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Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Joe Graves, CIO of Stratus (Part 4)

Posted on Monday, Dec 5th 2011

Sramana Mitra: When you say “with support,” what does that mean? All SaaS providers provide support.

Joe Grrave: Well, it’s more than just “how do I do this” or “this isn’t working in this application.” Many of the software as a service providers are, more or less, point solutions at this point. I know you have some platforms with, for example, Salesforce.com, but if you want to create a more complex SaaS environment, you’re going to need integrations and then support those integrations with those customers.

SM: Yes, that is something that is coming up across the board right now. One of my favorite examples is that in the spectrum of CRM, there are numerous point solutions. There are people doing email marketing solutions. There are people doing CRM as the contact manager from a front office point of view. Then there are the back office systems. Some of the big ones such as RightNow and Salesforce.com have more comprehensive, integrated solutions for the enterprise. The moment you go down to the mid-market, it is extremely fragmented. Those payment systems all need to work with each other to provide a seamless environment. That part of the workflow is extremely hairy.

JG: Right. I know we have seen customers interested in the fact that we’re striving to be vendor agnostic and aggregate a number of different vendors. There’s been a fair of amount of interest in that aspect alone.

SM: I think a managed service that manages the CRM, you know, the integrated CRM of an organization, would perhaps be interesting. How would that play out from a configuration point of view? Eloqua as an email marketing solution. Salesforce.com as a CRM solution. Some payment solution, whichever one you pick, maybe another customer support solution. These are all products coming from different vendors. Yes, they need to be integrated. But it sounds like it’s an integration services project, so what role does a managed services provider play?

JG: Many companies, I think, would expect the entire environment to managed by a single entity. What the managed service provider could do is, basically, be a single throat to choke for supporting a complex SaaS environment and arbitrate between the vendors as issues pop up. The initial opportunity is probably in consulting services, setting up the environment, and then supporting it on an ongoing basis, both as a support entity and as a managed service provider.

SM: Fair enough. That’s an interesting point of view. But the services are still resting on these individual point providers’ system environments?

JG: Right. And then when you add in things like thin clients, then you’re adding complexity to the environment. Many smaller customers do not want to bother with that. They have no IT staff, nor do they want to acquire an IT staff.

SM: If a managed service provider wants to provide an integrated environment in whatever SaaS domain it is playing, that could be an entrepreneurial opportunity. Do you have a role to play in that?

JG: Right now, we could work with them in supporting that environment. We would have the right tool set.

SM: What is the tool set that is needed to support this environment?

JG: You would have to have a server environment – you could host it in the cloud, but that’s still a service. So, you would have to have a server environment to support the integrations you want to create. Those would need to be managed, so that’s a managed service. You would probably have thin clients or workstations that would need to be supported. That’s another managed service. So, there is a managed service opportunity in even a largely SaaS-based solution.

SM: You’re saying it’s the integrated offerings that come out of it, the mergers and the joints and the integrations across the different systems, that still have to be hosted somewhere, and that’s where you see the opportunities.

JG: Yes.

SM: Very interesting. Is there anything else you want to discuss?

JG: No. I hope this was helpful.

SM: Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us.

JG: Thank you.

This segment is part 4 in the series : Thought Leaders in Cloud Computing: Joe Graves, CIO of Stratus
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