NetSuite's CEO cashes in on cloud mania

An exclusive interview with Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite, reveals the challenges and rewards of being the leading ERP-as-a-service provider

People mean a lot of things when they talk about "the cloud," but if you want to know where the revenue is going, look no further than SaaS (software as a service). Salesforce leads the SaaS pack with $2 billion in revenue for its latest fiscal year. NetSuite pulled in just a tenth of that for FY2010, but in some ways it's a more ambitious player, because it offers ERP as a service -- a core enterprise software category that, in the past, has been last on the list to trust to the cloud.

Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite, thinks that reluctance has been replaced by enthusiasm for the quick deployment, continuous innovation, and low maintenance of SaaS. A former executive at Oracle, Sun Microsystems, and Network Associates, Nelson joined NetSuite as CEO in 2002. Between then and now he has witnessed the industry's long, slow ramp-up to today's feverish interest in all things cloud -- an environment he sees as ripe to capture a new wave of customers.

Last month, as part of our ongoing IDGE CEO Interview Series, IDG Chief Content Officer John Gallant and InfoWorld Editor in Chief Eric Knorr sat down with Nelson to talk about the state of the cloud and NetSuite's evolution during his tenure. The conversation began by addressing the changing nature of NetSuite's customer base.

John Gallant: Tell us about NetSuite's target customers and how you serve them.

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