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SAS puts BI on demand with marketing modules

BI is joining the march toward on-demand applications and SAS is jumping in with two of its marketing tools.

The SAS Institute today joined the rush to provide Software as a Service (SaaS), with the release of five on-demand applications.

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Much of the early success with SaaS has come with CRM applications, but the Cary, N.C.-based business intelligence (BI) vendor is making its on-demand move in its specialty, BI, though two of the modules have a marketing focus. SAS is releasing a BI module based on its full on-premise BI platform, along with supplier relationship management, marketing automation, and Veridiem marketing relationship management, based on the company it bought in Marchand an anti-money-laundering application.

"We are looking at this as a way to augment customers implementing an SAS-based solution quickly at the right cost and with the right quality," said Richard Roach, senior director of SAS Solutions Ondemand.

For the past five years, SAS has provided hosting services for its applications, hosting customer data in its own data centers -- a $20 million business last year -- but this new effort is truly on-demand, company executives said. The applications will be available on a leased basis and in a multi-tenant environment, providing economies of scale for customers willing to share a server. The applications are also available as a single tenancy for customers concerned about security.

The on-demand applications also offer a way for companies to get BI projects up and running quickly.

"One of the things we are constantly hearing is there are business needs that need to be addressed in a short period of time," said Christina McKeon, SAS's marketing manager for BI. "This turns out to be a viable alternative."

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The market for on-demand applications is extending beyond CRM and is becoming attractive for the BI vendors. Business Objects SA last month launched Crystal, an on-demand reporting platform.

"There's a decent demand for on-demand, but this is more of a preference as opposed to companies saying 'I'll sign up with dollars,' " said John Hagerty, vice president with Boston-based AMR Research.

A recent survey from AMR found that among companies considering investments in BI, dashboards and scorecards, analytic applications, analytic infrastructure and planning, and allocation and budgeting tools, between 17% and 22% said they would prefer to license the software on-demand, Hagerty said.

BI has seen some on-demand applications already in the area of Web analytics. SAS has its own on-demand Web analytics tool and is joined by pure-play Web analytics vendors such as San Diego-based WebSideStory Inc. and Orem, Utah-based Omniture Inc.

"There's really an opportunity to do more of this," said Henry Morris, group vice president and general manager for integration, development and application strategies at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "I think you'll see it in conjunction with on-demand applications. Once people have the data, they can deliver it in that form as well."

Richard Roach said that SAS's on-demand BI tools can work in conjunction with data from SaaS vendors such as San Francisco-based, through that company's application program interfaces or simply by bringing that data into the SAS systems.

SAS will house the applications in its own data centers and provide a 99% uptime guarantee with its service-level agreements.

Pricing is based on the number of users, the volume of data customers want to access, and security requirements. SAS is certified in the SAS 70 auditing standard (not affiliated with the company), a major source of comfort to financial companies worried about data encryption, Roach said.

"[Moving the data is] pretty straightforward," Hagerty said. "A lot of companies are wary to pass data outside the firm, but because they've couched this with the SAS 70 environment, that should alleviate their concerns."

The applications are available immediately, Roach said, adding that SAS will roll out more on-demand applications with an e-mail marketing tool that is likely to come soon.

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