Applications: SaaS breaks down the walls

Hosted applications continue to remove enterprise objections

The one major exception to business as usual in the enterprise software arena for 2006 was SaaS (software as a service), which under the de facto leadership of Salesforce.com demonstrated that a hosted service can offer the kinds of capabilities once reserved for the giants of the enterprise software industry.

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Since the 2003 launch of Sforce, Salesforce.com has been focused on overcoming enterprise objections to SaaS, especially in the areas of customizability and extensibility. The curtain came down on 2006 with Salesforce.com announcing its most powerful enterprise capability to date: ApexConnect, an integration toolkit designed to associate on-demand applications with third-party back-end systems. Based on any triggering event in Salesforce.com, ApexConnect can set off an event or process in an external system, including an SAP or Oracle application.

Another enterprise capability launched last year by Salesforce.com was AppExchange Mobile, which gives subscribers access to any AppExchange application -- approximately 400 to date -- from mobile devices. AppExchange itself, launched in 2005, is an application-sharing service that exposes Salesforce.com’s APIs to third-party application providers.

If anyone has any doubts that SaaS will start to encroach on traditional enterprise software, one need only take note that holdouts SAP and Microsoft both announced SaaS versions of their CRM solutions this year.

As with SaaS, most developments in the enterprise application arena were continuations of efforts started in 2005, such as the move to integrate BI (business intelligence) into ERP and CRM applications, efforts to extend the use of BI dashboards and score cards to the departmental level, and the push to create a single, enterprisewide view of all customer data, called master data and master customer management.

In master data management, vendor approaches differed in unsurprising ways. SAP offered NetWeaver as a single consolidated solution to master data management, while IBM took the federated approach, demonstrating how data could remain in its unique silos but still be accessed through IBM’s WebSphere middleware.

One of the more interesting developments in enterprise software came from the federal courts. On Dec. 1, everything IT knew about archiving and discovery changed dramatically when the new Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) went into effect. Called the e-discovery amendments, the new rules will put IT departments on the front lines in major litigations.

One new rule mandates a pre-trial conference between opposing attorneys in which the companies must describe their data retention practices, discovery protocol, and preservation processes, as well as what data is accessible and what data is inaccessible and why. Most analysts say IT managers will now be subject to deposition as IT becomes a major factor in e-discovery. Something to look forward to in 2007.

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