I have a friend who works within a telco on strategy who has an oft-repeated mantra that telcos were the original SaaS vendors – monthly billing, consumption based billing, accessible support (OK this is perhaps debateable) and rapid scalability all parallels nicely with what we see as part and parcel of SaaS. It’s therefore sensible that telcos, seeing their traditional revenue streams being disrupted by new players (think Skype and the like) should move into other areas.
I’ve been impressed in the past few years to see some initial forays into SaaS by telcos. Telecom New Zealand (disclosure – I’ve done a small amount of consulting work with Telecom NZ on their SaaS strategies) has partnerships in place with a number of SaaS vendors but this is primarily a marketing strategy at this stage.
In Australia and Britain Telstra and BT respectively have more integrated SaaS plays with products not only being marketed but also with integrated billing and in some cases smart integrations occurring as part of their platforms.
Into the breech comes Japan’s NTT which has just announced its first foray into cloud applications. Interestingly enough the platform (called Setten – Japanese for “interface”) is an integrated business application suite that includes office productivity applications from Zoho (disclosure – Zoho is the sponsor of CloudAve and we tend to avoid covering them here to lessen any conflicts. However given my previous posts about Telcos as channel partners for SaaS I had an obligation to cover this also) as well as storage all served up on a hosted desktop.
NTT is rolling the platform out to 15 organisations within Japan for testing but their stated aim is to;
provide a globally accessible, network-based desktop environment for greater efficiency, convenience and system availability
Interestingly enough NTT has chosen to host the third party applications on it’s own data centres. It is therefore taking a discrete code base for all third party applications and serving it up from its own data centres. Purists will be a little alarmed at this, saying that it moves away from one of the core tenets of SaaS, that is one code base in one place, however it’s an interesting response to geographic, legal jurisdictional or perceived security imperatives concerns but I’m less concerned – it’s a nice answer to some issues while still limiting the problems involved with supporting traditional installed software.
It’s interesting to note that Zoho already has a similar deployment model with Baihui in China – they’ll obviously have to watch that the product doesn’t become to fragmented in terms of delivery but given the parochialism that exists in both Japan and China, it would seem the distributed deployment model is perhaps the only way to gain a foothold in those markets.