Back to the Future – Software as a Service & Managed Services

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a popular Web 2.0 buzzword. It struck me at NTCA’s panel, Software as a Service: Creating New Revenue Channels, that Independent Telcos have been providing a sort of Software as a Service, really a Managed Service since their inception. Independent Telcos are starting to add on Software as a Service and Managed applications, such as network computing, disaster recovery services and telemedicine applications, to their first SaaS application; POTS.

panelists at NTCA 2009 Annual Meeting

Warren Lee, President and CEO of NeoNova Network Services, distinguished between SaaS and Managed Services. He echoed his talk at last year’s IP Possibilities regarding the importance of understanding what your goals are before you commit to a plan. Understanding your goals will help answer whether you should provide SaaS or Managed Services. The reason he said it matters is that if you provide SaaS, then you open yourself to competition from anywhere. If you offer managed services, you can differentiate on the local service you provide (e.g. hard to do a truck roll from China).

He compared the differences between traditional compute solutions versus one that lives entirely in the cloud. Warren called this type of computing, “Living in the Cloud,” as opposed to Cloud Computing. NeoNova is using this NTCA Annual Meeting & Convention to introduce its Network Computer and associated applications that live on a Telco’s servers and utilize its broadband; more on that in another article.

Susan DiFlorio, COO of FiberCloud, focused on small business applications that independent Telcos can provide in order to increase market size, increase broadband usage and effectively lower staff costs. She called outsourcing an opportunity for Independent Telcos, as businesses are looking to cut costs and simplify the complex. FiberCloud provides data center services to Independent Telcos.

Along these lines, FiberCloud has been beta testing, with five rural telcos, cloud computing applications from Microsoft (see this video interview with George Henny for additional background). They found is that they were trivializing the markets and didn’t understand the nuances of the differences in locales and customers. They engaged an external marketing firm to help them understand the needs of the customers and, as a result, they found some commonality between rural and suburban markets; for instance, most of the Telcos’ potential business customers have with less than 99 employees.

Donald Fendrick, CTO, National Wireline Accounts, Alcatel-Lucent, spoke of Telemedicine applications where monitoring devices transmit real-time medical information via broadband. The interesting thing about this approach is the potential detection or correlation of trends much sooner than the traditional occasional visit to the doctor. Fendrick suggested that some insurance companies will give co-payments for the Telemedicine Devices.

John Granger President of Mapcom suggested that Telcos could add visual locating services as features in hosted dispatch and network management and hosted security applications. Granger said they have extended their mapping platform to allow independent Telcos to offer this sort of value-add.

Jeff Wick of NexTech, who was in the audience, put an exclamation point on the panel by providing an explanation of how they are replacing complete computing infrastructures for small businesses. They provide all of the workstations and manage for a monthly fee. He said it was important to have a back-end system to make sure it all works. Some of the server infrastructure is hosted and some is on the businesses’ sites. The important point he made is that this service is easy to sell, because it is a low cost of entry for the small businesses.

0 thoughts on “Back to the Future – Software as a Service & Managed Services

  1. Telcos managing IT for small to medium and even largish businesses seems like a great opportunity.

    Setting up IT for a business is a lot of work. I just started work at a company where MS Exchange is 1/10th the speed of gmail and there are very few services such as backed up and versioned file storage, wiki, etc.

    A large company providing this a service could create some templates, validate them with users, thoroughly debug and optimize them then stamp them out cookie-cutter style. SaaS works for some of this, virtualization does the rest. With broadband to premises then wifi and maybe some edge-caching, it would be a uniformly good experience.

    Then you could add some 3G/4G mobile connectivity for complete mobility with netbooks and the user experience would be great.

    So why aren’t Telcos doing this?

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