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IBM Gets Feisty — Mobilizes Analytics for Oracle Battle

April 14, 2010 Leave a comment

By Merv Adrian, IT Market Strategy

In July 2009, IBM announced the Smart Analytics System 7600, a workload-optimized, pre-integrated bundle of hardware and software targeted at the business analytics market. Included in that package are an IBM POWER 550 running AIX, storage, plus InfoSphere Warehouse Enterprise Edition (which consists of DB2, Warehouse design and management tools + Cubing, Data Mining and Text Analytics services), and Cognos 8 Business Intelligence, configured and tuned, and “health check” features. Accommodations are made if the customer already has licensed some of the software and wants to use it on the platform; in this sense, the software is described as “optional.” This month, IBM broadened the story and upped the ante, making Smart Analytics System a key weapon in its widening battle with Oracle.

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Can Informatica earn a place at the head table?

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Informatica might be thought of as the last independent data management company standing. In fact, that used to be Informatica’s main positioning in the market. That has begun to change over the last few years as Informatica can continued to make strategic acquisitions. Over the past two years Informatica has purchased five companies  — the most recent was Siperian, a significant player in Master Data Management solutions. These acquisitions have paid off. Today Informatica has past the $500 million revenue mark with about 4,000 customers. It has deepened its strategic partnerships with HP, Ascenture, Salesforce.com, and MicroStrategies,  In a nutshell, Informatica has made the transition from a focus on ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) tools to support data warehouses to a company focused broadly on managing information. Merv Adrian did a great job of providing context for Informatica’s strategy and acquisitions. To transition itself in the market, Informatica has set its sights on data service management — a culmination of data integration, master data management and data transformation, predictive analytics in a holistic manner across departments, divisions, and business partners.

In essence, Informatica is trying to position itself as a leading manager of data across its customers’ ecosystem. This requires a way to have consistent data definitions across silos (Master Data Management), ways to trust the integrity of that data (data cleansing), event processing, predictive analytics, integration tools to move and transform data, and the ability to prove that governance can be verified (data governance). Through its acquisitions, Informatica is working to put these pieces together. However, as a relatively small player living in a tough neighborhood (Oracle, IBM, SAS Institute,etc. it will be a difficult journey. This is one of the reasons that Informatica is putting so much emphasis on its new partner marketplace. A partner network can really help a smaller player appear and act bigger.

This Marketplace will include all of Informatica’s products. It will enable developers to develop within Informatica’s development cloud and deploy either in the cloud or on premise. Like its new partner marketplace, the cloud is offering another important opportunity for Informatica to compete. Informatica was an early partner with Salesforce.com. It has been offerings complementary information management products that can be used as options with Salesforce.com.  This has provided Informatica access to customers who might not have ever thought about Informatica in the past. In addition, it taught Informatica about the value of cloud computing as a platform for the future. Therefore, I expect that with Informatica’s strong cloud-based offerings will help the company maintain its industry position. In addition, I expect that the company’s newly strengthened partnership with HP will be very important in the company’s growth.

What is Informatica’s roadmap? It intends to continue to deliver new releases every six months including new data services and new data integration services. It will including develop these services with a self-service interfaces. In the end, its goal is to be a great data steward to its customers. This is an admirable goal. Informatica has made very good acquisitions that support its strategic goals. It is making the right bets on cloud and on a partner ecosystem. The question that remains is whether Informatica can truly scale to the size where it can sustain the competitive threats.  Companies like IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, SAP, and SAS Institute are not standing still.  Each of these companies have built and will continue to expand their information management strategies and portfolios of offerings. If Informatica can break the mold on ease of implementation on complex data service management it will have earned a place at the head table.

Can IBM become a business leader and a software leader?

November 23, 2009 3 comments

When I first started as an industry analyst in the 1980s IBM software was in dire straits. It was the era where IBM was making the transition from the mainframe to a new generation of distributed computing. It didn’t go really well. Even with thousands of smart developers working their hearts out the first three foresees into a new generation of software were an abysmal failure. IBM’s new architectural framework called SAA(Systems Application Architecture) didn’t work; neither did the first application built on top of that called OfficeVision. It’s first development framework called Application Development  Cycle (AD/Cycle) also ended up on the cutting room floor.  Now fast forward 20 years and a lot has changed for IBM and its software strategy.  While it is easy to sit back and laugh at these failures, it was also a signal to the market that things were changing faster than anyone could have expected. In the 1980s, the world looked very different — programming was procedural, architectures were rigid, and there were no standards except in basic networking.

My perspective on business is that embracing failure and learning from them is the only way to really have success for the future. Plenty of companies that I have worked with over my decades in the industry have made incredible mistakes in trying to lead the world. Most of them make those mistakes and keep making them until they crawl into a hole and die quietly.  The companies I admire of the ones that make the mistakes, learn from them and keep pushing. I’d put both IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle in that space.

