10 Software as a service (SaaS) companies to watch

Some familiar, some not, these companies show what software as a service is all about

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Why it's worth watching: Traditional on-premises document management deployments outnumber SaaS instances, especially within large enterprises, Forrester's Herbert says. But in the right instances, the benefits of on-demand document management can be unbeatable. Anthony Mashkovich, IT director at Miramax, in Santa Monica, Calif., says he's found that to be the case. Following the December 2010 sale from Walt Disney Studios to investors, Miramax has had to morph from a virtual to a physical company - and among other tasks, find a home for some 150,000 documents. "This was a large undertaking, but we needed to do something super fast while still fitting all our criteria. Going the traditional route of an EMC Documentum wasn't an option. We had no infrastructure, and the cost would have been too high," he says. "KnowledgeTree quickly stood out as the best choice, doing everything that a traditional Documentum system does but in the cloud and at a great price."

How it works: KnowledgeTree enables traditional document management and collaboration features, including document versioning and auditing, metadata and content searching, workflow, tagging and tag clouds, RSS feeds and e-mail triggers. It runs on the Ubuntu platform.

Where it resides: Amazon EC2 and Simple Storage Service clouds.

How much it costs: Annual pricing for Professional, Team and Company versions, with unlimited users, is $86 for 20GB of storage and 1-GB file-size limit, $266 for60 GB of storage and 1-GB file-size limit, and $428 for 150GB of storage and 2-GB file-size limit, respectively

Who's using it: Fujifilm, Miramax Films, Orbitz and Panera Bread, among others

8. Company Name: LiveOps

Headquarters: Santa Clara, Calif.

What it offers: LiveOps Contact Center Application Suite, which integrates call-center functions such as chat and e-mail, inbound call routing, interactive voice response and workforce management

Why it's worth watching: LiveOps represents another aspect of the evolving cloud model in that it couples SaaS with business-processing outsourcing (BPO). In other words, Kaplan says, it'll host the contact center applications in its cloud and provide the helpdesk or service desk personnel as well. "The demarcation between SaaS and BPO is blurring, and a lot of BPO folks, especially in India, are hurrying to get into SaaS. They're doing so because they can no longer afford the labor arbitrage associated with the traditional business - companies stealing people back and forth and then having to deal with the customer satisfaction issues that go along with that," he says. "Why not offer a SaaS solution that automates the process anyways?"

How it works: The contact center applications run on the LiveOps Contact Center Cloud Platform, which uses a Web-based architecture and grid computing technology. A company can let its own agents use the contact center SaaS applications or use the LiveOps virtual contact center, staffed by 20,000 remote agents.

Where it resides: Unnamed secure Tier 1 facility.

How much it costs: Varies by number of seats, total data volume and a range of other factors

Who's using it: AAA, Salesforce.com and West Marine, among others

9. Company Name: Reval

Headquarters: New York

What it offers: Reval, a suite of derivative valuation and hedge accounting capabilities

Why it's worth watching: Reval is a great example of how the SaaS model is penetrating into critical business areas - in this case, finance - at even the largest of companies, says Commonwealth's Perreault. "Corporations of all sorts all do hedging of various types. If you're doing business around the world, you're hedging currencies and interest rates. If you're a manufacturer, you're hedging the commodity costs of your inputs - aluminum and natural gas if you're GM, grain and other agricultural commodities if you're Anheuser Busch," he says. Reval lets financial officers get control and more effectively perform their hedging operations in corporate treasuries. Oftentimes, they're bringing in Reval to replace decades-old systems or manual "two guys sitting in the corner with the world's most complex spreadsheet" processes. "There's so little innovation in some legacy functions, and this is just one example where SaaS brings much-needed newer functionality," he adds.

How it works: Reval runs over a service-oriented architecture, using a Microsoft .Net framework and providing a Simple Object Application Protocol-compliant distributed system. Reval Connect, built on a Web Services architecture, provides the ability to integrate treasury management and other enterprise systems using common data exchange protocols, the company says.

Where it resides: Hosted data centers - primary production servers at Equinix, disaster recovery at Switch

How much it costs: Varies on number of modules, users and trades

Who's using it: Google, Microsoft, United Parcel Service of America, Virgin America and Visa, among others

10. Company name: Taleo

Headquarters: Dublin, Calif.

What it offers: Taleo Enterprise, a talent management SaaS suite

Why it's worth watching: Among all of the various SaaS categories, human resources management is "a very hot space," says Forrester's Herbert. Since HR software touches so many users, SaaS brings clear benefits such as ease of use and accessibility of the technology, she says. As discussed in Forrester's recent report, "How SaaS Will Change Technology Sourcing Strategy," Herbert says she expects recruiting and talent management SaaS offerings from companies such as Taleo to dominate this HR software area in the next three years. These companies also are focused on broadening their suites, hence Taleo's 2010 acquisitions of Learning.com and Worldwide Compensation, Herbert adds. IDC also gives a thumbs up to Taleo, naming it an integrated talent management market leader for 2011 in a vendor analysis report released in March.

How it works: Taleo operates the Talent Management Cloud, which it says comprises scalable, elastic and secure infrastructure; an open, mobile and flexible software platform and a full suite of talent management applications. These include recruiting, performance management, compensation management, employee development and succession planning.

Where it resides: Internal data center

How much it costs: Varies based on factors such as market segment, company size and products licensed

Who's using it: Children's Health Care of Atlanta, Domino's Pizza and Hyatt, among others

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Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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