Integration Should Be Key Requirement When SaaS Shopping


Earlier this year, I wrote about one company's efforts to use software-as-a-service for all of its business applications. There's a similar take on SaaS in a recent CIO.com article, which relates how open source database provider Ingres has added 10 SaaS applications for its employees over the past two-and-a-half years.


While low upfront cost and simplified maintenance were the initial draws, Doug Harr, the company's CIO, says another advantage of the SaaS model is that it gives companies the option of using "best of breed" applications for all of their software needs. Harr says this doesn't present as many integration issues as one might expect, based on experiences with traditional apps since "good SaaS companies have built their apps on a Web-services based architecture," which makes it simpler for SaaS applications to share data.


Harr stresses the importance of working with SaaS providers that can provide integration capabilities and of making it a key part of evaluating SaaS solutions. That advice is echoed by Douglas Menefee, CIO of a Louisiana-based emergency medical planning company that is using SaaS for a number of its key IT functions.


According to IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson, Menefee made strong application programming interfaces (APIs) a key requirement for service providers. The company also added some specialized tools, including a Cast Iron integration appliance, which helps with application integration through the firewall.


So just how good are the cost savings with SaaS? While Harr wouldn't provide a specific amount, he says he believes he can use SaaS for five years for less than what it would cost him to deploy similar software on-premise.