SaaS Consortium Sets Standards

 

OpenSAM hopes new standards set bar for all software-as-a-service applications

 

(By Eydie Cubarrubia, Red Herring, May 8)

 

A group of web-based software makers on Tuesday are scheduled to release a package of office productivity software based on a common set of standards they hope will give them the collective clout they need to challenge Microsoft.

 

The package, dubbed ShareOffice, amounts to a "mash up" of different applications produced by several small firms that make software delivered over the Internet as a service. This so-called software-as-a-service sector is seen to be a huge growth market, with estimated worldwide SaaS revenues increasing from about $6.3 billion in 2006 to $19.3 billion in 2011, according to Gartner.

 

But wider adoption of Saas has been slowed by concerns that the software has been developed under various standards and might not be widely compatible with other on-demand products. Enter OpenSAM, a consortium made up of 10 small software companies that have vowed to adhere to the same standards, making their applications interoperable with one another and ensuring smooth integration. ShareOffice is their first common product and it takes aim at Microsoft’s dominant Office productivity software suite.

 

"Rather than come up with a whole new set of standards, we're building on existing standards", said Eric Hoffert, CEO of ShareMethods, which makes document management software.

 

But OpenSAM is no slam-dunk, David Coleman, managing dierctor of the research firm Collaborative Strategies, noted that the consortium members are small vendors and they might need a big partner to "have a lot more clout." And Denis Pombriant, founder of Beagle Research, said OpenSAM will have rivals as more consortia come up and try to become the standard-setters for the industry/

 

ShareMethods partnered on the creation of ShareOffice with iNetOffice, whose word processing app is part of the suite; other apps include a spreadsheet by EditGrid, and presentation software by Preezo.

 

Analysts praised OpenSAM’s approach. “I was impressed with them on two levels,” said Jeffrey Kaplan, managing director of the research firm THINKstrategies. “No. 1, the basic functionality—it does offer a viable alternative to Microsoft. No. 2, they recognize that a lot of companies aren’t willing to give up all their [software]… they offer complements that integrate well” into an enterprise’s existing system.  

 

Major SaaS vendors like salesforce.com and WebEx have developed a center of gravity with many third-party developers working to create software compatible with their standards. OpenSAM, on the other hand, is built by a collection of small, equal partners, noted Mr. Coleman.

 

The OpenSAM service will be sold as a subscription, and each participating company can set an extra fee. Customers will be able to choose their applications a la carte and won't have to pay for software they don't want.