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A move to cloud computing services -- back in 1999

Back in 1999, the beta for Amazon EC2 was seven years away; Google Apps, was well, a gleam in Google’s eye; and Erik Dubovik was moving business processes into the cloud.

It wasn’t called cloud computing services or Software as a Service (SaaS), but the concept was the same: Dubovik wanted to house resource, staffing and project management business process applications on someone else’s infrastructure. The in-house infrastructure for those processes was a mismatch of off-the-shelf and open source platforms, and he didn’t want to invest in a new infrastructure.

The real selling point for him back when he was the vice president of IT strategy for Digitas, an advertising agency that was acquired for $1.3 billion in 2006 by Paris-based Publicis Groupe, was not the ability to rent infrastructure and applications, however.

“[The service provider] truly became a partner — we could leverage their expertise, which was based on best practices gathered from their network of customers, and use them to improve our business processes,” he said.

The company that Dubovik outsourced his business process applications to was OpenAir, then known as a Web-based professional services automation platform. OpenAir was acquired by NetSuite for $26 million in 2008.

Dubovik is no longer with Digitas. He’s now the vice president of information technology for Boston-based private equity firm Audax Group. And he is no longer quite as enamored by what are now called cloud computing services.

“What we were buying back then [from OpenAir] was not just the technology, but resources we could use to solve a business problem. I don’t know if I can say that holds true for all the SaaS plays now,” he said.

I have heard IT executives describe as a player that solves business problems, and even creates new business, but I’d like to hear about other, not-so-famous SaaS, cloud or whatever you want to call them, players that you consider more than a place to rent space.

Email [email protected].

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