NetSuite on Thursday detailed a new effort to let third parties tap its data model as a platform on which to build applications distributed as SaaS (software as a service).
The NetFlex Applications Program lets partners use the company's NetFlex platform of Web services, integration technologies, and customization capabilities to build applications.
"The first wave is for third-party apps to extend the NetSuite service into areas we haven't moved into yet," said Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite.
Such areas include point-of-sale systems, e-commerce extensions, telephony, automotive, and even horizontal applications.
Nelson continued that NetSuite's partners will be rolling out applications in the next six months.
With NetFlex, partners can use NetSuite's tools and technologies to create vertical applications that NetSuite will then host. That means when NetSuite upgrades its service, those applications can take advantage of the upgrade as well.
NetFlex also contains a feature that enables partners to clone an application that they can then resell.
NetSuite's announcement came just one day after stalwart SAP unwrapped a program in which partners are building vertical applications specifically tailored for SMBs, such as packages that target automotive, pharmaceutical, and retail industries in various regions of the world.
And while it's natural to compare NetSuite to rival Salesforce.com, particularly with Salesforce.com's AppExchange program that provides add-ons to let customers enhance the service, Nelson said "we'd rather take an SAP-like approach."
Still, most IT shops electing a hosted service rather than a packaged application will be faced with choosing between NetSuite, Salesforce.com, or other competitors, including Salesnet.
Denis Pombriant, founder of Beagle Research, pointed out that the competition between NetSuite's NetFlex and Salesforce.com's AppExchange benefits both companies in that "you don't really have a market unless you have competitors."
In words that could just as easily be directed at NetSuite, he added: "Until NetSuite gets out there with NetFlex, Salesforce's AppExchange could just be a great little hobby."