SaaS slips past IT's final barrier

Billing and general ledger software come to mind as programs you'd think would never be candidates for SaaS, but that will change

CIOs are loath to give up direct control of the systems that chief financial officers watch like a hawk. Billing and general ledger software come to mind as programs you'd think would never be candidates for software as a service (SaaS). But that will change. In fact, says Ed Sullivan (no, not that Ed Sullivan), it already has.

Aria Systems handles all aspects of recurring billing operations, including service activation and deactivation, usage tracking, and reporting, says CEO Sullivan. All the information can be customized and fed directly into a general ledger. What's more, Aria has been blessed by third parties as being compliant with the US Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, or PCI for short. Aria's Linux-based servers are located in a SunGard SAS 70-audited data center with disaster recovery capabilities. Sullivan has his fingers crossed that by the end of Q2, his application environment will get SAS 70 certification specifically for financial systems.

Currently, Aria bills more than a million consumers and businesses each month and handles over a billion transactions per day. Maybe the last barrier for SaaS has been breached. Pricing starts at US10 cents per invoice.

Morph SaaS into DaaS

"Desktops as a service" may be the next catchy buzzphrase if a new virtualization technology from MokaFive works as advertised. Bill Demas, CEO of the US-based start-up, says the MokaFive service lets you store your company's desktop images -- operating system, applications and data -- as a tenant "in the cloud."

When a user connects, the service immediately starts streaming the virtual desktop image to his machine. Demas says IT can create, deploy, manage and monitor all the virtual desktops centrally through the MokaFive service.

According to John Whaley, principal engineer, the company's compression tools can fit a package containing Windows, Office 2007 and data into about 1GB, streaming the bits fast enough so users can start working quickly. He says the image can also be stored on a USB drive and booted from there on any x86-class PC. Desktop images on USB drives will be updated as needed when the PC goes online.

MokaFive supports Windows, Mac OS X and the company's own version of Linux. Pricing will be set when it becomes generally available later in Q2.

A cure for boring IT applications

One reason enterprise applications fail is that they are, well, boring. And Anthony Franco, president of EffectiveUI, says the state-of-the-art tools that help developers write apps that appeal to users aren't just about generating a lot of whiz-bang special effects. Rather, they address hard-nosed ROI needs. For example, he says, rich Internet applications (RIA) written using Adobe Flex can run in the Flash player, which makes them cross-platform automatically. Plus, they can run using Adobe's AIR, so a user doesn't have to be connected to a server to get work done. There is one problem, he admits: There's a dearth of Flex developers today. And Microsoft's Silverlight remains in beta, so there are even fewer of those. But Franco has 77 RIA experts ready to code. For a price, of course.

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