SaaScon 2008: Microsoft MIA, Interviews & Commentary

This week I'm visiting SaaScon 2008 in Santa Clara, the industry conference for Software as a Service users and vendors. The conference is sponsored by Computer World, a Network World sister publication. I'm attending both as a blogger/podcaster and also supporting one of my companies. The conference is interesting on several fronts, both for what you see at the conference and also for what you don't. First, what you don't see.

No Microsoft. Unlike last month's SaaS Summit, a conference held by vendor OpSource at which Microsoft was one of the highest level sponsors, SaaScon seems void of any Microsoft presence. Is that just a matter of Microsoft still figuring out how to expand its presence at SaaS conferences in support of the Microsoft software plus services strategy? Or was it a conscious effort to not have a presence here? I don't know, but it is interesting that that Microsoft supported a vendor's conference and not a more general industry conference. Maybe that will change over time as Microsoft gets more involved in software plus services.

Truth be told, Microsoft did hold a Heros Happen Here partner session at the Santa Clara convention center concurrently while SaaScon was happening in the same location. There was some crossover, where HHH attendees wandered into the SaaScon vendor expo area, but I don't think any of that constitutes a true Microsoft presence at SaaScon. Depending on the direction Computer World takes the SaaScon conference, I could see a much larger presence by larger software companies like Microsoft, Oracle or others as more acquisitions and consolidation by bigger players happens over the next year.

Now for what I did see at the show. I wouldn't say SaaS is pervasively mainstream quite yet but attendees seem much more enrolled in the belief that SaaS is a viable, interesting and even preferred approach for software delivery in many situations. I see a lot of IT leaders here trying to figure out how to get a handle on management and integration of SaaS applications back into the business. Many of the interviews I did reflect this. There may still be some skepticism about SaaS out there but you couldn't tell it by what I've seen at SaaScon.

I talked with several interesting companies that do varying plays on hosting, business intelligence, and integration. I haven't talked to every vendor here yet but I had the opportunity to interview a few interesting companies and attendees.

Micro-Podcast Interviews

One of the first companies I talked to was Cast Iron Systems. No, this isn't a Creuset culinary hardware replacement play. Cast Iron Systems provides an integration appliance that lets IT staff integrate SaaS applications with internal on premise business applications. This sounded at first like a software play, but CIS delivers their integration capabilities on a hardware appliance. One of the issues for SaaS from a business perspective is integrating and sharing sensitive data beyond the firewall, a big driver behind why CIS elected to go the appliance vs. software only route. Here's my interview with Simon Peel, SVP marketing and strategy at Cast Iron Systems.

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Next we have my interview with Mike Beckerle of Oco. Oco offers business intelligence solutions, extracting data from production systems, presenting that information in a way that answers specific business questions or issues. What I found interesting about Oco is they don't take the standard tool approach, requiring a big investment and time sync up front by customers, delaying the value customers see for their product. (See my previous post about the concept of Time to Value.) Oco starts with the business questions first, and then extracts the needed data (instead of one big datamart with all enterprise data in it) to answer the business questions or objectives. Here's my interview with Oco CTO, Mike Beckerle.

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My third interview was with M R Pamidi C-Cube Consulting. I was introduced to M R by a friend of mine who's worked with him on several occasions, and I thought it would be interesting to get the viewpoints of someone who works with multiple product companies across the spectrum of SaaS companies. M R had some interesting comments I think you'll enjoy hearing.

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That wraps up day 1 of SaaScon, and while not a Microsoft centric event, I think it gives you some feel for what's happening within the larger ecosystem beyond Microsoft's software plus services initiatives. I'll be doing some more interviews on day 2 of the conference and blogging about those for you too.

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Check out Mitchell's Converging On Microsoft Podcast. Current Podcast Episode: Security Mike Gets Serious About Security

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