Zoho Builds SQL Road to Cloud

Zoho has added a new offering to its portfolio of online services: an SQL-based front end for its online reporting and business intelligence service application.

Zoho CloudSQL is a middleware service that uses Structured Query Language to connect to business data stored in Zoho Reports, the company’s online reporting and business intelligence service, previously known as “Zoho DB & Reports.”

Zoho Reports also has a new HTTP-based application programming interface that lets users interact with their data programmatically.

Zoho CloudSQL supports ANSI, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Informix database dialects.

The offering includes a JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) driver for Zoho CloudSQL. An ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) driver will be available shortly. The company plans to incorporate this technology into other Zoho services, including Zoho CRM, in the near future.

Different From the Rest

Right now, SQL is grossly underrepresented in the cloud computing universe, Rodrigo Vaca, director of marketing at Zoho, told the E-Commerce Times.

“It is the first offering that lets developers interact with data on the cloud through SQL,” he said. Zoho CloudSQL “makes it very easy for corporate developers that are already familiar with SQL to access data on the cloud just as if it were a local database. We also provide wrappers for Java and Google App Engine, so any of those services can interact with data in the cloud using SQL.”

Other cloud-based data storage applications require users to adopt proprietary methodologies and technologies, many of which are unfamiliar to corporate developers, Vaca said, while “SQL is widely used and a standard language that most corporate developers know and deal with every day.”

The Zoho Way

Cloud computing is such a nascent space that it is easy for any vendor to discover unmet demand for a particular service. With its new offering, Zoho has got it at least partly right, Daniel Golding, vice president and research director of Tier1 Research, told the E-Commerce Times.

“There are a lot of cloud-based storage services that are very popular — and they do require APIs to access the data,” he said.

Zoho’s approach is to provide a front end for a popular programming language, Golding continued. The problem is that right now, the most popular applications in the cloud are storage services — not data intelligence, which is what Zoho is offering.

That may well be rectified as Zoho expands this particular product line, he suggested.

Another mismatch between Zoho’s new offering and the industry as it currently stands, Golding pointed out, is that Zoho is concentrating only on its own offerings.

“That is nice for Zoho users, but it really should cast a wider net,” he said.

Zoho is meeting at least one demand driver in the market with this rollout, Charles King, principal with Pund-IT, told the E-Commerce Times. Many users fear putting data in the cloud, beyond their control.

“This application allows users to leverage the cloud but still retain control over the data,” he said.

“Zoho is a small player, but what it is offering seems like a genuinely interesting and possibly innovative approach to a challenge that many cloud vendors are running into right now,” King concluded.

What Is the Cloud?

While the Zoho application is intriguing, it’s not clear that it is technically a cloud offering — at least based on how the industry currently defines this emerging IT category.

“Just because a vendor adds ‘cloud’ to the product name, that doesn’t make it a cloud computing product,” Golding said.

“This is an interesting front end for a great database product, which I happen to use — but to call this ‘cloud computing’ is a real stretch,” he added.

“One interesting development with the cloud,” noted King, “is that though a huge number of vendors are talking about it, each one seems to define the cloud in a way that pays homage to their application and commercial offering.”

Still, King does like Zoho CloudSQL. “This is a developer-aimed announcement. By allowing applications to be built using standard SQL interfaces, the company is opening up new opportunities … to interact with the cloud.”

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