Monday, February 20, 2006

JamCracker and SaaS

Robin Bloor reports "Nobody uses the term ASP (Application Service Provider) much any more. It was the first wave acronym for the business that is now called SaaS (Software as a Service). Let me briefly explain "first wave". The idea is that new technology that gets established will come in 3 waves, the first being the pioneer wave when the hype is high ("It's the silver bullet we've all been waiting for, etc."). When the noise abates only a few start-ups are left standing and the combination of business model and technology will be viewed as "not ready for prime time". The second wave is the "respectability" wave when the combination of business model and technology is no longer seen as risky (normally because it has been proven in practice) and the sales curve explodes. This is when $50 million markets grow into $billion markets. Both the second and first wave can create major new companies. Think of it like this: the first Internet wave created Yahoo and AOL and the second created Google. The third wave is the mature market with a few established players, occasional new joiners and the odd slow failure. In the first and second wave there can be many players in the market, but in the third wave there are fewer and they are "incumbents".

The first wave ASP/SaaS players have mostly died or moved on, but there were a few notable successes: the most visible being Equally impressive, but less talked about because it was already a giant, is Oracle, whose Oracle On-Line business has thrived.

Jamcracker was an early entrant into the ASP/SaaS market. It managed to scratch out a living for a while in the SMB market, delivering a portfolio of SaaS applications to about 100 customers. It was, speaking in very general terms, pursuing a similar business model to the one that worked for and Oracle. By 2003 it changed direction to become, primarily, an enabler of "On Demand" business applications. In effect this means that its customers can be ISVs (Jamcracker provides the data center and services and the ISV provides the software) or they can be large organizations where the proposition is roughly the same, although the software might be packaged or might be home-grown. In reality, of course, Jamcracker has a set of partners that help it deliver a comprehensive service.

What interests me about Jamcracker is that they are winning deals with very large organizations (DHL, for example just signed with them) and they are winning such deals against major outsourcing/hosting/SI operations. What Jamcracker does well, in my view, is provide a federated architecture (for identity management and other must-integrate capabilities). That's why it can be classified accurately as an SaaS organization rather than an outsourcer. The other significant piece is that, in my view, it represents the second wave of ASP/SaaS—the altered business model that is more appropriate to the needs of the market. There are probably other companies out there like Jamcracker—probably including a few Indian operations."

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