Editor's Note: This post is a translation of an excerpt from an article by Avishai Bessa originally published in Hebrew on June 25, 2013, on Geektime, Israel's leading tech blog.

A new Israeli startup is offering large organizations the opportunity to centralize all their cloud services in one place and to check which licenses the organization needs and which it can do without.

Name of Startup: Applango

One-line pitch:  Applango enables organizations to administer control over SaaS applications, optimize licensing across the organization, and improve management of service users.

Use of the Azure platform:  Applango’s service runs on the Azure platform in specific markets.

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In today’s business environment, the use of cloud-based services (SaaS) is more popular than ever.  Even as individual users, we’re accustomed to using cloud-based products — whether an e-mail service like Gmail, a file storage and synchronization service like Dropbox, or a document composition and management service like Google Drive or Office 365.  But in an organization, the need for such services is many times greater, forcing organizations to buy various packages of licenses to cover each and every service according to the number of employees in the organization and the need to use the particular service.

However, it’s not certain that the managers — particularly in organizations with more than 100 employees — are able to keep track of how the employees use those licenses. Some of the cloud services are quite possibly unused, meaning that the money for their licenses is being wasted.  In even larger organizations, with over 1000 employees, this type of tracking becomes a mission impossible.

This is precisely the mission undertaken by the Israeli startup Applango, which was founded in January 2012 and has so far raised more than a million dollars from private investors in the USA and Europe and through Jon Medved’s investment channel “Our Crowd”. The founders, Daniel Sarfati and Tanya Epstein, say the idea emerged from the ever-growing use of various SaaS services and the obvious need for managing and monetizing those services.  The central problem is, of course, the question of whether the money companies are spending on these services — scarce money, in most cases — is providing real value for the employees.

Applango is in essence a gateway between the employee and the cloud service.  It uses Security Assertion Markup Language (SAML) 2.0, which is an XML-based protocol used by secure domains to exchange information about user visits. The company is mainly addressing the enterprise market, targeting companies with 500 to 2000 employees. Applango’s solution offers them an advantage primarily because until now, most large companies have been unable to monitor their employees’ various forms of SaaS usage, and unable to identify the services that are really being used and are benefiting the employees versus those services that aren’t necessary and are just wasting the company’s valuable money.

If you’re the IT manager of an organization, you can register at Applango’s site, list the various SaaS applications that your organization uses and the specific user names that access them, and observe the level of efficiency with which the employees are using the services. For example, suppose you purchased a license for 100 users of Dropbox. You would provide the list of your organization’s Dropbox users, and then you could check how many times they logged in to the service and how much time they remained connected to it. In this way you receive numeric feedback on your organization’s usage of cloud applications.


A Niche Solution for SaaS

In addition, Applango allows you to receive graphs that break down employees’ usage of the applications. For example, you can identify the five most-used and five least-used applications in your organization, how each application compares with the others in terms of usage, what percentage of the licenses you purchased are not in use, and plan your organization’s monthly and annual SaaS budget accordingly. To date, the application supports 34 leading SaaS services, including of course Dropbox, Office 365, Salesforce, etc.

The company notes that at this point its service does not interface directly with the provider of the SaaS service; instead it relies on the installation of a plug-in at the employee’s station.  Each time the employee logs in to the cloud service, Applango’s plug-in is involved as a gateway. The company hopes to create built-in interfaces in the future, thus supplying IT managers with even more extensive information, including not only logins and logouts but also how the employee used the cloud service and whether a different, more limited service would have answered the same needs, allowing for a better return on the budget.

The main competitors of Applango are IT asset management service providers. By means of a certain software agent installed on the employees’ computers, they enable companies to monitor the use of applications but are unable to monitor any use by means of smartphones, which account for some 40% of the use of cloud applications.

Companies such as Cloudability, Newvem, and Cloudyn mainly track payments for usage of Amazon’s cloud servers, but are not able to track the actual usage itself. In addition, SSO providers such as Okta and OneLogin, for their part, are able to report on logins to various services, but Applango can also analyze the usage, compare it to “expected” usage according to user type (salesman, developer, manager, etc.) and thus provide added value to the company.