Software-as-a-service company Zoho announced Dec. 2 it is releasing CloudSQL, a Structured Query Language middleware-based service that allows cloud applications to access Zoho Reports, its online reporting and business intelligence service. Although the service is linked to Zoho Reports, the software maker said it plans to expand CloudSQL to other Zoho services in the future, including Zoho CRM and Web application platform Creator.
"Zoho CloudSQL is a middleware technology that allows customers to interact with their business data stored in Zoho through the familiar SQL language," Zoho Director of Marketing Rodrigo Vaca wrote in a blog post Dec. 2. "Customers are able to access Zoho cloud data using SQL on both other cloud applications as well as through traditional on-premises software."
CloudSQL is the latest offering to hold potential benefits for small and midsize businesses. Zoho, a division of AdventNet, is offering CloudSQL at no cost for the time being. Zoho said CloudSQL will also support SQL variants like MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, and will support others down the road.
"At a high level, Zoho CloudSQL serves as the bridge between the external application and the data stored inside Zoho," Vaca said. "It receives the query in SQL, interprets it, delegates queries and aggregates results across the Zoho services."
Cloud computing offers SMBs access to enterprise-level functionality at a fraction of the cost. Hewlett-Packard subsidiary EDS, a technology services provider, in 2007 predicted that SMBs would increasingly turn to cloud computing to lower costs and increase their level of service capability.
Cloud computing is particularly attractive to SMBs because it allows them to reduce up-front investment in technology infrastructure and use Web-hosted services as they would electricity or water-paying only for what they use. But John Sloan, a senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group who likened the cloud computing market to a "gold rush," said SMBs need to understand some of the unresolved issues around cloud computing.
"The attraction of cloud computing options right now is very similar to the attraction [of] distributed processing. It offers opportunities to do things with a far lower threshold of investment than what was traditionally thought possible," Sloan said. "In the same way the SMBs led distributed processing in the '90s, I think that the opportunity is there for a company like Zoho to show the benefit of lowering that threshold."
The challenge, he said, is that companies like Zoho have to address the risks of data availability, portability and security. "What you're often promising is best effort," he said. "Smaller businesses may be willing to gamble on best effort. Still, you have to address those risks."