The iSeries Blog

May 14 2008   3:22PM GMT

SaaS on System i?

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

A few years ago, Salesforce.com came out with a product called AppExchange that allowed independent software vendors to host their applications on Salesforce.com for customers to use. It’s the software as a service (SaaS) approach that there is a lot of talk — and some think a lot of hype — around.

I mention this because Magic Software, a System i vendor that develops products around helping IT run in sync with business goals. Last week, the company announced that one of its signature products, iBOLT, would be offered on Salesforce.com.

Of course this leads me to wonder about whether there are a lot of System i companies out there that are Salesforce.com customers, and in particular if they use Salesforce.com for SaaS purposes.

I looked around and noticed that J.D. Edwards, one of the biggest System i ISVs, is also part of the site, and that Salesforce.com is definitely pitching the idea of being able to do SaaS of any kind of so-called “legacy” systems through them.

We asked a few of our experts what experience they may have had running SaaS products on i, and a few responded that they didn’t have experience. So generally speaking, we can safely assume that this is still pretty new. However, Jim Mason of ebt-now shared that he has worked with customers on Salesforce.com using standard ETL tools Informatica and Data Stage which essentially do the same thing that iBolt does.

When asked about any concerns about user friendliness and security when using a product like iBolt, Mason responded,

“If you are trying to do the replication real-time, experience has shown high variances in actual performance often over the Web and proprietary networks. Properly done, security shouldn’t be an issue. Like many good ETL tools, iBolt appears to minimize programming by using visual editors to create the data maps between the data source and the data target.”

He also elaborated that the advantage and attractiveness of a product such as iBolt includes the decreased technical skill requirements to operate the program compared to locally-installed programs. However, he also noted that “debugging connection or performance problems to an SaaS application can be challenging, even for the vendors.”

With the growth in popularity of cloud computing, Mason thinks that SaaS products have a growing role to play. In fact, he’s banking on it. His company is rolling out SaaS web solutions for small businesses in the coming year that will focus on online Web collaboration without programming, simple Web stores with simple data transfers for item catalog and sales data, online web meetings and collaboration tools, and online Web databases and applications that can be synchronized with local databases using export/import in batch mode.

Magic has some customer testimonials, but I’m curious if there’s anyone else out there who is using Salesforce.com, and in what capacity. And if not, why not.

Associate Editor Leah Rosin contributed much of this report.

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