|By Jerome Pineau||
|November 28, 2009 09:00 AM EST||
I was lucky enough to be at Dreamforce 2009 last week and wanted to pen down a few thoughts while the event is still fresh in my mind. I don’t think there was any earth-shattering news there, and I got the feeling (both onsite and online) that a lot of people didn’t really grasp the value of Benioff’s announcement (or strategy) about “socializing” the platform with Chatter.
I, for one, certainly couldn’t make sense of Colin Powell’s presence at one of the keynotes (not sure what he can possibly offer the world of SaaS but maybe I missed something). But overall it was an enlightening conference and here are some of my impressions (and they pertain mostly to the SaaS BI realm).
First, the sheer number of bodies at the event was impressive. I understand 18,000 people took part and that is quite a large crowd given how undersold (to put it mildly) other conferences have been this year. Businesses have been reluctant to invest in conferences in 2009 as evidenced by abysmal attendance numbers and the rising popularity of “virtual conferencing”. So if one conference was preferred over all others, it must have been Dreamforce 2009, because it seemed like everybody and his mother sent people there.
Second, I was impressed by the level of “education” the typical attendee exhibited. I didn’t really see or hear people asking basic “big picture” questions. Rather, the inquiries were very focused, deep, and to the point, revealing mature customers (buyers) who had done some serious homework. Actually, most of these folks have had meaningful experience in the cloud (some good, some bad) and knew how to hit the right vendor pressure points. From my standpoint, it is always vastly better (and more enriching) to deal with well educated buyers in a no-nonsense approach. This is exactly the user profile I experienced at Dreamforce.com manning the GoodData booth.
Third, and I realize this is subjective, but to be honest, there are a lot of small clueless companies out there having nothing to do with cloud per say who clutter these shows for the publicity of slapping “cloud” onto their marketing literature. I’m not going to name names, but let’s just say when you sell gardening shoes, mailboxes, or kitchen countertops, I’m not sure you should be spending marketing dollars on Dreamforce.
Fourth, I didn’t pick up any “religious” fervor at the show from either buyer or vendor sides. I assumed this was going to be a major rah-rah for everything cloud (with Open Source type of fervor) but I found the discussions to be much more measured and rational with most people objectively comparing both approaches (when applicable) with few pre-conceived notions. I believe this is a sign of industry maturation as people are getting better at separating the wheat from the chaff. I feel for the most part that SaaS limitations are well understood by most (not all) people and expectations are becoming more reasonable for the most part.
Fifth, I believe that SaaS beachheads have been claimed. This is particularly true in the BI space. This has a lot to do with perception obviously but in my opinion, the winners and losers have already been tagged. Most companies (if not all) are fairly new in the cloud space yet already, they have public reputations as in “these guys aren’t serious” or “these folks are the ones you want to talk to”. Obviously first-to-market matters a great deal in any industry and cloud is no different. Except with SaaS of course, you can be first to market with a virtual product (vaporware, in the on-premise world), and it takes longer for people to read the fine print but, eventually, they do. When people have an interest in a particular SaaS domain, they go directly to the “top dogs” without stopping anywhere else. I believe there is plenty of space for new companies in the cloud but for those having established an early lead (perceived or not, and with compelling technology), the future seems bright.
Sixth, everybody in the BI cloud space faces the exact same problems. And no one has clear answers so this is still a very “trial and error” process. The difference is between vendors who admit this, and those who don’t (mostly to themselves). This is a sweeping statement but overwhelmingly, when you talk to other vendors, the same themes come out time and again. Namely, how to scale fast enough (or onboard efficiently with minimal customer “touch”), and how to control sales and marketing costs which are turning out to be higher than anticipated. Although adoption is growing, in my opinion, the technical hurdles are not remotely as high as the business ones.
Most of the BI cloud vendors have managed to get by on minimal engineering costs. Offshore labor is cheap enough that you can afford competent engineering teams in India, Central Europe or China (to name a few) for literally dollars a day and minimal liability. Some of these vendors are making ends meet with two-man engineering teams! And only two I know of have engineering teams exceeding ten people. So clearly, the money pit is elsewhere.
