Thursday, May 21, 2009

SaaS Vendors Need to Get a Clue About APIs

One big obstacle to SaaS vendors getting their applications adopted more widely is that so many of them don’t offer open APIs.

Bob Brown - Wed, May 20, 2009 — Network World — LAS VEGAS -- One big obstacle to SaaS vendors getting their applications adopted more widely is that so many of them don't offer open APIs. Offering APIs is crucial for vendors to get their applications supported by channel partners and for customers looking to integrate SaaS offerings with legacy applications, said participants on the panel for a lively but lightly attended session Tuesday at Interop in Las Vegas dubbed "Herding cats: Managing SaaS sprawl."

"It's stunning to me the number of SaaS companies that don't even consider an API as part of the development cycle," says Treb Ryan, CEO of OpSource, a company that mainly helps SaaS vendors deliver their offerings to businesses but is also now extending its services to enterprises running their own clouds. "Lord knows two Web developers in a garage know to put out an API. [For SaaS vendors not doing this it's] killing them."

Panelists said providing an API that channel and integrate partners could cut the cost of acquiring customers for SaaS vendors.

"Customer acquisition is the biggest cost," said Tim Dilley, executive vice president, worldwide services and chief customer officer for SaaS vendor NetSuite. "The general notion of having a robust API to data is a critical jumping in point" for SaaS vendors wanting to play in the enterprise, said Narinder Singh, founder of Appirio, a company that helps customers exploit on-demand applications.

Still, Bob Moul, CEO of application integration company Boomi, said "channels are still evolving" around SaaS products, so there's still time for SaaS companies to find a fit with new and traditional integrators.

One difference that SaaS vendors are already seeing is that a lot of their sales go through line-of-business chiefs rather than CIOs or the IT department, panelists said.

NetSuite's Dilley said he's seen evidence over the past six months that CIOs actually are getting more aware of SaaS. This is important because overseeing a SaaS environment is much different than overseeing a traditional application environment – with SaaS, for example, upgrades might be continuous whereas traditional apps were more likely to undergo big upgrades only every six months or more, he said.

Singh said he doesn't see suites going entirely away but does foresee a more heterogeneous applications environment. "How customers get support and how stuff works together, it's unclear how that gets resolved," he said.

Among the other concerns for those in the SaaS industry is standards creep. Singh said he's concerned that new compliance and standards efforts could be used by those who are behind in the SaaS game to slow things down enough that they can catch up. "Standards…too often slow innovation," he said.

© 2007 Network World Inc.

1 comment:

  1. It's detrimental really for any SAAS vendor to not include Application Programming Interface technologies to enhance interoperability with other systems. A huge success in software development in my opinion has been and still is the fact that software applications/systems build on each other to create something better that will be more beneficial to the end user. Making it bigger, better, and most of all, easier to use with better results. For some SAAS vendors to ignore the importance of API's is to loose out on marketshare.