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9/3/2008
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Appirio Tackles Custom Cloud App Development, Sync

Appirio is taking aim at companies ready to migrate systems to the cloud but unsure how to do so with a new suite consulting and custom development services.

With two new offerings unveiled on Wednesday, start-up Appirio represents the leading edge of two new issues enterprises will increasingly need to tackle with the emergence of cloud computing: how best to develop apps for the cloud and how to connect the disparate data they're storing with various service providers.

Appirio is taking aim at companies ready to migrate systems to the cloud but unsure how to do so with a new suite consulting and custom development services called Business Model Prototyping. It's a model that will likely find competitors as cloud computing begins to take off. Starting at around $20,000, though, it's not for the uncommitted.

"Certainly I'd agree that not every company is ready for a business model prototype, and this isn't something that's for the company in the early stages of adoption of on demand," Ryan Nichols, VP of product management and marketing for Appirio, said in an interview. However, he added, "we think the platforms are ready." The technology is there, he said, and services like this one can help spur demand by providing customers with their first real taste of cloud computing with custom apps.

Business Model Prototyping begins with a multi-day brainstorming session and one day workshop to lay out ideas and plans, followed by design of a cloud application and prototyping of the application on Force.com or Amazon Web Services. If that pans out, Appirio can take a step further by developing a working production application for an additional fee.

One of Appirio's first custom cloud app development customers was self-service publisher Author Solutions. For a fee, authors can have Author Solutions edit, print and distribute their books through stores like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Early customers sent their books in on floppy disks, typewritten pages or in e-mails, but today, the publishing system is built entirely on Force.com. Transactions, marketing system, proof-reading, content uploads and even workflow all takes place in the Force.com application.

"It's a true ERP system for publishing," Author CEO and technology industry veteran Kevin Weiss said in an interview.

When new CEO Kevin Weiss took over the rapidly growing $50 million company in January, he found its IT systems "being held together by band-aids and chewing gum." There was a poor homegrown CRM system, no content management and three separate workflow systems. The company needed something to change the game, and Weiss' background in tech told him that cloud computing was hot, and that if Author could pull off a cloud-based publishing system, it could transform the way the company did IT.

Appirio came in and did a 30-day assessment of what Author needed to do to move its systems and data to a cloud computing paradigm, ensure that the company's IT department had enough in-house expertise and that Force.com had the capabilities Author needed. The application, which Appirio and Author worked together to build over several months, includes some CRM capabilities from Salesforce.com, workflow capabilities from the Force.com platform, and plenty of coding in Force.com's Apex programming language for custom publishing capabilities.

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