And elsewhere is S&M (no, not the fun kind) namely Sales and Marketing. The original proposition for cloud was that the “service”, unlike traditional enterprise software, was going to kind of sell itself. S&M budgets were going to be minimal. No more travelling field sales force, expensive face-to-face customer visits, pre or post-sales engineers. It was all going to be “automatic” and on the web. But my limited experience contradicts this.
Because now, adoption and competition are growing. For example nowadays in SaaS BI, you have dozens of vendors. You skim enough to get to the “serious” ones (see #5 above) and now you’re left with maybe four or five guys. Next year, there will likely be ten serious contenders. The more competition you have, the higher sales cycles and costs get. Next thing you know, you’re back to boots on the ground and to a more traditional enterprise software sales models. This is the danger facing many SaaS players these days. CEOs and investors are edgy about this emerging trend. It breaks the anticipated mold.
The other problem is what I call customer “touch-too-much”. In a SaaS model, efficient on-boarding is crucial. This is not only about flipping the proverbial switch – because properly-engineered multi-tenant systems achieve this quite well – but more about the time it takes to get a user’s business problem solved. Namely, the costly interaction spent on a given customer to handle specific needs and the amount of customization needed to achieve satisfaction (and final sign-off on the purchase order). POCs, sales cycles and marketing costs are growing.
This is a huge problem in the BI space because the requirements phase can be long and even there agility is not necessarily a Holy Grail. The basic problem is simple: it is very difficult to remove the “human factor” when implementing BI. Cookie cutter never satisfies a particular business problem entirely. The money’s in the customization and the subject matter expertise. You must solve difficult business problems, not engineering ones. The same challenges apply to software engineering, and history has seen a flurry of “blissful automation” endeavors fail in that space (remember 4GL?). At the end of the day, you can’t remove what’s between the chair and the keyboard, and you can’t efficiently and consistently automate it in software – whether in the cloud or not.
Now, this is not so bad for a company like Salesforce.com because they’re a platform play. So by definition, they provide efficient functionality (large offering surface), but it’s all fairly mediocre and “cookie cutter” – Users are free to (try and) customize their modules as they see fit. In the analytics space, for example, Salesforce reporting and analysis is shallow. Consequently, users looking for customer data insight and trending statistics (say for pipeline analysis) will look for integrated solutions fitting their specific business needs.
But for the after-market players who “plug” into something like Salesforce, it’s a major hurdle. Unless they can very quickly and cheaply customize their offerings for a myriad of different business cases, and move through POCs quickly, the SaaS hosting and costing model won’t do them much good. In my opinion, most existing BI SaaS vendors are currently struggling with this conundrum. Lucidera seems to have as well. Its demise was a shot across the bow. The first SaaS BI player to move past this problem wins the game and keeps the investors happy.
I have a hard time thinking of a SaaS BI vendor currently striking a reasonable balance between zero S&M and massive S&M. One on end of the scale, I see folks adamantly opposed to spending a dime on marketing and expecting serendipitous results. On the other end, I see vendors placing heavy bets on misguided or highly-targeted verticals. I see both strategies as precarious and hope for more level-headedness in the coming months.
No matter which way this goes, we're in for a wild ride. No prisoners will be taken. It's a great time to be in this business.
Yours in BI.
One of the biggest impacts of the Internet of Things is and will continue to be on data; specifically data volume, management and usage. Companies are scrambling to adapt to this new and unpredictable data reality with legacy infrastructure that cannot handle the speed and volume of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Don DeLoach, CEO and president of Infobright, will discuss how companies need to rethink their data infrastructure to participate in the IoT, including: Data storage: Understanding the kinds of data: structured, unstructured, big/small? Analytics: What kinds and how responsiv...
