SaaS Vendors Need to Get a Clue About APIs

SaaS vendors need to get a clue about open APIs. That's the takeaway from a panel discussion at last month's Interop event in Las Vegas. According to Network World's coverage of the session on Herding Cats: Managing SaaS Sprawl, with panelists from Boomi, Appirio, OpSource, and NetSuite, too many SaaS vendors do not consider including an open API as a core part of their service:

One big obstacle to SaaS vendors getting their applications adopted more widely is that so many of them don't offer open APIs. Offering APIs is crucial for vendors to get their applications supported by channel partners and for customers looking to integrate SaaS offerings with legacy applications...

"It's stunning to me the number of SaaS companies that don't even consider an API as part of the development cycle," says Treb Ryan, CEO of OpSource, a company that mainly helps SaaS vendors deliver their offerings to businesses but is also now extending its services to enterprises running their own clouds. "Lord knows two Web developers in a garage know to put out an API. [For SaaS vendors not doing this it's] killing them."

This in turn can lead to a host of issues, both in the sales process and when it comes to Integration within the enterprise:

Panelists said providing an API that channel and integrate partners could cut the cost of acquiring customers for SaaS vendors.

"Customer acquisition is the biggest cost," said Tim Dilley, executive vice president, worldwide services and chief customer officer for SaaS vendor NetSuite. "The general notion of having a robust API to data is a critical jumping in point" for SaaS vendors wanting to play in the enterprise, said Narinder Singh, founder of Appirio, a company that helps customers exploit on-demand applications.

SaaS and enterprise APIs are currently a small percentage of APIs in our directory, but we're certainly seeing more of this class of API appearing. But it's likely that the folks on this panel don't think these APIs are coming nearly fast enough.

Be sure to read the next Enterprise article: Enterprise Mashups Continue to Gain Momentum as Part of Enterprise 2.0