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6/17/2009
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Another Hot Market For SaaS: Business Intelligence

Popular applications for software-as-a-service include CRM, expense management, human resources, and Web analytics. But now we're seeing a sudden burst of activity around business intelligence SaaS. Makes sense, since BI software is popular right now, and shares characteristics with the aforementioned apps that make it right for cloud computing.

Popular applications for software-as-a-service include CRM, expense management, human resources, and Web analytics. But now we're seeing a sudden burst of activity around business intelligence SaaS. Makes sense, since BI software is popular right now, and shares characteristics with the aforementioned apps that make it right for cloud computing.The SaaS model has had the most success with applications that conduct transactions outside the core ERP system, such as CRM and expense management. Part of this is comfort level, part of it is integration issues, and part of it is business divisions buying a hosted software service without getting the IT department involved. Business intelligence fits that model: you can feed data into BI to get results without diving into a spaghetti tangle of issues related to SaaS and on-premise software systems.

Of course, you still have to get the data into the hosted BI software service. So I asked Host Analytics, one of these BI SaaS vendors, how that's done. Here's the answer via the company's PR rep: "Customers typically want to move onsite data like trial-balance information from their G/L or ERP system, HR headcount and compensation projections from their HCM system, or sales projections from their CRM system into Host Analytics Budget and Planning. Accomplishing this can be done ad-hoc via cut & paste from their onsite system or via Web services or cloud computing based services like Boomi."

Host Analytics, which specializes in the area of BI known as corporate performance management, says it has more than 8,000 paying users, and in May raised $9 million in series B funding in a round led by StarVest Ventures. The company says it's had good success replacing onsite implementations of Microsoft Excel. Host Analytics isn't a newbie, though: it's been around since 2000 and released version 9 earlier this month, including a team edition that costs $58 per person a month, with a five-person minimum.

On Wednesday, Host Analytics appointed Kelly Bodnar Battles as CFO, who was formerly VP of Finance at IronPort Systems before it was acquired by Cisco. For what it's worth, in a press release Host says Bodnar Battles' credentials include positioning IronPort for a "highly valuable exit" into the arms of Cisco.

Also earlier this month, QlikView announced version 9 of its software, which customers can get on premise or in the cloud. QlikView uses Amazon's EC2 as the backbone for its BI SaaS offering, and says it can have new users up within 15 minutes. Version 9 offers mobile access from iPhones, BlackBerrys, and Symbian-based smartphones.

And then there's PivotLink. Customers of its on-demand BI include the retailer REI and food service distributor DMA. Next week, the company is doing a Webinar with Wayne Eckerson, director of The Data Warehousing Institute, who's going to "dispel the misconceptions about SaaS BI and present a framework for understanding its strengths and weaknesses," according to PivotLink.

On Thursday, another BI SaaS company, called 1010data, will announce version 5 of its offering.

As noted earlier, there's plenty going on in the on-demand BI space.

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