i365 Aims to ‘SaaS-ify’ ISV Apps with New Cloud Offering
January 12, 2010 Alex Woodie
i365 yesterday launched a new software as a service (SaaS) enablement program for independent software vendors (ISVs) called the EVault Cloud-Connected Services Platform (EC2S). The Seagate subsidiary aims to leverage its investment and experience from designing and operating the EVault online backup, storage, and data recovery business to tackle the burgeoning market for general-purpose cloud computing, which is expected to generate nearly $10 billion in revenue this year.
The term “cloud computing” took the popular lexicon by storm last year, and quickly became the go-to word for hype-happy enterprise product peddlers, who applied it to nearly everything that connects to the Internet. But underneath all the hoopla, the cloud idea represents a powerful, game-changing concept that many smart people agree is fundamentally changing the way people and businesses consume applications.
With 20,000 customers utilizing its online backup and recovery, i365 is already a pretty big cloud computing vendor. But with EC2S, the company is looking to take its cloud offerings to the next level, and become a trusted provider of cloud-enablement technologies for ISVs.
i365 is a collection of software and services designed to help ISVs shift their delivery mechanisms from on-premise to the cloud. The program includes four components, including the cloud APIs; cloud storage in i365’s data centers; an edge-to-cloud service connector; and several service offerings designed to help ISVs become SaaS providers themselves.
The EC2S APIs are written in C++ and Java and enable developers to switch storage calls in their applications from local disk and point them to i365’s storage facilities. They also provide metering, billing, and account provisioning capabilities. The fact that they’re written in C++ and Java is not a deal-breaker for developers that target the System i or who write in ILE RPG, but it will require a bit more work to figure out a way to incorporate the APIs.
The edge-to-cloud service connector is a piece of software that resides on a server or appliance at the customer site, and caches data before sending it outside the firewall to i365’s storage facility. The connector applies de-duplication, compression, encryption, and bandwidth management techniques to minimize network usage. This software runs on a Windows or Linux server, and can reside on the same server as the ISV’s application if it runs on Windows or Linux, i365 says.
Storage for the EC2S Platform is housed in i365 and Seagate data centers around the world, which are modern facilities with SAS 70 Type II or ISO 9001:2000 certification, i365 says. Finally, once the technology stuff is taken care of and the app is “SaaS-ified,” i365 will help ISVs figure out the business side of cloud computing, such as pricing, billing, customer service, service level agreements (SLAs), and account management.
i365 hails from the data backup and recovery business, and so EC2S will obviously be able to help cloud-enable backup and archive applications. But i365 undoubtedly is looking beyond this market niche and hoping to drum up business in the wider application market. Examples of types of applications that are good candidates for EC2S include point of sale (POS), digital video recording, and imaging. But this list will likely expand in the near future.
Early adopters of EC2S include CA, which is using the program to SaaS-ify its ARCserve Backup software, and C2C Systems Limited, a developer of e-mail archiving software for Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Notes customers. “They’ve put a lot of thought into making it easy for partners to integrate with their services,” says Dave Hunt, CEO of C2C.
EC2S has a lot of catching up to do if i365 wants to equal what Amazon has done with its Simple Storage Service (S3) and Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) offerings, which define the market (and cloud platform naming schemes–note the similarities). But i365’s experience with the System i server could give it an edge in the IBM midrange marketplace, which is struggling to hold off the Windows juggernaut and online offerings.
Although the System i midrange is renown for its conservatism regarding new technologies, even it is warming up to SaaS and cloud computing. For example, last October, Kisco Information Systems unveiled a product called i2S3 that lets System i shops and developers access Amazon S3. Other System i software vendors doing business in the cloud and via SaaS include looksoftware, which last year announced a cloud connector for i OS apps; Computer Guidance Corp., which has more than a dozen customers consuming its i OS-based ERP app via SaaS; VAI and Lawson Software, both of which last year committed to delivering SaaS versions of their ERP apps; and Magic Software, whose latest development tools target the cloud.
If i365’s EC2S experiment is a success, there could be a lot more names on this list.