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First grow, then pay

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DQW Bureau
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Defined as a software delivery model in which the software is delivered via a

Web browser, what makes the software as a service (SaaS) model popular among

users is that they (users) don't buy the license for the software, but only a

right to use it on a subscription basis.

SMB has been the Holy Grail for software vendors, who earlier did not know

how to tap this segment. Balaka Agarwal, Manager-Syndicated Research,

Springboard Research, believes that SaaS is the most suitable medium to reach

out to the untapped SMB segment that could not afford expensive software.

“Because upfront costs are low, SaaS has broken the entry barrier by offering

low-cost applications that are quite effective. For many small companies, SaaS

will enable them to use software for the first time,” she added.

Springboard Research estimated that the SaaS market in India stood at $27

million in 2007 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 77 percent till 2010, when

the market will touch $165 million. The momentum of SaaS in India is taking

place in key industries such as banking, manufacturing and telecom enterprises

that have been at the forefront of deployed software adoption in India.

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“Currently the SaaS model is gaining traction in both generic applications

like CRM, HR/payroll as well as the more specialized chip industry. Soon ERP,

SCM and other HR applications will also fuel the demand for SaaS in India,” said

Manish Malhotra, Director-Software, Sun Microsystems.

Simply defined


Kiran Datar, MD, WebEx Communications India said, “Also known as 'on-demand

software' or 'hosted software', SaaS allows one to rent web-based software from

service providers. Over the years, it has matured to a high level of acceptance

and usability for a growing customer and is a part of the Web 2.0 features.”

The SaaS model has two fundamental characteristics-the multi-tenant

imperative wherein every customer is running on a single instance of software,

which provides organizations with the lowest total cost of ownership (TCO), and

everyone shares immediate access to the latest innovation. The second is

subscription-based pricing. This allows companies to fund software requirements

from revenue streams (as operating expense) as opposed to the traditional

requirements of large capital budgets.

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SaaS in India



“The SaaS model does not require large IT expenditure to make the software

run and so it presents another cost-saving opportunity for enterprises,” said

Chetan Shah, MD, Synygy India.

Even according to IDC, the domestic market for deployed software based on

service-oriented architecture (SOA) grew significantly due to increased

globalization and integration activities that drove the deployment of

web-enabled applications. Further, the availability and presence of a large

number of skilled developers and engineering talent has given a further impetus

to the adoption of SaaS.



Malhotra said that India and China have been ranked as having the greatest

potential in the mid to long-term future by SaaS application vendors. Gartner

Research predicts that by the end of this decade, 30 percent of new software

purchases in Asia Pacific will be delivered via an application utility or the

SaaS model.

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Advantages abound



When compared to the licensed packaged software, one of the key advantages

of the SaaS model is that it can help businesses get operations up and running

without breaking the bank.

Ganesh Swaminathan, Head-Office of Innovation, CSC India agreed that SaaS

simplifies the budgeting process since subscription fees are monthly or annual

and therefore upfront “This is a significant benefit for utility companies

especially that are municipally owned, who must finalize their budget in advance

for municipal approval,” he said.

SaaS offers huge benefits for companies in terms of cost where there is a

shift from their capital expenditure to the operating expenditure. Datar said

that SaaS enables customers to have a computing experience that scales up or

down as demand dictates, all with a seamlessness and continuity that minimizes

or eliminates disruption for end users with flexible pricing models. It provides

for seamless interoperability with existing systems, so companies do not have to

re-invest in additional infrastructure, to accommodate SaaS.

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On the other hand, while utilizing canned software, companies spend in excess

of four times the cost of buying the software itself due to the overworked and

overloaded internal IT department, a strong case can be made that the SaaS

delivery model alleviates headaches such as capital expense, end-user training

and others.

SaaS also means higher revenue from applications due to volume, quicker

upgrades and platform-independent applications. From the business angle, said

Malhotra, business-to-business integration and collaboration will be easier due

to common platforms and compliance to standards.

Swaminathan feels that with a majority of SaaS vendors aiming for the SMB

market, SaaS applications might not be enterprise ready to service thousands of

concurrent users.

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Trends for 2008



With close to eight million SMBs in India, SaaS will see a major increase in

2008. According to Springboard Research, the year 2007 was for creating

awareness among users and 2008 will see the increasing adoption of SaaS.

Globally, more and more companies have realized the importance of SaaS, the

driving reason being the CRM and collaboration.

Datar believes that companies in India are increasingly looking at the

delivery and collaboration of software over the Web. “Although different

providers are approaching SaaS in different ways (SOA, on-demand, etc), it will

ultimately dove-tail into the same pool of software as a service,” he said.

Small to mid-sized companies are also looking at the SaaS model to leverage

the RoI advantage-mainly the low monthly income fees and outsourced

administration that hosted application offer.

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Cooper believes that as organizations move toward ways and means to cut the

amount of time and resources spent on IT deployments, platform-as-a-service (PaaS)

will grow in importance. This is especially so in India, where the level of

understanding on the benefits of SaaS is relatively high. “Companies will start

leveraging on on-demand in areas beyond CRM, and PaaS will provide the building

blocks necessary to create and deploy any business application, and allow

organizations to focus on what their applications do, rather than the software

and infrastructure to run them. This is significant to companies which are

looking at lowering their overall IT infrastructure cost,” he said.

From the customer's perspective, software on demand seems to be a very viable

option-a few on-demand providers are offering entirely new Web-based application

or new versions of enterprise requirements (like financials or inventory

control), designed in a new way. These are intended to provide a competitive

advantage by offering faster implementation, different business models, or new

features.

Businesses would want to be able to do more with the existing on-demand

applications-both in terms of customizing the interface, as well as adding

enhanced features. For example, salesforce.com recently announced the

availability of its multi-tenant network-Salesforce to Salesforce. It allows

customers to click, connect and share data with their partners on-demand. For

the first time, customers of salesforce.com will be able to securely connect and

share information among individual salesforce.com deployments with the click of

a button.

SaaS is poised for tremendous uptake in India. Customers have only just

started exploring, and as they experience SaaS, adoption will increase. “Rising

domestic consumption and exports, expanding broadband infrastructure and

increased Internet penetration among SMBs will make India a significant market

for SaaS application,” Shah said.

Vendors are also very keen on the Indian market and 2008 is going to see a

number of players enter the market. Balaka said that Salesforce will increase

its presence, which will really be a big boost to the market.

As India moves toward a web connected world with increasing Internet

penetration through expansion in broadband infrastructure, SaaS adoption will

grow not just in the enterprise sector, but also in the SMB sector. Web

services-dependent areas such as e-learning, online banking, share trading, and

online shopping will also drive SaaS. With more and more software vendors moving

into delivering SaaS, increased vendor activity will lead to market expansion

and hence market uptake.

STUTI DAS



stutid@cybermedia.co.in

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