NEC trumps Telstra T-Suite and Microsoft Azure

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NEC trumps Telstra T-Suite and Microsoft Azure

NEC Australia has beaten many of its larger rivals to the prize by launching a carrier-neutral SaaS application store for SMBs that is accessible via a single web portal.

The store, called Applications Net, goes live today with a ‘library’ of applications already on offer, including, Sugar CRM, Hosted Exchange, Smartpath Loc8, Open Windows, Azurn audio and videoconferencing,Talent2 e-learning and a number of native NEC products, including telephony-as-a-service offerings.

Prices range from $5 up to $80 per user per month, although the average ‘entry point’ will be between $15 and $35, according to David Iacovitti, product manager of content and applications at NEC.

The solution will be available via NEC’s 250-odd channel partners Australia-wide.

Iacovitti told iTnews that he did not view rivals like, Telstra’s recently announced T-Suite and even Microsoft Azure as competitors.

“We’ve got different applications – it’s not necessarily the same product portfolio [on offer]. We also sell more broadly than Azure, not just .NET based products,” said Iacovitti.

He added: “We’re the first ones to do single sign-on and identity federation through a single log-in point. We then authenticate to the individual SaaS services via our portal.”

The portal comes in two free flavours – one that acts as a basic single sign-on (SSO) access point to the applications, and a second that includes an intranet-style add-on to enhance internal collaboration.

Users only have to log-in once to see all the SaaS tools they have purchased. Clicking on an icon will open the product in a new browser window.

“We don’t want to take away from the SaaS based providers,” Iacovitti said.

Single sign-on (SSO) to SaaS products made by multiple vendors is not the only benefit.

Developers at NEC’s Applications Centre facility in Melbourne have also added in varying integration between the tools on offer. This includes, for example, the ability to click-to-call from within using NEC’s hosted telephony suite, and to perform contact federation between multiple SaaS applications.

NEC’s chief engineer for network applications, public network systems, Vincent Kennedy, welcomed other ISVs and developers to submit software for consideration.

“We want as many different application providers on there as possible,” said Kennedy.

“It’s an open platform. They [ISVs] can contact us with an application, we analyse it, see the market for it, do some integration and define the commercial relationship. We’re more than happy to work with local ISVs.”

Kennedy said users of tools like Google Apps could also use the NEC portal to authenticate access to the suite.

“We’re keen to introduce some of these desktop applications into the store,” said Kennedy.

Iacovitti added: “We’ve tested SSO and authentication for Google Apps, but we’re focused more on applications that our channel partners can make money off.”

NEC confirmed that it is also currently readying another asset management tool, called RFID Live, for the service. It will launch in early 2009.

NEC will host the entire Applications Net service locally in its Melbourne and Springfield data centres.

“As far as the platform goes we can support hundreds of applications without any trouble,” Kennedy said.

The firm is already understood to be in ‘conversations’ with service providers in Europe and Asia about offering the service ‘using globally licensed local language software offerings’.
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