By Sramana Mitra and guest author Siddharth Garg
Sramana Mitra: Now, Klaus, what is going to be the usage model for all these businesses? There are millions of SME customers, and yes, there is a distinctive move [toward cloud computing and SaaS right now]. I am hearing it from many parts of the ecosystem that they, SMEs in particular and even enterprises in some cases, are moving to Google Apps. Of course, all the application development that happens, OrangeScape calls long-tail application development for those customers. As it pertains to your suite of applications the bridge between Google Docs, Google Apps in general, and the Sage applications suite, are you going to customize all these? Or is there the expectation that you are going to provide the SMEs with some sort of technology environment, and the SMEs are themselves going to customize that?
Klaus-Michael Vogelberg: Yes, we will customize them. Our SMEs will typically not do that.
SM: Because they don’t yet have the IT to do that, right?
KMV: Yes. In our business, many of our business partnerships could do just that. A traditional Sage business partner delivers those capabilities, which is actually interesting. As an aside, it is an interesting aspect of cloud computing because there is always the question: Does the business partner still have a role to play when it comes to cloud computing? And people will take a view of certain things. Some business partners, certainly a traditional Microsoft partner would have [played such a role] in the past but, [some of these roles are] are no longer applicable. But what the Sage business partner does, which is business process automation and integration, is just as relevant if not even more relevant when a business is moved to cloud than it was before. Now in terms of how we do it, it depends again on if we are looking at a small business or at the mid-market, which we do separately.
What is absolutely important to us is that we offer [products that our customers want], irrespective of whether they are on-premise applications or our online solutions, for which we offer Web APIs. As we follow our customers, we clearly haven’t given up on desktop applications and on-premise applications. We believe they will change, as will the value preposition will as a result of that change, but we certainly haven’t written desktop application off. It is just that they will become different and they will become much more hybrid over time, using cloud technology, like the Amazon scenario we talked about earlier. So, what you may find is that the small business is going to say yes, we no longer want to run our e-mail services, and quite frankly, we don’t really use Microsoft Office anyway. We are perfectly happy using Google Apps for business, so we are going to move that to the cloud. But when it comes to our accounts system and our ability to produce invoices and file tax declarations, we actually want to keep that on-premise for the time being.
Straightaway you have this scenario: You have to integrate on-premise with online, which is exactly the thing I have talked about earlier with connected services. Our architectural approach has been to say, well, no one has ever said that you can’t learn from the Web and apply what you have learned to the desktop. That is where we have as an industry arguably been slightly misled until recently in that we had all these proprietary technologies, and no one really asked the question, why is cloud computing technology not equally applicable to on-premise software? And now, we are talking about private clouds and so forth, or Azure as an appliance. It has really caught on, but it has taken the industry a long time to connect the dots. We set out do this early on, and that is why before we even got fully up to speed with online solutions, we said that the first thing we were going to do was make sure that our on-premise applications were as Web-like as they could possibly be. Data is a key aspect of that.