough to scale up or down depending on demand. Yet as cloud-based tools become ubiquitous, both inside and outside of a workplace, measuring success extended beyond simple infrastructure savings.

In theory the ability to launch new projects in hours and replace high infrastructure costs with a low monthly subscription should deliver substantial ROI benefits. But what happens to that ROI when the IT team discovers, six months after deployment, that end-user adoption is as low as 10 per cent? If businesses calculated the real “cost per user” in these instances, the benefits promised by cloud would simply diminish. This is becoming a real issue for businesses that bought on the promise of scalability, or reduced infrastructure costs.

In reality, success demands real organisational change, not just a cheap licencing fee. That’s why IT buyers must take time to look beyond the basic “sticker price” and begin to understand the end-user.

Aiming for seamless collaboration

As the enterprise workplace becomes ever-more fragmented, a “collaborative approach” is becoming increasingly important to business leaders. Industry insight, experience and understanding are all things that can’t be easily replicated by the competition. Being able to easily share this knowledge across an entire organisation is an extremely valuable asset – especially when trying to win new customers. That said, in organisations where teams need to operate across multiple locations (be it in difference offices or different countries), this can be difficult to implement: collaboration becomes inefficient, content lost and confidential data exposed – harming reputation and reducing revenue opportunities.

Some cloud-based SaaS solutions are quite successful in driving collaboration, improving the agility of teams and the security of their content. For example, Baker Tilly International – a network of 157 independent accountancy and business advisory firms, with 27,000 employees across 133 counties –significantly improved efficiency and created more time to bid for new business by deploying a cloud-based collaboration platform with government-grade security. However, not all organisations experience this success when deploying new cloud technologies. Some burden themselves with services that promise big ROI through innovation, but struggle with employee adoption.

Solving problems. Business conceptHere are the three key considerations all IT buyers must look at when evaluating successful SaaS deployment:

  1. Building awareness and confidence for better user experience

All enterprise systems, cloud or otherwise, need ownership and structure. IT teams need to understand how users and information move between internal systems. The minute workflows become broken, users will abandon the tool and default back to what has worked for them in the past. The result: poor user adoption and even increased security risks as users try to circumvent the new process. Building awareness and confidence in cloud technologies is the key to curbing this.

While cloud-based SaaS solutions are sold on their ease of use, end user education is paramount to ensuring an organization sees this value. The truth is, media scaremongering around data breaches has resulted in a fear of “the cloud”, causing many employees, especially those that don’t realise the consumer products they use are cloud-based, to resist using these tools in the workplace. In addition to teaching employees how to use services, IT teams must be able to alleviate employee concerns – baking change management into a deployment schedule.

These change management services aren’t often included within licensing costs, making the price-per-user seem artificially low. IT teams must be sure to factor in education efforts for driving user adoption and build an ROI not against price-per-user, but the actual cost-per-user.

  1. Data security isn’t just about certifications

There’s a thin line drawn between usability and security. If forced to choose, security must always come first. However, be aware that in the age of citizen IT too much unnecessary security can actually increase risk. That may seem contradictory but if usability is compromised too deeply, users will default to legacy tools, shadow IT or even avoid processes altogether.

Many businesses still struggle with the concept of their data being stored offsite. However, for some this mind-set is changing and the focus for successful SaaS implementations is enablement. In these businesses, IT buyers not only look for key security credentials – robust data hosting controls, application security features and secure mobile working – to meet required standards and compliance needs; but also quality user experience. The most secure platform in the world serves no purpose if employees don’t bother to use it.

Contemplate. Business concept illustrationThrough clear communication and a well-thought out on-boarding plan for end users, businesses can ensure all employees are trained and adequately supported as they begin using the solution.

  1. Domain expertise

One of the key advantages of cloud-based software is its ability to scale quickly and drive business agility. Today, scale is not only a measure of infrastructure but also a measure of user readiness.

