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6/3/2009
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Verizon, Intuit, Boomi Jump Into Cloud Services

The service rollouts demonstrate how vendors are trying to differentiate themselves with innovations intended to get them a bigger share of the emerging cloud computing market.

Three tech vendors introduced new approaches to on-demand IT services this week, adding fresh momentum to the cloud computing trend.

Verizon on Wednesday introduced Verizon Computing as a Service, designed to be more flexible and accessible than traditional hosting services, as customers can rent shared or dedicated computing systems by the day. Customers that pay a $250 monthly retainer-type fee can instantly rent more servers and storage to handle a sudden boost in online sales, for example, and then stop using those systems a week later, only paying usage fees for those days.

Intuit, best known for its Quicken and TurboTax software, on Wednesday opened up its fledgling platform-as-a-service business to include all types of SaaS apps, transforming what's been an infrastructure hosting service into more of an online application store. Small businesses will get access to these apps by signing on via the Intuit Workplace portal.

And Boomi, a startup that has traditionally provided SaaS integration services in the cloud, began offering Tuesday a service that lets SaaS users set up electronic data exchanges (EDI) with their supply chain partners in the cloud.

Although they are from three very different types of tech vendors, these service rollouts demonstrate how vendors are trying to differentiate themselves with innovations intended to get them a bigger share of the emerging cloud computing market.

Verizon CaaS, for example, puts a heavy focus on letting customers quickly get in and out of a contract for additional computing capacity. Verizon has offered IT outsourcing for about 15 years and has a large global infrastructure of Internet-based networks and data centers.

Verizon CaaS is specifically designed for a company looking for more computing capacity because of a new development project or a major event, and to appeal to companies that require brief capacity increases based on seasonal demands, such as retailers during the holidays.

Customers' IT staffers can provision servers, network devices, storage, and backup services through an online portal. Verizon did not provide details on daily usage fees.

Intuit is trying to broaden use of its PaaS, called the Intuit Partner Platform, by opening it up. The platform was initially designed to provide cloud-hosted Intuit QuickBase databases for small SaaS companies to run their apps on. The companies sell their on-demand software services to their customers, typically small businesses, with Intuit providing the database portion of the SaaS infrastructure.

The updated Partner Platform is more of an application store approach. SaaS developers of all sorts can sign up for the platform, regardless of the programming language they wrote their apps in, explained Alex Chriss, business leader for the Intuit Partner Platform. A small-business customer could pick and choose from what applications to use via the Intuit Workplace portal, and Intuit gets a cut of the SaaS fee. Other online business apps stores tend to be more proprietary in nature, Chriss said.

Boomi, meanwhile, is expanding its focus on SaaS integration to incorporate the integration needs of a supply chain. The company's flagship offering is an online service that lets businesses connect SaaS with onsite applications; for example, integrate their Salesforce.com CRM with an on-site ERP application.

The new service is designed for businesses that are using or switching to SaaS ERP and other types of supply chain apps. For example, say a product supplier for a large retailer transitions from an on-site ERP to NetSuite. It could then use Boomi to set up EDI with that retailer using an online drag-and-drop service, CEO Bob Moul said.

The EDI cloud service is designed to appeal to customers using SaaS apps for finance, procurement, order management, warehouse management, and inventory management.


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