"SaaS seems more prevalent in the mid-market"
What prompted you to go the SaaS way with crystalreports.com?
The reason was customer demand. Prior to launching crystalreporsts.com we had a long-term partnership with salesforce.com. When Salesforce asked us to provide them with our reporting tools capabilities integrated into their Appexchange solution, we built a saleforce.com version of our hosted application for them. Once we did that, we had many customers asking for our own on-demand medium which could get them access to Crystalreports without going through salesforce.com That’s how crystalreports.com materialized and it has been really successful since it’s launch in April.
Was it inspired by other BI vendors taking the SaaS route?
Pretty much, every competitor in the market now has an on-demand or an application service provider (ASP) channel for delivering applications. However, that wasn’t the main driver behind crystalreports.com. We were looking at customer demands and their requirements more than what our competitors were doing. Moreover, not too many ASP based applications from other vendors are successful, so it was never a question of us emulating others.
Were you ever concerned about issues such as service outages or security, when you decided to launch crytslreports.com?
Of course, there were concerns. When you are going to offer a mission critical business application such as BI online, for which customers are going to pay subscription fee, you better deliver a service that they can count on. So when we were launching crystalreports.com we tried to make sure that we delivered on our promise. We selected the best hosting partner we could find, we took care of all the security aspects in our infrastructure so that customers can feel comfortable in hosting their crucial business data with us.
How has it turned out so far?
Currently, we have more than 4,000 customers subscribing to our service. Most of them are smaller organizations that do not have the in-house IT capability or the resources to do it themselves. However, we’ve also got some big businesses or departments of big companies that simply want quick access to this functionality as customers.
Are we going to see more of Business Objects’ applications delivered via the on-demand model in future?
I do think so. I don’t want to predict which ones in particular but we believe that the mid-market will use SaaS or on-demand channel as one of the preferred ways of acquiring technology in the future. And therefore, it becomes important for us to participate in that channel with rest of the world.
What’s your personal take on SaaS vis- -vis conventional method of application delivery?
I think they both have a role to play and are going to co-exist with each other in the future. What we are seeing is a relatively normal take-up of SaaS type use of technology. It seems to be more prevalent in the mid-market segment, especially the lower end of the mid-market. And if you listen to IDC’s forecasts, they will suggest that as much as 40% of the mid-market will buy applications using SaaS channel while the remaining 60% will still go for the traditional method in the coming times.
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