This requires SaaS vendors to respond quickly to a business’s growth by delivering all of the things that help increase user adoption including; adequate user training, managing new user on-boarding, and even monitoring usage data and feedback to deliver maximum value as business begin to scale.

Yes, SaaS removes the need for big upgrade costs but without support from a seasoned expert, poor user adoption puts ROI at risk.

SaaS is about service

Cloud-based SaaS solutions can deliver a flexible, efficient and reliable way to deploy software into an organisation, helping to deliver ROI through reduced deployment time and infrastructure savings. However, these business must never forget that the second “S” in SaaS stands for service, and that successful deployments require more than just a low “sticker price”.

Written by Neil Rylan, VP of Sales EMEA, Huddle

Microsoft grows in SaaS market but Salesforce still leads the way

Microsoft1New findings from Synergy Research Group highlight Microsoft is growing healthily in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) market segment, but Salesforce is still market leader.

According to the research, Microsoft demonstrated the second highest level of growth within the segment at 70% year-on-year, only behind SAP who were at 73%, but still only sits second in the market share rankings. Salesforce was one of only four in the top ten for the segment who demonstrated less than 50% growth, however still accounts for just below 15% of the worldwide market share for SaaS. Adobe, IBM, Oracle, Google, ADP, Intuit and Workday complete the top ten.

“In many ways SaaS is a more mature market than other cloud markets like IaaS or PaaS,” said John Dinsdale, Chief Analyst at Synergy Research Group. “However, even for SaaS it is still early days in terms of market adoption. It is notable that the big three traditional software vendors – Microsoft, Oracle and IBM – are all now growing their SaaS revenues faster than the overall market and yet SaaS accounts for less than 8% of their total software revenues.”

The Software-as-a-Service has been demonstrating healthy growth over recent years, as Synergy estimates the market segment has grown by 40% over the last 12 months, and is expected to triple over the next five years. The growth claims are also supported by research from Cisco. Last year the team predicted by 2019 59% of total cloud workloads will be SaaS, compared to 45% in 2014.

The research also highlights Microsoft as making positive steps in the consumer SaaS market segment alongside its enterprise business. While the consumer segment is roughly a third of the size of the enterprise market, the company’s growth in this area exceeding competitors who currently have a more assured position in the space.

Skyhigh, Check Point claim cloud security simplification

Cloud securityCloud access security broker Skyhigh Networks and security vendor Check Point claim they’ve jointly made security, compliance and governance policies for cloud services a lot easier to manage.

The initial launch of their combined service is aimed at regulating software, platform and infrastructure (SaaS, PaaS and IaaS) as a service offerings.

The integration of their security offerings means that mutual customers can use Skyhigh’s cloud access security broker (CASB) and Check Point’s firewall more effectively while taking less time to set up and enforce internal policies. The idea is to alleviate the work of enterprise security managers as they try to comply with external regulations and protect corporate data.

Meanwhile Skyhigh is offering a free cloud audit as it claims that an all time high adoption of cloud has not been matched by cloud security standards. According to the Q4 2015 Skyhigh Cloud Adoption and Risk Report, the average company uses 1,154 cloud services and uploads over 5.6 TB to file sharing services each month. However, this vast migration of data to the cloud is creating a security gulf, it claims, because the rush to cut costs has seen companies lose visibility and control over their IT estate.

The combined Skyhigh Check Point service promises to shed more light on the state of the network, enforce data loss prevention (DLP) policies, protect company data, consolidate usage of cloud services, identify any risky data uploads or downloads from questionable service providers and protect against data exfiltration attempts. By applying threat intelligence to analyse cloud traffic patterns, detecting anomalous behaviour and remediating against users or cloud services the two partners claim they can restore the levels of security enterprises need, by making it easier to implement.

“Companies want to embrace cloud services, but they can’t leave behind security controls as corporate data moves off-premises,” said Chris Cesio, business development VP at Skyhigh Networks.

