Delivering software as a service (SAAS), accessed from the Internet rather than installed on a computer, is rapidly becoming the way for businesses to use software, said experts attending a conference Tuesday called SaaScon.
SAAS is moving from its early adoption phase last year to mainstream status this year and could be ubiquitous as soon as 2008, founder and CEO of market research firm Saugatuck Technology, Bill McNee, said.
"We're beyond the tipping point. We are in the midst of a revolution," he said.
Saugatuck research shows that 26 per cent of companies surveyed use at least one SAAS application in their business in 2007, up from just 11 per cent in 2006. By 2010, it forecasts as many as 65 per cent will be using at least one application.
Software as a service lets customers access software applications through a Web browser, usually for a subscription fee. This makes software management easier for a customer because they don't incur the capital expense of buying software licenses, don't have to deploy it to each computer and don't have to keep track of updates.
Software as a service can reduce a company's total cost of ownership of software from between 20 per cent and 40 per cent, compared to software licensing, Symantec senior vice-president in the security and data management group, Arthur Wong, said.
Symantec, which specialises in network security and virus protection software licensing, now also offered a SAAS option, Wong said. Its Symantec Protection Network, announced at SaaScon, provides a data storage and protection service, which can help companies prevent hackers from breaking into databases to steal valuable customer data.
SAAS vendors are likely to expand the types of software they deliver via SAAS to meet growing customer demand, said McNee.
The types of applications that companies subscribed to, in order of popularity, included collaboration, customer relationship management (CRM), payroll, travel planning and human resources, among others, he said.
Also, customers will be looking for customised applications to meet specific needs.
Salesforce.com, a SAAS CRM vendor, launched Salesforce Content this month, which includes a SAAS offering called Apex Content that allows anyone in the Salesforce.com ecosystem to create a SAAS application, publish it and share it with others. The technology came from Koral, a content collaboration software provider that Salesforce.com acquired in March.
A senior vice-president for AppExchange at Salesforce.com, Steve Fisher, demonstrated how a SAAS application could be built by creating a program to manage employee vacation time during his presentation. The application tracks how many hours each employee is entitled to and has used, plus offers an approval process to take vacation time.
Salesforce.com's AppExchange Web site offers users add-ons to Salesforce.com's hosted CRM.