Now that Salesforce has experienced two public outtages in as many months (see yesterday's coverage and then the coverage from last month), the very fair question of whether or not the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model that drives that and other solutions is ready for the mission critical needs of enterprises is worth asking. After all, if Salesforce.com -- the proverbial poster child of hosted apps -- keeps experiencing outtages, what can be expected of all the other application service providers (ASPs)? Perhaps ASP-delivered services simply aren't ready for primetime. Looking to nip the damage that Salesforce.com is doing to the reputation of other ASPs (before his and other business get destroyed in the wake of Salesforce's downtime), Geary Broadnax, president and CEO of Houston-based salesforce automation (SFA) ASP Dovarri wrote to me earlier today. Here's a copy of his letter:
In the wake of the ongoing problems salesforce.com and its customers have reported to its online CRM service, we are concerned that the hosted, or ASP business model is receiving unfair criticism around its viability and reliability. It is ironic that the very company, who made it possible for the rest of us to develop legitimate businesses based on the ASP model, would now be the cause for us to defend this particular way of doing business. While we don’t wish any ill will towards Salesforce.com, we are concerned that this seemingly never ending story and the repeated finger pointing from others in our market, is creating a stigma around the hosted model.
With ANY software product, power outages and acts of nature are going to happen and are often out of anyone’s control. No one can guarantee 100 percent of software uptime. From our standpoint, hosted services give users – in our case sales professionals and their managers – the ability to work anywhere anytime without having to go through the burden of installing resource heavy software into their enterprises. The cost difference is also a no brainer.
When it comes to offering hosted services to customers, it is all about being prepared. At Dovarri, we pride ourselves on a technical backend that is ready for anything Mother Nature – or human error – will throw at us and our users, from regional blackouts, to network issues that could happen around a customer’s operations and/or cause them to lose access to the Internet. Dovarri has thought ahead and incorporated an off-line capability just for instances like the ones Salesforce.com customers are having to deal with. Our off-line capability is not a subset or truncated version but a fully functional exact copy of what they get online with all their data on their computers. So even in the event of an outage, our users have access to all their data synchronized with their computers. When the network goes back on line then everyone would sync up with the hosted database. So not all hosted services are as vulnerable, or unprepared.
The hosted model works and works well and no one should doubt that. We all know that anything Salesforce.com does gets well publicized, but it would be a great shame if Saleforce.com’s internal software troubles damage people's belief in a model that companies like us have worked so hard to build.
So, I have a couple of thoughts on this. First, the letter talks about how sales professionals and their managers don't "have to go through the burden of installing resource heavy software into their enterprises" but goes on to say that software must be installed locally for offline usage and subsequent synchronization. That software is probably lightweight enough to not qualify as "heavy software." But then again, compared to a purely hosted service, it's probably suffice to say that software obesity is in the eyes of the beholder.
Second, we don't have to look back very far for a public reminder of the PR nightmare that could follow when a company overpromises reliability and underdelivers. Not far at all. Like, the beginning of this week (see Oracle: Third party patch breaks our [unbreakable] stack). I'm not saying that Dovarri can't deliver on its promise of reliability (ensured through its offline capabilities). But claims have a way of getting tested and if they don't hold up, it's usually its the test of time that's the culprit.