Oracle updates SaaS CRM, takes aim at

Barney Beal

Oracle today released a number of enhancements to its

and its brash CEO Marc Benioff built its business in part by taking shots at Siebel Systems and offering itself up as a more user friendly, easier to install and manage application. Since then, has won more than 50,000 customers, and Siebel was acquired by Oracle, with much of the Siebel leadership taking over Oracle's CRM efforts.

Oracle's release today offers some clear differentiators from its SaaS-based CRM software and's. Oracle On Demand now comes with an unlimited number of custom objects, a significant increase over the three it used to ship with.

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"One complaint we hear is the constant nickel-and-diming with new releases and features," said Anthony Lye, Oracle senior vice president of CRM.

Oracle is also offering a new single-tenancy option. A year ago, Oracle introduced the ability for customers to run their on-demand application on their own dedicated server and database. That offering, Oracle On Demand Single Tenant Enterprise Edition, let customers choose their maintenance and upgrade windows, an alternative to the multi-tenant application where customers were upgraded on Oracle's schedule. A new Single Tenant Standard Edition gives customers their own database, server and middleware, but they stay on Oracle's upgrade and maintenance schedule.

While insists applications that are not multi-tenant are not truly SaaS, Oracle has seen strong demand for single tenancy, Lye said.

"Still the bulk of our customers are multi-tenant, but if you look at growth rates, it's growing significantly in the single-tenant stack," he said. "Sixty to seventy percent of net new customers are choosing single tenant, either enterprise or standard. It turns out if you give people the choice of sharing an app server or not, they always choose not."

Oracle also offers an option called At Customer, where Oracle builds and maintains the application, but it is housed in the customer's own data center. Organizations with stringent data privacy concerns like financial services and life sciences companies favor that option, as do companies in countries like Switzerland and Singapore, which have significant restrictions on data leaving the country, according to Lye. Oracle's multi-tenant CRM costs $70 per user per month, its standard edition single-tenant costs $90 per user per month, and the single-tenant enterprise edition costs $125 per user per month.

Larger customers want a guaranteed return to operations in the event of an outage, which goes above and beyond standard service level requirements of 24-hour recovery or "best efforts," Lye said.

"It's an individualized enterprise-grade disaster recovery service," he said. "These sorts of services you can't do through standard mirroring."

Disaster recovery comes standard with the Single Tenant Enterprise Edition and costs an additional $20 per user per month with the standard edition.

Oracle CRM On Demand Release 16 includes enhancements to usability, allowing users to review information about related products without leaving the page; improved forecasting and reporting; and new functionality in the Global Wealth Management, Life Sciences and Insurance editions. It also includes support for eight new languages -- Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Polish, Russian, Swedish, Thai and Traditional Chinese. A partner relationship management has also been upgraded to help businesses share leads, pool leads and communicate deal registrations with partners. It costs $30 per partner user per month.

Oracle is beefing up the rest of its on-demand application stack as well. It will be offering its bill presentment and bill payment service as a SaaS application. The SaaS offering is the same as the premise-based application and will cost 18 cents per subscriber per month.

Ultimately, Oracle is taking aim at larger enterprise customers interested in SaaS-based CRM, according to Lye.

"We are separating strategic SaaS and tactical SaaS," he said. "Enterprises and midsized businesses see it as strategic, and that's the place that Oracle plays. That's a key part of our strategy, to listen and learn from the Oracle customer base. We will never have as many customers as Salesforce, but I don't think that would be to our advantage."

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