BT Cloud Connect to give customer direct link to Salesforce

BT cloud of cloudsTelco BT is to give its corporate customers the option of a hotline to Salesforce’s cloud service through its BT Cloud Connect service.

The telco claimed it can provide a high performance link to Salesforce’s Customer Success Platform and give customers a more reliable and faster performance from the system, as part of its

Cloud of Clouds programme. BT’s global network connects 200 data centres, 48 of which it owns and operates itself.

The service will be rolled out incrementally from February 2016. The priorities for service roll out will be the US first, then Europe, followed by the rest of the world.

Clients desperately want the cloud to help them manage and access vast amounts of valuable data, but it needs to be made easier for them, according to Keith Langridge, VP of network services at BT Global Services. “Our Cloud of Clouds makes it easier by providing direct, secure and high performance connectivity to the applications. Salesforce is a true pioneer of the technology so this is an important milestone in the delivery of our vision,” said Langridge.

The methods that companies use to connect with the cloud needs to be refined, according to Salesforce’s UK MD Andrew Lawson. “BT is accelerating this shift for its customers,” said Lawson. The addition of Salesforce to its cloud of clouds roster will transform the way BT’s clients can connect with customers, partners and employees.

AWS launches Workmail with eye on Exchange defectors

Amazon Work MailAmazon Web Services (AWS) has put its Workmail email and calendaring service on general release. Priced at $4 a month it includes an Exchange migration tool to encourage defections by Microsoft customers. However, those with data sovereignty issues should be aware that the services are mostly being hosted in the US, with a solitary non US data centre in Eire.

After a year in preview, the service was announced on the blog of AWS chief evangelist Jeff Barr. The service, designed to work with existing desktops and mobile clients, has been strengthened since it emerged in preview form, with the new service offering greater security, ease of use and migration, Barr said. The system has an emphasis on mobility features, with location control and policies and actions for controlling mobile devices, along with regular security features such as encryption of stored data, message scanning for spam and virus protection.

The migration tool will make it easier for users to move away from Microsoft Exchange, according to Barr, which suggests that dissatisfied Exchange users could be the primary target market.

The $4 per user per month service comes with an allocation of 50GB of storage and will be run from AWS’ US data centres in Northern Virginia and Oregon (in the US), with a single data centre in Eire to service European customers. “You can choose the region where you want to store your mailboxes and be confident that the stored data will not leave the region,” wrote Barr.

Other features include a Key Management Service (KMS) for creating and managing the keys that are used to encrypt data at rest and Self Certifications, so that WorkMail users can show they have achieved various ISO certifications.

WorkMail will support clients running on OS X, including Apple Mail and Outlook. It will also support clients using the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol including iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire, Fire Phone, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry 10. AWS is also working on interoperability support to give users a single Global Address Book and to access calendar information across both environments. A 30-day free trial is available for up to 25 users.

Microsoft maps out 2016 BizTalk Server, Azure Stack and cloud integration plans

AzureMicrosoft has unveiled its plans to integrate its cast of cloud services and servers in the coming year. Cloud users can now download a roadmap for the direction of its integration products such as the BizTalk application-integration server, Azure Stack and the Logic Apps included in the Azure App Service offering.

The initiative is the idea of new Azure CTO Mark Russinovich in a bid to keep customers aware of the changes that are being made now that many integration processes are out of their domain. Traditionally, integration has been conducted on the customer’s premises or through a business to business arrangement, but in the cloud era the systems they want integrated are typically outside of their control, Russinovich said in the company blog. “Everything from sales leads to invoicing, email and social media, is going to be well beyond the corporate firewall,” he said.

As modern integration goes from corporate computer systems to an increasingly mobile world, there needs to be a change of approach on both ends. On a technical level, this change is unpinned by application programming interfaces (APIs) within lightweight, modern, HTTP/REST-based protocols using JSON, Russinovich said. On a cultural level, Microsoft is to open more channels of communication with its cloud users through updates such as this.

