I got into a little debate with an HP partner on the NetworkWorld community about what HP means when they use the term 'SaaS'. From talking to their former customers and by reading between the lines, we know that what they are really selling is the same old legacy applications served up by an application service provider.
So why doesn't HP just call it what it is (ASP) instead of calling it SaaS? Because the ASP model already failed once and the differences between true SaaS and broken ASP are significant. Not just in terms of obscure features / functionality, but more importantly, in terms of real benefit to the end user.
IT organizations need every advantage they can get in this economy. To choose ASP over SaaS does not fix the underlying cost and administration associated with traditional enterprise software applications, in fact ASP can magnify the built-in shortcomings of enterprise software.
If any vendor is claiming SaaS, the pretenders can be quickly separated from the contenders with a few well-placed questions:
- How is your 'SaaS' offering more cost effective than a traditional, on-premise installation of the application?
- How quickly can you set up a proof of concept?
- Can you show me a live demo now?
- How is the application administered and who is involved?
- How do I change or customize the application?
- How is the application upgraded, how long will it take to upgrade, and who pays for the upgrade?
- How often will the application be upgraded?
- How can I integrate your 'SaaS' product with other applications?
- Can I speak with one of your ‘SaaS’ customers?
Creating a SaaS business model on top of a new net-native SaaS application is practically impossible for the legacy vendors because of technical, political, organizational and financial reasons. So they've resorted to resurrecting ASP and calling it SaaS. There is no reason this attempt at ASP won't fail again like it did almost a decade ago.