Working with Intuit in Cloud Computing

Intuit’s target market for cloud computing services is the small- and medium-sized businesses that use its popular QuickBooks application to run their day-to-day financial operations. Intuit has used this foundation combined with a series of acquisitions to create a Platform as a Service (PaaS) model. More than 80,000 developers and about four million customers are part of the company’s ecosystem.

Intuit’s new cloud-based Platform as a Service is called Federated Applications. In essence, the developers can write their application with any programming language, use any database or cloud computing resource, and then connect this code to the Intuit platform via XML-based interfaces and configuration files. These developers can then create cloud-based applications by leveraging the same development platform that Intuit created to build its own packaged applications.

After linking an application to the Intuit Workplace portal, a customer is essentially published into Intuit’s cloud marketplace. Therefore, a QuickBooks customer can go to the portal and buy an application designed to work with QuickBooks. The user interface, account management, security, and billing are the same. Integration with QuickBooks is automatic.

What are the components of Intuit’s Partner Platform? They are as follows:

  • QuickBase: This Web infrastructure is for small business applications. The foundation of the QuickBase platform is a database that includes team workflow, communications, and task management. QuickBase provides partners with support for multi-tenancy. It is used as a collaboration platform by partners.

  • Workplace: This is a portal environment for customers. It can either be used as a stand-alone environment or can be integrated with QuickBooks. Customers can use a QuickBase application within the workplace to control how the application will be presented to individual users. In addition, the Workplace also provides services that track subscriptions and revenue.

  • Federated Applications model: With the federated application services, developers can integrate existing code through a configuration service. There are four integration methods:

    • Data integration: To integrate at the data level, the partner must program to a set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that enable data synchronization. This allows developers to take advantage of the platform’s common cloud data schema (which defines the relationships between data elements).

    • Login integration: To integrate at login, the partner uses a Federated Identity Web API. After the developer has used this API, customers can use their Intuit Workplace login credentials to access the partner application that they bought.

    • User management and permissions integration: Intuit provides developers with a Web API so their application can handle processes such as adding more users.

    • Navigation-based integration: A developer who has built a Software as a Service–based application can use this tool to provide the Intuit Workplace toolbar. This allows the customer to have common integration.

Unlike many of the companies in the PaaS market, Intuit charges between 14 and 20 percent of revenue to partners who sell through Intuit’s Workplace. The exact percentage depends on the volume sold. If the vendor is offering a free application via the Workplace, there is a utility fee. While the customer buys the application directly from the vendor, the transaction is handled directly by Intuit. There are no fees for page views or data storage.

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