Hybrid is a popular term right about now, and not just because those kinds of cars are considered environmentally friendly. Rather, we are seeing an increase in the number of solutions that are a hybrid combination of on-premise software and software-as-a-service (SaaS). I see these solutions coming up in a number of areas, especially email archiving, processing and early case assessment, and review. While hybrid solutions can deliver value to customers, they also present some challenges for an evolving solutions market.
Just five years ago, it seemed like the big decision organizations made when it came to email archiving was whether to do on-premise software or to utilize a hosted provider. Most went on-premise to get mailbox management capabilities (e.g. message stubbing) and because the providers of hosted archiving had a difficult time meeting service levels on search times and user interface requirements. Fast-forward to today and the landscape is very different. The hosted archiving providers have improved their services and, while most don’t offer traditional mailbox management, they provide pretty good access to archived content. With the advent of Microsoft Exchange 2010 and its “online PSTs,” the need for mailbox management functionality will drastically decrease. The need for cost-effective storage, however, will continue to exist – and that’s exactly what hosted archiving vendors offer.
Growth in the hosted archiving arena continues with solid performance from upstart vendors like Global Relay, LiveOffice, and Sonian. Interestingly, Autonomy is pushing its hosted and hybrid offerings – Digital Safe and DSMail – harder than its on-premise EAS product. Iron Mountain Digital also offers both on-premise and hosted email archiving now that it has acquired Mimosa Systems. One of the rising use-cases in archiving is going hybrid – using on-premise software to capture mail off the server and archive it for fast and easy end-user access, and then sending archived content to the cloud for long-term, cost-effective storage.
Another area where hybrid solutions are gaining traction is in processing, review, and analysis for eDiscovery. In some cases, like this story, the hybrid solution is driven by the need for more efficient collaboration between organizations and law firms. Perhaps the law firm has a hosted review platform, but the client wants or needs to conduct collection on their own. With a hybrid solution in place, the client can deploy software for collection and processing on-site and then directly upload that data (without EDD processing needed) to the hosted review platform at the law firm. This is but one example of many in the eDiscovery world where a hybrid solution can help cut costs and let all constituents (law firm, client, other service providers) work in the way that is best for them.
In the near-term, hybrid solutions will present a bit of a market conundrum. This is because many providers in the marketplace are small and have limited resources for development. Those that don’t offer a hybrid on-premise/SaaS solution will need to work with partners to do so. That will create a good amount of coopetition amongst providers. These providers will feel the pain in strained business development activities where partnerships that need to be tight will be somewhat stand-offish and could fall apart at any given time as loyalties shift and consolidation occurs. Despite this short-term pain, hybrid solutions are a good thing because end-user organizations will reap benefits.