We are trying some new ways to provide a bit more depth to our coverage. You may notice we are packaging posts to explore topics a bit with interviews, profiles and resources that we hope will give a deeper perspective about cloud computing.

For example, we wrote two posts about business intelligence technologies early last week. And we ended the week with two posts about mobile virtualization. The week before, we promised to do more posts about how e-commerce is being affected by the cloud. Expect more posts on that topic in the weeks ahead, leading to the holiday season.

To end the week, we have a Q&A we did with a few of the team members from Socialcast., We sent the questions to Socialcast CEO Tim Young, the company's founder and chief executive officer. He worked on the questions with Matt Wilkinson, vice president of products and Monica Keller, the company's director of engineering.

Socialcast launched an ambitious service this past week. It puts activity streams inside applications. It's more like Facebook Connect compared to anything we have seen in the enterprise space.

That makes sense considering Socialcast and its roots in activity stream technology. It also shows how people inside an organization do advance a company and its thinking. The answers to these questions come in part from Keller, who came to Socialcast from Facebook. She played an important role at Facebook, helping develop its activity stream infrastructure. Before Facebook, she worked at MySpace where she played a key role as a group architect. From her farewell blog post:

...I was able to not only work with the Activity Stream team but also on the Developer Platform with the backing of the COO, I was able to have my ideas heard and executed. It was these projects which provided massive openness of the user's MySpace data via Open Standards like OpenID, oAuth, ActivityStrea.ms and PubSubHubbub that filled me with joy because of all the possibilities we provided for other people to be creative.

Read the posts she wrote at Facbook and you get a picture of a person who is prolific in her work.

In any case, here are the questions we sent. Their answers follow. We will do more of these types of interviews in the weeks ahead. The goal is simply to get a fresh view of the market. We hope you find these interesting. Please feel free to ping me if you wish: @alexwilliams is the best way to do that.

Okay, here you go!

Q&A

Question: What is the state of activity streams in the SaaS market and how does it compare to on-premise offerings?

Answer: For enterprise activity streams, we are still seeing significant traction of SaaS deployment by mid-market buyers while on average 45% of large enterprise buyers still choose on-premise. This is consistent with a recent CedarCrestone survey which showed that 41% of all enterprise software deployed over the next 12 months will be on premise.

This request for on premise is primarily driven by data security and compliance regulations. Unlike many enterprise social software vendors, our ease of deployment and flexible subscription based pricing create for a low barrier buy into this offering.

Question: What is the need for more open standard protocols to connect distributed networks?

Answer: One of the main goals of open web standards specially in the social space is to connect people regardless of what platform they use for social networking. The need is a bit different in the enterprise . The majority of the people are part of the same network: their company, but they perform different functions in different enterprise tools which have huge communication barriers. What we decided to do is to make use of very simple open specifications which users of the company can provide support for without needing an explicit integration between vendors. This allows the customer to be in more control and ultimately dictate how productive they become by integrating systems together. What is important is to only use standards which keep it simple and add a lot of value right away.

Question: How are activity streams evolving on mobile apps? Are you starting to see the mobile device as ubiquitous in the enterprise?

Answer: We are seeing consistent growth in the use of mobile devices to access Socialcast. Even though Blackberry still has a strong Enterprise foothold, we anticipate iPhone and Android together to over take them in the next 2 years.

We are also starting to see growth in iPad use across our customers. Philips for example is starting to rollout iPads to many of their senior managers and executives across its key business unit. As enterprise applications start to provide mobile enabled versions for iPad use, as Socialcast has, we anticipate this devices will become the device of choice among executives who are constantly on the go.

Question: How does the ubiquity of apps affect the development of activity streams? How is this taken into context of big data, more powerful devices and connected networks?

Answer: Even though more apps are becoming ubiquitous, there are still 1-3 key business systems that every employee uses to do their job. These are the systems that get the most traction in terms of multi-device access. For example, an operation manager will typically be connected to his ERP system between his laptop based web application, his native mobile web app, or through push based notifications.

Activity stream offerings need to understand and work within these systems to provide the most context for that employee. For example, Socialcast Reach allows you to embed activity streams within critical business systems such as ERP so that users do not have to change context or launch a new application to collaborate. Activity streams also need to provide for workflow based alerts so that critical system base exception can be passed onto relevant cross functional team in whatever application or device they are using at that moment.

To achieve this level of business system integration, the activity stream needs to be architected in a very light-weight manner. Standards such as JSON Activity Streams allow us to support a variety of activity types and events without having to constantly release new builds.

Next Week

We'll be in Las Vegas and Seattle next week. We head to Las Vegas tomorrow for IBM's annual Information on Demand conference. We'll be interviewing executives and analysts with hopes to do some live, streaming webcasts.

Later in the week, we head to Microsot for its Professional Developer Conference. We're interviewing Bob Muglia, who oversees the Windows Azure program. Hope to do a webcast with that interview, too.

That's it! Have a great weekend!