While most of the IT industry has tiptoed around the idea of software-as-a-service for big companies, EMC is diving right in.
Its new MozyEnterprise offers online data backup and recovery for businesses with hundreds or thousands of PCs and servers, starting at about $5 a month per system.
MozyEnterprise is just the beginning, said EMC VP of marketing Roy Sanford in an interview, and he hints at future SaaS offerings in two areas of business EMC hopes to grow: security and IT management. It'll deliver all SaaS offerings through a platform called EMC Fortress.
The enterprise SaaS play is a gutsy step for the $12-billion-a-year company. Most tech companies who've ventured into SaaS -- think Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP -- haven't courted big business in order to protect the large license fees they get from selling on-premise software. But EMC has taken the consumer-oriented Mozy Online service offered by Berkeley Data Systems, which it acquired last year for an undisclosed amount, and recast it for the enterprise.
EMC puts MozyEnterprise under the SaaS nomenclature because it uses a multi-tenant architecture to perform backup services on desktops, laptops and servers, and the service can be managed by an administrator over the Web. EMC says it has 1,200 resellers lined up to offer MozyEnterprise, many of whom have been offering Berkeley Data's Mozy for consumers and small businesses.
Fortunately for EMC, the company needn't worry about the type of internal strife that can happen when SaaS threatens to replace salespeople's commissions -- primarily because EMC/Berkeley has never offered an enterprise version of Mozy. Sanford acknowledges, however, that future SaaS offerings may not be as uncomplicated.
"It's always a challenge when you step on some of the old business models," he said, while quickly adding: "We don't see ourselves competing with ourselves; we see ourselves growing a new business."
EMC doesn't want to "tip its hand" at what else it'll deliver under Fortress, Sanford said, while adding that consultants site security and IT management as ideal areas for SaaS. EMC's RSA Security business, which it paid $2.1 billion for in 2006, already offers Key Manager as a service, for storing and managing access to encryption keys, he noted.
EMC isn't a SaaS vendor in the traditional sense of the word, delivering up software services to manage customer relations, billing, or human resources. But considering EMC's expertise in data storage and security, and the sheer size of its customer base, its move into the on-demand world could give a major boost to the acceptance of SaaS among big business.