Microsoft SaaS Ventures 3.0

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New, Improved *Semantic* Web!

Image by dullhunk via Flickr

A key type of Cloud Venture is a SaaS (Software as a Service) start-up, especially so if it is natively integrated with the underlying Cloud infrastructure, better yet with a Microsoft Cloud.

Even better again if it leverages a social media Enterprise Web 2.0 strategy, with an eye towards the emerging Semantic Web.

Integrated Venture Sales Acceleration

These are all accelerating elements for start-up success, that position it with an increasingly sweeter spot where a number of key sales drivers overlap:

  • Where dull but lucrative enterprise software overlaps with the cool web 2.0 type ventures
  • Offers apps that telcos can easily add to their mix, adding value to their core telephony platforms
  • Tap into exciting new user-centric ways of working that go viral

At two ends of a spectrum are cool new media Twitter type ventures that excite the market but lack the funding and revenues to ‘cross the chasm’, and at the other are web hosting and telco providers who have the monies and infrastructure, but lack the product innovation to differentiate their services from any other provider.

They can meet in the middle as a marriage made in heaven to address each others issues, where the start-up offers the new application that enables tailoring of infrastructure services to market niches in a unique manner.

Microsoft SaaS Ventures

I have repeatedly employed this strategy numerous times to great success. Fast-tracking the launch of new Microsoft SaaS ventures pretty much sums up my career.

This includes a JV with them to launch one of Europe’s first ‘pure play’ ASPs, building the first complex web hosting product set with them for the European market for PSINet, and most recently helping BT launch a SaaS version of their UC suite.

The same underlying trend each of these exploited is of course now known as Cloud Computing, and it continues to represent a transformation of the nature of software itself and how it is delivered, with as much innovation to this end happening today as there was ten or fifteen years ago.

Indeed in my view Cloud represents the trend only moving out from the baby steps stage and we’ve yet to really understand just how profound and large the change will be, and so the opportunity for entrepreneurs is as fresh today as its ever been, if not more so.

Cloud Aware‘ architecture presents an entirely new paradigm for how software is engineered and deployed, offering a new level and very powerful relationship between the ISVs who create it and MSPs who run it, a much more integrative one.

As discussed in their white paper ‘ISVs and Cloud Computing‘ (13 page PDF) Microsoft intends Azure to provide this capability for ISVs, with the very simple but attractive proposition:

“Using the Cloud has the potential to increase an ISV’s revenues and/or decrease their costs.”

Semantic Web Cloud Applications

One dimension of this new approach is that software developers call upon standardized components within the Cloud, like Access Control for user authentication via a Claims-Based system, rather than embedding their own user sign-on methods directly.

Another facet of being a more natural component of the Cloud will become great adoption and advancement of the Semantic Web too, and a great example of the functionality this will bring also demonstrates that there’s an irony where this and Cloud technologies will yield most value when they manifest themselves in desktop, not Web, applications.

In the Microsoft ISV Cloud paper it states the critical insight for Cloud apps sales success:

“An existing on-premises application can be enhanced with cloud-based functionality.”

Cloud Computing is often synonomous with centralized remote software that you can order and use via the web, but it can also be operating remotely while transparent to the user, supporting their desktop productivity in some form.

Quite simply the key to proactively driving growth revenues for MSPs is to have a clear understanding of end-user pains, and how to solve them through a combination of local + Cloud software. What Microsoft call Software + Services.

A great example is the Outlook Social Media Connector, which provides cool end-user features that provides a context of real business value for the remotely hosted Sharepoint service it connects to. It also links in the broader Cloud, populating social media updates from sites such as Linkedin or Live into the users Outlook email client.

Enterprise 2.0, the term used to describe the use of social media to improve corporate knowledge management,is a very hot focus area for Cloud providers as it offers users cool shiny new toys they will want to adopt, and thus drive demand for hosted infrastructure, but a few hosted blogs and wikis is actually a pretty weak product plan to exploit this.

This isn’t due to any corporate hostility towards new technologies but a more brutal reality that simply put in the corporate world people live within their email clients and Blackberries 24×7.

Therefore in a motion of ‘bringing the mountain to Mohammed’, the Cloud Semantic Web will function to make these preferred desktop tools smarter in a transparent manner. Intelligently filtering and automating their social network business activities is one simple example that is likely to be enormously popular.

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