Mar. 4, 2015 05:00 AM EST Reads: 2,659
The Workspace-as-a-Service (WaaS) market will grow to $6.4B by 2018. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Seth Bostock, CEO of IndependenceIT, will begin by walking the audience through the evolution of Workspace as-a-Service, where it is now vs. where it going. To look beyond the desktop we must understand exactly what WaaS is, who the users are, and where it is going in the future. IT departments, ISVs and service providers must look to workflow and automation capabilities to adapt to growing demand and the rapidly changing workspace model.
Mar. 4, 2015 04:00 AM EST Reads: 1,098
Sensor-enabled things are becoming more commonplace, precursors to a larger and more complex framework that most consider the ultimate promise of the IoT: things connecting, interacting, sharing, storing, and over time perhaps learning and predicting based on habits, behaviors, location, preferences, purchases and more. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tom Wesselman, Director of Communications Ecosystem Architecture at Plantronics, will examine the still nascent IoT as it is coalescing, including what it is today, what it might ultimately be, the role of wearable tech, and technology gaps stil...
Mar. 4, 2015 03:30 AM EST Reads: 2,733
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. He discussed opportunities and challenges ahead for the IoT from a market and technical point of vie...
Mar. 4, 2015 02:45 AM EST Reads: 3,822
Hadoop as a Service (as offered by handful of niche vendors now) is a cloud computing solution that makes medium and large-scale data processing accessible, easy, fast and inexpensive. In his session at Big Data Expo, Kumar Ramamurthy, Vice President and Chief Technologist, EIM & Big Data, at Virtusa, will discuss how this is achieved by eliminating the operational challenges of running Hadoop, so one can focus on business growth. The fragmented Hadoop distribution world and various PaaS solutions that provide a Hadoop flavor either make choices for customers very flexible in the name of opti...
Mar. 4, 2015 02:30 AM EST Reads: 1,186
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
Mar. 4, 2015 02:00 AM EST Reads: 3,127
Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are increasing at an unprecedented rate. The threat landscape of today is drastically different than just a few years ago. Attacks are much more organized and sophisticated. They are harder to detect and even harder to anticipate. In the foreseeable future it's going to get a whole lot harder. Everything you know today will change. Keeping up with this changing landscape is already a daunting task. Your organization needs to use the latest tools, methods and expertise to guard against those threats. But will that be enough? In the foreseeable future attacks w...
Mar. 4, 2015 01:30 AM EST Reads: 3,527
Disruptive macro trends in technology are impacting and dramatically changing the "art of the possible" relative to supply chain management practices through the innovative use of IoT, cloud, machine learning and Big Data to enable connected ecosystems of engagement. Enterprise informatics can now move beyond point solutions that merely monitor the past and implement integrated enterprise fabrics that enable end-to-end supply chain visibility to improve customer service delivery and optimize supplier management. Learn about enterprise architecture strategies for designing connected systems tha...
Mar. 4, 2015 12:30 AM EST Reads: 3,553
Wearable devices have come of age. The primary applications of wearables so far have been "the Quantified Self" or the tracking of one's fitness and health status. We propose the evolution of wearables into social and emotional communication devices. Our BE(tm) sensor uses light to visualize the skin conductance response. Our sensors are very inexpensive and can be massively distributed to audiences or groups of any size, in order to gauge reactions to performances, video, or any kind of presentation. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Jocelyn Scheirer, CEO & Founder of Bionolux, will discuss ho...
Mar. 4, 2015 12:00 AM EST Reads: 3,093
Even as cloud and managed services grow increasingly central to business strategy and performance, challenges remain. The biggest sticking point for companies seeking to capitalize on the cloud is data security. Keeping data safe is an issue in any computing environment, and it has been a focus since the earliest days of the cloud revolution. Understandably so: a lot can go wrong when you allow valuable information to live outside the firewall. Recent revelations about government snooping, along with a steady stream of well-publicized data breaches, only add to the uncertainty
Mar. 3, 2015 11:15 PM EST Reads: 759
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dyn, the worldwide leader in Internet Performance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Dyn is a cloud-based Internet Performance company. Dyn helps companies monitor, control, and optimize online infrastructure for an exceptional end-user experience. Through a world-class network and unrivaled, objective intelligence into Internet conditions, Dyn ensures traffic gets delivered faster, safer, and more reliably than ever.
