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Hooray, 2009 starts with a SaaS backlash

After years of indifference to SaaS, the conventional software world has suddenly woken up to the threat and started attacking it in the hope it will all go away. As 2009 begins, the anti-SaaS chorus scales to ever more frenetic notes.
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Written by Phil Wainewright on

I welcomed Harry Debes' outburst against SaaS last summer, because being attacked is always better than being ignored. After years of indifference to SaaS, the conventional software world has suddenly woken up to the threat and started attacking it in the hope it will all go away.

2009 has begun with a renewed onslaught — perhaps enheartened by Salesforce.com suffering a total shutdown for almost 40 minutes last Tuesday, when a network device failed and took out its failover at the same time. Even the system status dashboard was inaccessible, leaving customers feverishly twittering for updates.

On the same day, Bill McDermott, SAP America's CEO and president of global field operations was telling Information Week that large enterprises will "never" use SaaS as a platform for running their core business operations (Oracle's CRM chief Anthony Lye advanced a similar argument at November's SIIA OnDemand conference).

Instead, former Oracle technology chief John Wookey is heading up a strategy to offer SaaS modules that "snap on" to SAP's on-premise applications — rather like Microsoft's 'software-plus-services' approach. As if that will eliminate all likelihood of anyone ever suffering a 40-minute outage. Perhaps a sprinkling of FUD about SaaS vendor viability will do the trick instead ...

Yet the harder these holdouts rage against SaaS, the more steadily it advances. Today, Evans Data released the results of a developer survey that found almost a third of developers in North America are already working on SaaS projects, and more than half worldwide expect they'll be doing so in 2009. Meanwhile, an analysis of Google search data by Pingdom has found that SaaS is still holding its own as a buzzword, even while both 'Web 2.0' and 'cloud computing' have shown sharp declines in 2008.

Faced with such a relentless surge, the anti-SaaS chorus is hitting ever more frenetic notes. For example, the ComputerWorld blogger who last week argued that SaaS hurts a fragile economy by eliminating IT staff from unproductive positions that are a drag on their employer's operational efficiency. Or the astonishing calculation that if you power on your desktop computer and then power it off again each time you do a Google search, you'll soon burn more carbon than if you boil a kettle.

When the attacks become this desperate, you know you're onto a winner.

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