Before the tenth release of BizTalk Server, in Q4 2016, it will release a Community Technology Preview and a beta of the product in Q3. BizTalk Server 2016 is to align with Windows Server 2016, SQL 2016, Office 2016 and the latest Visual Studio. The latest BizTalk release will straddle both the on-premise and cloud worlds, supporting SQL 2016’s AlwaysOn Availability Groups whether they are hosted on Azure or in house.

BizTalk Server will also have better interfaces with Salesforce.com and Office 365, as Microsoft bids to improve the hybrid experience. New, improved BizTalk adapters for Informix, MQ and DB2 have also been promised, along with better PowerShell integration.

Halfway through 2016 Microsoft will host another integration summit, Integrate 2016, as the vendor signals its intent to take its Integration platform as a service (iPaaS) responsibilities seriously too.

According to the roadmap Microsoft should imminently release a preview of a planned Logic Apps Update with Logic Apps becoming generally available in Q2. Azure Stack will be available in Q4.

Salesforce buys SteelBrick from California and wind power from Virginia

Cloud giant Salesforce.com has announced two new acquisitions, one intended to boost its bottom line and the other to shrink its carbon footprint.

The acquisition of California based start up SteelBrick gives it a quoting and billing system for SMEs that runs within the Salesforce cloud platform. Meanwhile, it has announced an agreement to source 40 megawatts of green power, from a new West Virginia wind farm, through a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA).

SteelBricks, which announced the take-over on its company blog, makes configure-price-quote and subscription-billing apps for small and medium-size enterprises. It had recently added subscription billing functions after buying UK-based cloud app maker Invoice IT. The apps automate the processes between researching customers and collecting payment and clients include Silicon Valley cloud vendors Cloudera and Nutanix.

Salesforce already part owned SteelBrick, having funded the start up through investment arm Salesforce Ventures. In December it announced plans to acquire the rest of SteelBrick for $360 million. Salesforce said it aims to close the deal by the end of April.

Having seen how Salesforce pioneered the shift to enterprise cloud computing, SteelBrick CEO Godard Abel said the company founder Max Rudman had been on a six year mission to simplify the process of selling. Abel was brought in as CEO having previously founded BigMachines, acquired by Oracle in 2013.

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based Salesforce is to buy an electricity supply from a West Virginia wind farm approximately 2,700 miles away. The two have signed a 12-year wind energy agreement for 40 megawatts (MW) of power to be provided through a virtual power purchase agreement (VPPA).

The electricity generated under the agreement is expected to be 125,000 megawatt hours annually, which exceeds Salesforce’s data centre electricity consumption in its full fiscal year 2015. The wind farm is expected to be operational by December 2016 and will deliver clean energy to the same regional electricity grid that currently powers the majority of Salesforce’s data centre load.

This announcement follows Salesforce’s recent commitments to achieve net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 and to power all its global operations with renewable energy.

AWS opens up EC2 Container Registry to all

amazon awsCloud giant Amazon Web Services (AWS) has opened its technology for storing and managing application container images up to public consumption.

The AWC EC2 Container Registry Service (ECR) had been exclusively for industry insiders who attended the launch at the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas in October. However, AWS has now decided to level the playing field, its Senior Product Manager Andrew Thomas revealed, guest writing on the blog of AWS chief technologist Jeff Barr. Thomas invited all interested cloud operators to apply for access.

As containers have become the de facto method for packaging application code all cloud service providers are competing to fine tune the process of running code within these constraints, as an alternative to using virtual machines. But developers have fed back teething problems to AWS, Thomas reports in the blog.

ECR, explains Thomas, is a managed Docker container registry designed to simplify the management of Docker container images which, developers have told Thomas, has proved difficult. Running a Docker image registry, in a large-scale job like an infrastructure project, involves pulling hundreds of images at once and this makes self-hosting too difficult, especially with the added complexity of spanning two or more AWS regions. AWS clients wanted fine-grained access control to images without having to manage certificates or credentials, Thomas said.

