Platform, partners key to NetSuite's future

The SuiteCloud platform takes center stage during NetSuite's user conference

Count NetSuite among the growing number of SaaS (software as a service) vendors positioning themselves as providers of not just stand-alone applications, but also a rich development stack that partners and customers can use to integrate with and extend the core software.

The company's SuiteCloud platform was the primary focus of co-founder and CTO Evan Goldberg's keynote address Wednesday at the SuiteWorld user conference in San Francisco, which was webcast.

Goldberg described how one NetSuite customer, security firm ESET, has created a system for fraudulent order management with the SuiteFlow tool, a more recent addition to SuiteCloud, which allows customers to stitch together applications without writing code. When a suspicious order is detected, the system emails the customer involved and based on the response, categorizes the order as fraudulent or not, Goldberg said.

A growing number of NetSuite partners are using SuiteCloud to develop applications from scratch, Goldberg said.

EBizNET has created a warehouse management system "entirely developed and deployed" with NetSuite's technology, said founder and CTO Sid Geddam, who joined Goldberg onstage.

Warehouses are the last "touch point" a business has before a product reaches a customer, making it very important to run such operations well, Geddam said. EBizNET's application manages everything involved with a warehouse, from inventory to space, equipment and labor, he said. The complexity can increase depending on the type of products under management, given variables such as expiration dates, Geddam added.

Geddam and Goldberg went on to give a detailed demonstration of the software working in concert with NetSuite, clearly hoping to illustrate the depth of SuiteCloud's capabilities for attendees.

Another partner, Celigo, has tied Google Apps into NetSuite. A Celigo spokesman showed how the integration can automatically match up incoming Gmail with NetSuite records based on the name of the sender.

NetSuite is planning to use SuiteCloud more aggressively in developing its applications, and by doing so will be able to develop features faster, Goldberg said. In a keynote on Tuesday, NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson predicted that all of NetSuite's development will occur on SuiteCloud within two years.

The platform will be improved in multiple ways over time, including through support for team-based development and an API (application programming interface) for analytics, according to Goldberg.

NetSuite's platform plans reflect what is becoming a natural and logical progression for SaaS vendors, since the ability to offer strong application extensibility and a wide variety of complementary products gives them the potential to capture a larger percentage of customers' IT spending.

SAP is rolling out an SDK (software development kit) for its Business ByDesign product, an on-demand ERP suite that directly competes with NetSuite. Salesforce.com has made increasingly aggressive moves to build out its development offerings, partnering with VMware on a Java-based platform called VMForce and launching the Database.com service.

For NetSuite, the platform emphasis is also linked to its desire to move upmarket from the SMB base that has long been its core audience. Larger companies need more sophisticated development capabilities, and a growing partner network could give NetSuite more credibility in those companies' eyes.

SuiteWorld continues through Thursday in San Francisco.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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