The 2008 CRM Market Awards: Rising Stars -- Aria Systems

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As software-as-a-service (SaaS) uptake continues to grow, so do the internal complexities with back-end operations. Recognizing early that on-demand service providers have different needs than their on-premises counterparts, billing-as-a-service provider Aria Systems came to the rescue of Web service providers. “[Aria] recognized…a demand for services-on-demand,” points out Jeff Kaplan, managing director of ThinkStrategies. “That demand can be variable in nature. Not only do the offerings tend to change, the usage levels could change as well,” he says. Realizing that on-demand software is a different animal, Aria founder Ed Sullivan applied knowledge gained in the gaming and telecom space prior to his 2002 Aria endeavor.

One challenge that organizations face when jumping into platforms and Web services is that of scalability. Having a billing-and-tracking system that can monitor and meter scaling usage is important. Kaplan says that Aria seems to understand the breadth of the challenge. The organization is older than many of the competitors popping up in recent months offering on-demand billing and invoicing services. (See our final Rising Star, Zuora.)

Michael Coté, analyst with RedMonk, says that, out of all the subscription-as-a-service billing solutions in the market right now, he sees Aria’s as the most complete, pointing out that Aria has more experience in the industry than the others. “[Aria does] the full cycle of managing the customer, from putting up offerings and managing the invoicing to collecting everything,” he says. Coté adds that a large sector of Aria’s audience is with third-party vendors wanting to add an on-demand billing solution to platform offerings, but essentially, Aria could provide its services to any in-the-cloud company in need of a scalable payment solution.

“[Aria’s service] represents the linchpin of those [SaaS] operations,” Kaplan notes. “If you can’t provision and bill your services, you can’t scale your vision.” He adds that, at this point, the billing-as-a-service market is an embryonic operation with an interesting segmentation. Kaplan says he finds that a more mature SaaS company has probably built its own system, and is now considering whether it should transfer to a more robust service like Aria. Smaller startups haven’t hit the pain point yet and are using one-dimensional solutions (such as PayPal). As they grow, they’ll begin to realize that those simple credit-card services don’t necessarily tie into other back-end office operations and don’t help meter and measure actual authorization of services. Kaplan says the only challenge for Aria at this point is educating the market about a relatively new kind of service.

To read about the rest of the 2008 Rising Stars, click here.

To read about the full 2008 CRM Market Awards, click here.

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