Management aside, there is a security dividend too, according to Thomas. “This makes it easier for developers to evaluate potential security threats before pushing to Amazon ECR,” he said. “It also allows developers to monitor their containers running in production.”

There is no charge for transferring data into the Amazon EC2 Container Registry. While storage costs 10 cents per gigabyte per month all new AWS customers will receive 500MB of storage a month for a year.

The Registry is integrated with Amazon ECS and the Docker CLI (command line interface), in order to simplify development and production workflows. “Users can push container images to Amazon ECR using the Docker CLI from the development machine and Amazon ECS can pull them directly for production,” said Thomas.

The service was effective from December 21st in the US East (Northern Virginia) with more regions on the way soon.

Royal Mail bags couriering SaaS specialist NetDespatch

Email DatentunnelThe UK’s Royal Mail has bought cloud-based parcel management system NetDespatch in a bid to expand its range of services and global reach.

NetDespatch will operate as an independent standalone subsidiary so it can continue to service existing clients and is free to offer services to Royal Mail competitors in future. NetDespatch directors Matthew Robertson and Matthew Clark will remain in charge of operations and all existing client terms and conditions will remain unchanged.

The service provider helps carriers (such as its new parent company Royal Mail) to manage the transport of parcels for 130,000 business customers in 100 countries across the world. The NetDespatch parcel management system is a software as a service (SaaS) cloud system that carriers use to track the movements of parcels. It has grown in popularity as it can make it easier to integrate ecommerce websites, sales order processing and warehouse systems at the point of despatch. It makes it easier for users to print shipping labels, customs documents and manifests and automatically pre-advises their carrier of incoming parcels.

The aim is to make a relatively complex process simple, make logistics more efficient and save money for everyone in the supply chain from retailer to carrier to consumer, said Matthew Robertson, NetDespatch’s Commercial Director. “E-commerce is exploding in the run up to Christmas and we expect to continue to steam ahead in 2016 and beyond,” he said.

NetDespatch’s cloud software has made the integration of the Royal Mail’s systems with its customers’ complex IT estates a lot quicker, according to Nick Landon, Managing Director of Royal Mail Parcels. “This acquisition will support our parcels business with new and innovative software solutions,” he said. The fee for the transaction was not disclosed.

Oracle cloud sales boom but at what price?

Oracle plane However Oracle’s co-chief executive Safra Catz warned fiscal 2016 will be “a trough year for profitability as we move to the cloud.”

Oracle’s total revenues were down by 6% to $9.0 billion with the sales of ‘cloud plus on-premise software’ down 4% to $7.0 billion. Meanwhile, total cloud revenue has gone up in the last quarter by 26% (in US dollars) and Oracle made $649 million on pure cloud software. The two most successful categories of cloud software for Oracle have been SaaS and PaaS which accounted for $484 million, a rise of 34%. Cloud infrastructure as a service (IaaS) revenue was $165 million, a rise of 7%.

Expect the SaaS and PaaS revenue to grow by 50% in Q3 and 60% in Q4, said Catz. According to Oracle it won 100 Fusion Human Capital Management system contracts and over 300 Fusion Enterprise resource planning deals in the last quarter. Oracle said it is on target to sell and book more than $1.5 billion of new SaaS and PaaS business this fiscal year.

“We now have more than 1,500 ERP customers in the cloud, that’s at least ten times more ERP customers than Workday,” said Oracle’s other joint CEO, Mark Hurd. “It was a very strong growth quarter for our cloud business, with SaaS and PaaS bookings up 75% in constant currency and billings up 68% in U.S. dollars.”

Not everyone in Wall Street is convinced however. “While the company is showing some signs of cloud success, the meat and potatoes legacy database and app business is under major secular pressure,” FBR Capital Markets analyst Daniel Ives told MarketWatch.

Oracle’s Board of Directors declared a quarterly cash dividend of $0.15 per share of outstanding common stock.