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Gartner: 20% of e-mail to SaaS platform by end of 2012

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) model for e-mail is proving attractive for many customers and will represent 20% of the commercial e-mail market by the end of 2012, according to Gartner.

Gartner analysts said that the impact of the SaaS model for e-mail will have direct and material consequences for traditional third-party product vendors, effectively cutting the addressable market for traditional third-party applications by one-fifth. However, by 2012, the move to the SaaS model for e-mail will create opportunities for new third-party applications.

“The lost opportunity to the traditional third-party market may be more than 20% because the earliest adopters of the e-mail SaaS model are small or midsize businesses (SMBs), which can represent up to 40% of the market when measured by the number of companies which are likely prospects,” said Matt Cain, research vice president at Gartner. “However, SMBs are less likely to buy third-party tools compared to larger organizations.”

According to Gartner, there are four general categories within the third-party community for e-mail services that will be affected to a greater or lesser extent by the move to the SaaS model for e-mail.

Applications core to running premises-based e-mail

Examples include disaster recovery, reporting, backup, spam and virus filtering. In this case, the need for most third-party management applications goes away in a SaaS deployment as the vendor provides all core levels 2 and 3 help desk duties, supplies all required services for redundancy and recovery, provides all reporting options, performs all version upgrade functions, and protects the perimeter with its own spam and virus filters.

Applications that extend the core services of the e-mail platform

Examples include mobility, fax, archive and encryption. Most SaaS vendors offer archive and encryption services, although they may source them from a third party. Fax services can fare better; in some cases a native SaaS implementation exists, and in others, customer-side fax services will be integrated with a SaaS system.

Client-side applications

Examples include PST management and e-mail efficiency add-ins. There will be no immediate impact on vendors that work on the client side of the e-mail SaaS equation because the present paradigm is for rich clients to access SaaS resources.

The longer-term concern, however, is that the prevalent storage model will move from the client (PST) to a server-side storage model — hence eliminating the need for PST management tools altogether — and the default access mechanism moves to the browser, away from “fat” client access. A continued market for e-mail efficiency add-ins is likely, but vendors would need to shift browser plug-ins.

Applications needed for SaaS implementations

Examples include premises and SaaS management tools and premises-to-SaaS migration tools. This is where the move to the SaaS model will create some new demands for third-party tools as companies look for tools that help them perform single seat management and provisioning of premises-based and SaaS services, known as a hybrid model.

There are also opportunities for vendors to facilitate migration from the premises to the SaaS platform — an area ripe for exploration by third parties.

Cain said that other opportunities for third parties will be via acquisition by SaaS vendors, which will fill in missing platform gaps as has already been the case with Google and Postini, Cisco and Ironport, and Microsoft and Frontbridge.

There will also be an impact on the hardware market; 20% fewer on-premises e-mail seats will mean fewer sales opportunities for server vendors, and SaaS providers are likely to build their own servers and/or move to a single source model.

“To a certain extent, this winnowing of opportunities for third parties in the e-mail market has been under way ever since Microsoft's Exchange 2007 incorporated features such as virus and spam blocking, voice mail and disaster recovery, which had previously been addressed only by third parties,” said Cain. “In many ways, e-mail is the “litmus test” for the SaaS model, disrupting a pre-existing set on on-premises-related businesses. We can expect similar third-party dynamics to occur in adjacent collaboration spaces, such as instant messaging and virtual workspaces.”

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