|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.
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex software systems for startups and enterprises. Since 2009 it has grown from a small group of passionate engineers and business managers to a full-scale mobile software company with over 200 develope...
May. 29, 2016 08:15 AM EDT Reads: 2,725
SoftLayer operates a global cloud infrastructure platform built for Internet scale. With a global footprint of data centers and network points of presence, SoftLayer provides infrastructure as a service to leading-edge customers ranging from Web startups to global enterprises. SoftLayer's modular architecture, full-featured API, and sophisticated automation provide unparalleled performance and control. Its flexible unified platform seamlessly spans physical and virtual devices linked via a world...
May. 29, 2016 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,285
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
May. 29, 2016 06:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,938
Companies can harness IoT and predictive analytics to sustain business continuity; predict and manage site performance during emergencies; minimize expensive reactive maintenance; and forecast equipment and maintenance budgets and expenditures. Providing cost-effective, uninterrupted service is challenging, particularly for organizations with geographically dispersed operations.
May. 29, 2016 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,156
As cloud and storage projections continue to rise, the number of organizations moving to the cloud is escalating and it is clear cloud storage is here to stay. However, is it secure? Data is the lifeblood for government entities, countries, cloud service providers and enterprises alike and losing or exposing that data can have disastrous results. There are new concepts for data storage on the horizon that will deliver secure solutions for storing and moving sensitive data around the world. ...
May. 29, 2016 06:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,338
SYS-CON Events announced today TechTarget has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechTarget is the Web’s leading destination for serious technology buyers researching and making enterprise technology decisions. Its extensive global networ...
May. 29, 2016 05:15 AM EDT Reads: 3,269
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
May. 29, 2016 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,968
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
May. 29, 2016 04:30 AM EDT Reads: 3,243
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device. For more information, please visit https://www.mangoapps.com/.
May. 29, 2016 03:30 AM EDT Reads: 977
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
May. 29, 2016 02:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,490
Designing IoT applications is complex, but deploying them in a scalable fashion is even more complex. A scalable, API first IaaS cloud is a good start, but in order to understand the various components specific to deploying IoT applications, one needs to understand the architecture of these applications and figure out how to scale these components independently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nara Rajagopalan is CEO of Accelerite, will discuss the fundamental architecture of IoT applications, ...
May. 29, 2016 02:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,336
SYS-CON Events announced today that Tintri Inc., a leading producer of VM-aware storage (VAS) for virtualization and cloud environments, will exhibit at the 18th International CloudExpo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
May. 29, 2016 01:30 AM EDT Reads: 2,479
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects). Bruce Swann has more than 15 years of experience working with digital marketing disciplines like web analytics, social med...
May. 29, 2016 01:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,418
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
May. 29, 2016 12:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,055
SYS-CON Events announced today that EastBanc Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EastBanc Technologies has been working at the frontier of technology since 1999. Today, the firm provides full-lifecycle software development delivering flexible technology solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing systems – whether on premise or cloud. EastBanc Technologies partners with p...
May. 28, 2016 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,380
SYS-CON Events announced today BZ Media LLC has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. BZ Media LLC is a high-tech media company that produces technical conferences and expositions, and publishes a magazine, newsletters and websites in the software development, SharePoint, mobile development and Commercial Drone markets.
May. 28, 2016 07:00 PM EDT Reads: 3,651
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
May. 28, 2016 07:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,278
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, will discuss the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to fo...
May. 28, 2016 03:45 PM EDT Reads: 2,548
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
May. 28, 2016 02:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,946
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? How do you coordinate the diverse moving parts that must come together when developing your IoT product? What are the key challenges addressed by Data as a Service? How does cloud computing underlie and connect the notions of Digital and DevOps What is the impact of the API economy? What is the business imperative for Cognitive Computing? Get all these questions and hundreds more like them answered at the 18th Cloud Expo...
May. 28, 2016 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,369