Are Salesforce's outages sullying the reputation of the SaaS model?

Are Salesforce's outages sullying the reputation of the SaaS model?

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: Salesforce.com
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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.

Topic: Salesforce.com

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5 comments
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  • This all sounds so familiar...

    It's nice to see that Mr. Berlind is finally coming around. SaaS is a mess waiting to happen. The problems with Salesforce.com just highlight the accountability problems with SaaS. If this was my business, heads would have rolled after the second outtage, a few weeks ago. This one would have resulted in an outright purge of the responsible department. Yet, Mr. Benioff is blathering on and on about how their working to put new features in. Microsoft was able to get away with this for so many years, only because they had a monopoly. Salesforce.com hardly has a monopoly on CRM. I'd say that the only reason they still have customers is that their customers' data is locked up in their walled garden, and contracts with unforceable SLAs (if any) and no way to break them without massive penalties. It's like the cell phone contract from hell.

    I'm grateful I wasn't some CIO who made the leap to Salesforce.com for his company. Anyone who did that should be laying awake at night wondering if unemployment will pay his mortgage.

    J.Ja
    Justin James
  • Duh :)

    And it can never be guaranteed either. There is no such thing as a 100% reliable network.

    Lets see. My choices are:

    1. Have apps on workstations, and when one goes out the other 19,999 can keep working.

    2. Go with SaaS and when something goes wrong, I have 20,000 users down.

    Man, what a HARD decision :)
    BitTwiddler
    • Myopic

      By the term "workstation" you mean Windoze PCs - right? At Company "F" we have 12,000+ UNIX workstations that use automount to access (replicated) central software servers. NO software is loaded locally - its all NFS over the network, and automount can switch from one server to another whenever one goes down.

      When I want to update an application, I load a new one on the server and push out the new automount maps - and all 12,000 machines can now use it. When YOU update an application, you run 20,000 installs. I guess I'll take number 3 . . .
      Roger Ramjet
  • Salesforce isn't the only SaaS in town

    we shouldn't be too hasty to condemn the model. After all, when was the last time your online bank went down (mine never has). Also when did hotmail go down last, or amazon, or ebay, or google.
    hipparchus2001
    • I use the bank once a month, not 8 hours a day

      The problem with CRM is that it's your bread and butter and online services are way too slow to begin with.
      george_ou