Get your head around SaaS

You may avoid putting your data into Inc.'s S3 cloud-based storage repository. You may eschew its EC2 on-demand compute services. But if your supply chain partners or IT services suppliers utterly depend on the cloud for their operations, you do, too.

That's why a free monitoring service from Hyperic Inc. in San Francisco is worth a look. Jon Travis, principal engineer, says Hyperic's CloudStatus keeps an eye on the I/O condition of your applications in Amazon's S3 storage cloud or the connectivity of APIs in EC2, among other things. If there's trouble, CloudStatus quickly lets you know where the problem is. That info alone can save you significant troubleshooting time.

Currently, CloudStatus monitors only the health of Amazon services. But Travis says Google offerings, such as App Engine, are up next.

And don't forget -- it's free.

IT a la Carte

Digital Fuel Technologies Inc. has been shipping its ServiceFlow software to IT groups for a few years as a packaged application. Now you can subscribe to it as a service.

Yisrael Dancziger, CEO of the San Mateo, Calif.-based vendor, says ServiceFlow helps CIOs "run IT like a business." That is, through its catalog, service-level management (SLM) and finance modules, you can give your customers (end users) the ability to pick the apps that they have the rights to access. They can see how well IT is delivering on its service commitments via the SLM. And business unit managers can see the true costs of the IT software and services their groups use.

In the SaaS version of ServiceFlow, Digital Fuel has prepopulated the catalog menu with 80 IT services, such as e-mail or desktop backup, along with full descriptions and even cost data. Dancziger says the company's experience with so many IT operations over the years gives Digital Fuel insight into what most companies will want to offer their users.

Digital Fuel's SaaS offering starts at $200 per user.

R&D on Rise in India

Forget your anachronistic attitudes about Indian IT workers. They aren't just handling technical support calls or testing code written elsewhere. Some are doing the fundamental R&D for the next generation of IT tools destined for your data center.

According to research released this month by Zinnov LLC in Bangalore, R&D in India is worth an impressive $9.3 billion this year, and that figure will rise to $21.4 billion in 2012. Granted, that's well below the $367 billion expected to be spent in the U.S. on all forms of R&D in 2008. But the U.S. growth rate is shrinking and well under India's 23% growth rate for IT R&D.

"The work in India has moved up the value chain," says Vamsee Tirukkala, managing principal at Zinnov, who notes that the number of R&D centers in India has jumped from 181 in 2000 to 594 today -- a sign of a significant shift in the IT tasks being done there. Cost is no longer the primary driver behind moving work to India. Good thing, since employee costs rose 16.2% between 2005 and 2007. Still, Tirukkala estimates that the average R&D engineer in India earns $44,000, about one-third the U.S. average.

Two things India lacks, Tirukkala says, are an entrepreneurial culture and a vibrant venture capital community. That's why so many Indian entrepreneurs arrive on these shores to build their businesses. But he says that over the years, as many as 30,000 expat Indians have returned home flush with experience, including a track record in building companies as well as products.

This installment of "On the Mark" appeared in Computerworld's print edition.

This story, "Get your head around SaaS" was originally published by Computerworld.

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