Mar. 3, 2015 09:15 PM EST Reads: 896
As organizations shift toward IT-as-a-service models, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and now cloud environments grows with it. CommVault can ensure protection &E-Discovery of your data – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud, or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enterprise. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Randy De Meno, Chief Technologist - Windows Products and Microsoft Partnerships, will discuss how to cut costs, scale easily, and unleash insight with CommVault Simpana software, the only si...
Mar. 3, 2015 05:00 PM EST Reads: 968
Cloud data governance was previously an avoided function when cloud deployments were relatively small. With the rapid adoption in public cloud – both rogue and sanctioned, it’s not uncommon to find regulated data dumped into public cloud and unprotected. This is why enterprises and cloud providers alike need to embrace a cloud data governance function and map policies, processes and technology controls accordingly. In her session at 15th Cloud Expo, Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems, will focus on how to set up a cloud data governance program and s...
Mar. 3, 2015 04:15 PM EST Reads: 932
Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, had reached 30,000 page views on his home page - http://RobertoMedrano.SYS-CON.com/ - on the SYS-CON family of online magazines, which includes Cloud Computing Journal, Internet of Things Journal, Big Data Journal, and SOA World Magazine. He is a recognized executive in the information technology fields of SOA, internet security, governance, and compliance. He has extensive experience with both start-ups and large companies, having been involved at the beginning of four IT industries: EDA, Open Systems, Computer Security and now SOA.
Mar. 3, 2015 04:00 PM EST Reads: 1,446
The industrial software market has treated data with the mentality of “collect everything now, worry about how to use it later.” We now find ourselves buried in data, with the pervasive connectivity of the (Industrial) Internet of Things only piling on more numbers. There’s too much data and not enough information. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Bob Gates, Global Marketing Director, GE’s Intelligent Platforms business, to discuss how realizing the power of IoT, software developers are now focused on understanding how industrial data can create intelligence for industrial operations. Imagine ...
Mar. 3, 2015 03:15 PM EST Reads: 1,522
Operational Hadoop and the Lambda Architecture for Streaming Data Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, representing a model of how to analyze rea...
Mar. 3, 2015 02:00 PM EST Reads: 1,482
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes for use cases across the industrial, enterprise, and consumer segments.
Mar. 3, 2015 01:45 PM EST Reads: 1,371
HP and Aruba Networks on Monday announced a definitive agreement for HP to acquire Aruba, a provider of next-generation network access solutions for the mobile enterprise, for $24.67 per share in cash. The equity value of the transaction is approximately $3.0 billion, and net of cash and debt approximately $2.7 billion. Both companies' boards of directors have approved the deal. "Enterprises are facing a mobile-first world and are looking for solutions that help them transition legacy investments to the new style of IT," said Meg Whitman, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of HP...
Mar. 3, 2015 01:00 PM EST Reads: 943
Containers and microservices have become topics of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 16th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York June 9-11 will find fresh new content in a new track called PaaS | Containers & Microservices Containers are not being considered for the first time by the cloud community, but a current era of re-consideration has pushed them to the top of the cloud agenda. With the launch of Docker's initial release in March of 2013, interest was revved up several notches. Then late last...
Mar. 3, 2015 01:00 PM EST Reads: 1,004
The explosion of connected devices / sensors is creating an ever-expanding set of new and valuable data. In parallel the emerging capability of Big Data technologies to store, access, analyze, and react to this data is producing changes in business models under the umbrella of the Internet of Things (IoT). In particular within the Insurance industry, IoT appears positioned to enable deep changes by altering relationships between insurers, distributors, and the insured. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Sick, a Senior Manager and Big Data Architect within Ernst and Young's Financial Servi...
Mar. 3, 2015 12:00 PM EST Reads: 1,457