A recent McKinsey & Co. survey of IT executives of big companies found that they view two new technologies – virtualization and software as a service (“SaaS”) – as highly promising for real benefits. 

Virtualization: Until recently, each operating system and many applications needed ran on dedicated servers. “Virtualization” allows running multiple operating systems (e.g., Unix and Windows) and multiple applications on a single server or a group of servers. Virtualization can lower costs while improving performance and reliability.

SaaS: “Rather than purchasing and deploying applications inside the enterprise, many companies are buying access to externally hosted applications, so they pay for the software as they use it.” “Software as a service” started in the dot-com boom but is only now really taking root. McKinsey reports that popular SaaS applications include HR management, billing and order entry, sales management, and network security. SaaS can mean lower costs, faster roll-outs, and easier maintenance.

Law Firm Implications: McKinsey notes that the relatively high rate of uptake indicates “that a technology architecture transformation is beginning to take shape in many large and midsize organizations.” In my own experience, I know that some large law firms are considering these options and some are already moving in this direction. BigLaw CIOs who need ammo to explain infrastructure issues to firm management might do well to share this two page McKinsey article when they propose virtualization or SAAS.

E-Discovery Implications of SaaS?: An interesting side question: what’s the impact of SAAS on e-discovery? I’m not sure if SAAS limits the options for producing data – formats or media – or requires subpoenaing the SaaS provider. Limitations might be good; in any event, lawyers representing companies using SaaS need to understand the discovery implications. I’ve checked a few e-discovery web resources and vendor web sites and found no info on this question. If anyone knows, please drop a line or leave a comment.