SaaS is here to stay.

Ok, lately I’ve been grumpy, a curmudgeon by Smoothspan’s definition. Apologies, two kids under 3 can do that to you. So in a new vein, I wanted to point out a few things to the SaaS naysayers.

This 'thing’ isn’t a fly-by-night phenomenon. It is a trend that has been underway for nearly a decade. Take a look at the formation dates of Salesforce.com, Netsuite etc. Same as Google near enough! No one’s saying search & online advertising are flights of fancy.

SaaS companies are making serious money these days. Salesforce.com is the largest, right now they are a billion dollar company. That puts them inside the top 25 largest software companies in the world (interesting that SFDC doesn't show in that list). I’m guessing, but I would say at 43% they are the fastest growing of those 25 too…. By the way, just for those who think SAP is growing annually by the entire SaaS market. They are only 8 x bigger than salesforce.com & last I heard I struggling in these ‘tight’ financial times. The same times that salesforce.com grew by 43%.. . .

The market as a whole is going gangbusters. Growing at 20% CAGR according Gartner, and is currently a $6bn industry. An industry that big isn’t an ephemeral thing.  Size matters. Market penetration matters. This report shows just how much it matters in he US market.

Some key findings include SMBs spent USD 3.2 billion on SaaS applications in 2007, compared to USD 5.3 billion on packaged software; by the end of 2008, more than 55 percent of businesses based in North America will have deployed at least one SaaS application, with Europe close behind at more than 40 percent; and the SaaS market in Asia will reach USD 1.6 billion by 2010, with a CAGR of 66 percent.

Hype Cycles are often used against SaaS, “oh look, you are just on the peak of inflated expectations”. My answer, no… more like on the  slope of enlightenment. How? Well the much maligned (and deservedly so) first iteration of SaaS was the ASP play. Yip, that was the first crack at this market, and yes it did disappoint. BUT technology and business models have moved on, and are now at the point where the faults of the ASP model aren’t valid anymore. Some purists are likely to take issue with this whole statement, but think about it… it is the evolution of the business model.

Investment in SaaS is an indicator of its maturity. There are oddles of cash being thrown at the SaaS market. Even more compelling is the movement of incumbent software companies into the space (Microsoft, IBM, Siebel, SAP, Symantec, CA – all in that top 25 by the way). When these guys move you can assume that the market is mature and becoming mainstream.

Momentum is changing in the blogsphere too. I use Google Alerts as a tool to catch stuff I don’t normally subscribe too. I’m amazed how many posts I see defining or describing SaaS, trying to pin point why it’s a winning proposition, or what makes SaaS so different. Things that were going around 18 months ago are being re-litigated much to my  frustration. The imperturbable Ben Kepe ’s helped me to see that this was the journey, mainstream or even laggards catching up. Now these alerts say something different. To me they mean momentum, to me they mean mass acceptance, collective awareness of SaaS is happening.

But the most compelling factor in this whole diatribe, the one irrefutable truth is that customers believe in SaaS and are voting with their dollars. The proposition may vary slightly, but the appeal of rapid deployment, low up front costs, and lower ongoing costs and for what you use is just too compelling.

So to the SaaS detractors, check the facts, you cannot argue with those. SaaS and on-prem will co-exist. I don’t believe that you will ever eradicate on prem software. But when you take emotion, job preservation and ‘doctrine’, SaaS is an easy choice for many applications. For that reason, SaaS here to stay….

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