Startup's SaaS helps IT shops pinpoint costs

Apptio, a startup partly funded by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, has come out of stealth mode to push its SaaS (software-as-a-service) offering.

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Apptio, a startup partly funded by Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, has come out of stealth mode to push its SaaS (software-as-a-service) offering.

The new solution is designed to help IT shops track exactly how much their assets cost the business.

It is hard for IT organisations to understand the "fully loaded cost of an application", said Sunny Gupta, co-founder and chief executive, referring to the total cost of software when factors such as hardware and services are added.

Apptio's hosted application provides a visual modelling environment that takes in data from spreadsheets, general ledger systems and other sources, and maps out the relationships between IT services and costs.

Users can also apply analytics and test out what-if scenarios for planning purposes. The company has developed prebuilt templates for analyzing application, infrastructure and desktop services.

A demonstration showed that the service allows for a significant degree of granularity and analysis, such as which class of system administrators are associated with most of the cost on a set of Linux servers.

Apptio is also creating a user community around the product, which it hopes will provide benefits like benchmarking statistics.

"As we understand the fully loaded cost of a server, we have all this data we can [make anonymous] and share with other people in the community," Gupta said.

He declined to provide pricing information for the service.

Apptio's SaaS model allows companies to improve their cost tracking "without having to install a whole bunch of modules," said Gartner analyst Donna Scott.

But Scott was sceptical about Apptio's plans to build a user community, saying it might be tough to generate sound comparison data from it.

"If you're going to compare costs, you have to compare apples to apples. What I call a desktop service, I might include five things in it. You might include 10 things in it," she said. The community might provide useful benchmarks if some parameters could be set, she said.

"There's not going to be a community for a long time; they have to get a user base first," Scott noted. "There is potential value but they are going to have to prove that potential value."