Everyone knows how salesforce.com crushed Siebel a few years ago, to become the de facto standard in CRM. What started with a win in the On Demand CRM battlefield, has now revolutionized the delivery of software through cloud computing. Legacy software vendors under attack from newer cloud providers, are scrambling to protect their turf, like Siebel tried to do in the early part of the decade. However, most of these legacy vendors are fighting a losing battle.

Take the case of Netage, an established vendor that has been providing CRM to Financial Services. Netage will continue to lose deals to Navatar (read River Cities Capital Funds has selected Navatar’s Private Equity CRM over Netage Dynamo). The reason is simple: for a legacy vendor like Netage, winning the cost/value battle against a cloud provider like Navatar is next to impossible unless they can rethink their entire business model.

Legacy vendors typically give the cloud a try, as a defensive move – they launch a hosted offering, available through the internet to avoid losing business. They often try to save money by using all or some of their existing on-premise infrastructure and practice for their hosted offering (masked as a cloud offering), by avoiding the investment in a new technology infrastructure that supports multitenancy. However, the high cost of replicating and maintaining instances for each single tenant (or customer) eventually catches up with them, and their margins get lower as each new customer sucks up more resources.

It isn’t just smaller companies – larger companies such as Oracle are faced with the same issue when it comes to competing with cloud providers (read Oracle Cloud Computing and the CFO’s Dilemma). But because of their size and scale, larger companies like Oracle have the ability to change the market demands/dynamics and fight the battle on a different turf.

The clock, in the meantime, is ticking for most other legacy software providers. If all they do is launch a cloud offering in addition to their on premise offering while maintaining the same business model, they will die soon. Their survival will depend on whether they can make a complete transition to the cloud world.