Appirio opts for the cloud over servers

The company's 100-person operation relies on cloud-based, on-demand software from Google and Salesforce.com

Can a business be run solely in the cloud without a server anywhere in sight? Appirio says it can and is already doing it.

Starting out with four people two years ago and growing to nearly 100 employees, the company relies on cloud-based, on-demand software from Google and Salesforce.com, said Narinder Singh, founder and chief marketing officer at Appirio. The company provides products and services to accelerate adoption of on-demand services.

"Today, our company continues to run its entire business in the cloud. There's no servers inside Appirio," Singh said during a presentation at the Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco on Thursday afternoon.

The company uses Google Docs to collaborate on a day-to-day basis and Salesforce.com for such tasks as an employee recruitment system. Human resources, IT asset management, and financial systems also run in the cloud. Google Sites, providing secure Web sites, is used for collaborating with customers.

Annual IT costs per employee for hardware and software at Appirio are less than $1,000, as opposed to the $6,000 to $12,000 per employee that was spent at SAP when Singh worked there, he stressed. With cloud-based computing, large and small companies have access to the same infrastructure, Singh said. The core infrastructure will scale as Appirio grows, he said.

"We even manage the subscription process of how we actually look at licensing our customers inside of Salesforce," Singh said.

While acknowledging the risks that Google's applications and Salesforce.com are not immune to system failures, Singh nonetheless stressed the high uptime rates, estimating that Salesforce.com is has better than a 99.9 percent uptime rate. Appirio expects these uptimes to increase, he said. Appirio had pondered building redundant systems for some customers and process areas but has not acquired this capability, Singh said.

Appirio at the conference introduced Premium and Personal editions of its Sync tools intended to make individuals more productive. These tools provide synchronization for Google and Salesforce.com so users can more easily connect to their day-to-day productivity tools, the company said.

The company also now offers a package service to help prototype business models using on-demand platforms. The Business Model Prototyping service is based on a four-to-eight week engagement for executives at large and mid-sized businesses.

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