OpenAir's quiet achievement

On-demand professional services automation vendor OpenAir is one of New England's fastest growing technology companies, says Deloitte & Touche.

One of the most consistent performers of the on-demand applications sector is OpenAir, which launched in June 1999 as, before changing its name in March 2000. An on-demand provider of professional services automation (PSA), OpenAir isn't as well known as some of the brasher proponents of the on-demand model, but it's always been a proactive member of the on-demand community.

The company has just celebrated being ranked 15th in the Deloitte & Touche Technology Fast 50 for New England, having posted an average annual growth rate of 97 percent from 2000 to 2004, and a 13-fold increase in revenues. It has 18,000 users at more than 200 customers, and has been consistently profitable since 2003.

It's typical of OpenAir's unpretentious style that this news reached me as an attachment to an untitled email from company CEO Morris Panner, accompanied by a short round-robin message:

"I wanted to share this with you, since so many of you have contributed in so many different ways to make this possible. Whether as customers, family or friends, you have all heard the stories and helped us overcome the challenges that have made this possible. Simply put — thank you."

Morris has kept in touch since the company's inception and was one of the first people to alert me to the significant role that open source software plays in the on-demand model. OpenAir's software is written in Perl, uses MySQL as its backend database and runs on Apache/Linux. I've subsequently discovered that most other successful on-demand vendors run on open-source platforms of one kind or another.

The adaptability of the open-source stack (along with its lower cost) is one factor in OpenAir's long-term success. It's also helped to enable the most important factor, which is the company's determination to understand how its customers use its applications and to evolve the functionality it offers accordingly — another example of that focus on customer success that I mentioned in my previous posting.