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An Introduction To SaaS & BI

by Robert Hunter, Dashboard InsightWednesday, September 2, 2009

This month's Dashboard Insight theme is Software as a Service (SaaS) and business intelligence (BI).  No doubt there will be some interesting and informative articles posted related to this topic, but perhaps a high-level overview is in order, just to get everyone up to speed.  So here's a quick attempt to give you the absolute basics on the subject.

Long, long ago in the prehistoric olden days - before the late '90s - software was sold as a standalone product that you sourced, installed, configured, secured, administered, updated and then eventually used.  Depending on the application, you could spend a lot of time and money deploying and configuring a package before finally getting the chance to actually run it.  Then as new enhancements/features were desired and made available, more and more tweaking was required - and likely more hardware was also needed.

The first generation of SaaS attempted to ameliorate some of these headaches.  It was - and still is - a software delivery model where the application is hosted remotely and users access it via the web.  (More recent models allow for downloading and running on the client, under license.)   The software provider looks after the application's operation, maintenance, security and support - all the complicated, time-consuming tasks.  The end user benefits by taking on less risk when making a technology investment, while also enjoying a reduction in the total cost of ownership.  Simply put, you pay a fee, use your browser to log in, do what you need to do, then log off.  Someone else has to worry about all the other stuff.

SaaS - also called "on demand" delivery - can provide a stress-free collection of BI tools like analytics, reporting, performance management, data mining and warehousing, etc.

"Companies are seeking cost-effective, efficient ways to improve productivity and market effectiveness," observes Wayne Morris, CEO of myDIALS Inc.  "This has increased the desirability of Software as a Service for operational intelligence solutions.  Low cost, low risk and speed-to-value are inherent in the SaaS model.  Add to this the ability to embed best practices, use metrics that support an improvement methodology and an intuitive interface suitable for all decision makers, and you have a solution that complements a continuous improvement approach while having minimal impact on the IT department."

Morris's company is one of many SaaS BI vendors profiled in the new "Data Visualization Market Landscape Report" released earlier this month by Dashboard Insight.  Others listed include BrightPoint Consulting, Corda Technologies, Host Analytics, IBM, InetSoft, KPIfix, PivotLink, SAP, Strategy Companion, VisualCalc and Visual Mining.  (Also look at Actuate, Birst, Cloud9, Jaspersoft, Pentaho, among others.)

Earlier this year, IT research firm IDC reported that by the end of 2009, 76 percent of U.S. organizations will use at least one SaaS-delivered application for business use.

When thinking about SaaS and BI, a few questions immediately come to mind: How does this delivery model compare to traditional software deployment?  What are the concerns of your IT department?  What are the security issues - and are there security advantages/disadvantages in dealing with large or small companies?  What are the variables in pricing and contracts?  And finally, is SaaS some kind of fad or is it really the future of software delivery?

Dashboard Insight is going to examine these - and more - questions throughout the month of September.

About the Author

Rob Hunter works as a software copywriter by day and as a Dashboard Insight editor by night (when he’s not playing his upright bass).

(Copyright 2009 - Dashboard Insight - All rights reserved.)

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