But I promised that this piece would be about IBM. I won’t bore you with more IBM history. Let’s just say that over the next 20 years IBM did not give up on distributed computing. So, where is IBM Software today? Since it isn’t time to write the book yet, I will tease you with the five most important observations that I have on where IBM is in its software journey:

1. Common components. If you look under the covers of the technology that is embedded in everything from Tivoli to Information Management and software development you will see common software components. There is one database engine; there is a single development framework, and a single analytics backbone.  There are common interfaces between elements across a very big software portfolio. So, any management capabilities needed to manage an analytics engine will use Tivoli components, etc.

2. Analytics rules. No matter what you are doing, being able to analyze the information inside a management environment or a packaged application can make the difference between success and failure.  IBM has pushed information management to the top of stack across its software portfolio. Since we are seeing increasing levels of automation in everything from cars to factory floors to healthcare equipment, collecting and analyzing this data is becoming the norm. This is where Information Management and Service Management come together.

3. Solutions don’t have to be packaged software. More than 10 years ago IBM made the decision that it would not be in the packaged software business. Even as SAP and Oracle continued to build their empires, IBM took a different path. IBM (like HP) is building solution frameworks that over time incorporate more and more best practices and software patterns. These frameworks are intended to work in partnership with packaged software. What’s the difference? Treat the packages like ERP as the underlying commodity engine and focus on the business value add.

4. Going cloud. Over the past few years, IBM has been making a major investment in cloud computing and has begun to release some public cloud offerings for software testing and development as a starting point. IBM is investing a lot in security and overall cloud management.  It’s Cloud Burst appliance and packaged offerings are intended to be the opening salvo.   In addition, and probably even more important are the private clouds that IBM is building for its largest customers. Ironically, the growing importance of the cloud may actually be the salvation of the Lotus brand.

5. The appliance lives. Even as we look towards the cloud to wean us off of hardware, IBM is putting big bets on hardware appliances. It is actually a good strategy. Packaging all the piece parts onto an appliance that can be remotely upgraded and managed is a good sales strategy for companies cutting back on staff but still requiring capabilities.

There is a lot more that is important about this stage in IBM’s evolution as a company. If I had to sum up what I took away from this annual analyst software event is that IBM is focused at winning the hearts, minds, and dollars of the business leader looking for ways to innovate. That’s what Smarter Planet is about. Will IBM be able to juggle its place as a software leader with its push into business leadership? It is a complicated task that will take years to accomplish and even longer to assess its success.

Has IBM Changed its Partner Strategy? The Hunt for OEMs

March 18, 2008 1 comment

Partners are getting more and more important to the major software players. IBM announced a very interesting relationship with Kana, a $60 million solution provider of multi-channel customer service software. This is indeed a growing area in the market. Kana sells its software to about 60% of the Fortune 100. The company started in 1996 and has managed to survive some rough times and come out strong.

While IBM, like other major industry players rely on their partner ecosystem as an important go to market strategy. Some partnerships work better than others. What I thought was particularly interesting about the Kana partnership is its depth. Kana has decided to embed IBM’s DB2, WebSphere (including the WebSphere Process Server) into its solutions. SOA is an important new direction for Kana and the two companies plan to do some joint development in this area. Relationships like this don’t just happen. More than half of Kana’s customers are also IBM customers. This is important because increasingly the customers that I am talking to are looking to buy solutions from one trusted provider rather than trying to get a bunch of individual vendors to work together.

IBM has had a strategy for more than a decade of partnering with packaged software providers rather than being in that business. On one level, this can be viewed as a risky strategy. One only has to look at the roles of Oracle and SAP in the market to wonder if these packaged offerings will swallow up the entire ISV partner ecosystem like a black hole. I guess that my conclusion is that it just isn’t that simple. Customers that I have spent time with look at software packages from a different vantage point than infrastructure software. Because Oracle or SAP provides an excellent package for supply chain management or accounting management does not necessarily mean that they are the right choice for middleware or SOA infrastructure.

IBM’s partner strategy with ISVs has evolved over the past several years. I see a change from the desire to have lots of partners who will enable their software to run one or more IBM software offerings to deeper more strategic relationships. The Kana relationship is an OEM relationship — not a simple membership in a partner program. In fact, IBM has more than 30 of these OEM partnerships with vendors including Fair Issacs, Cisco, Nortel, and PTC — to name a couple. I expect that OEM partners are going to became an important center focus of IBM’s partnering strategy in the coming year.

Packaging SOA: What serves the customer?

January 30, 2008 1 comment

I was talking to a CIO the other day about the whole area of Service Oriented Architectures. It was one of those interesting probing discussions around key players, emerging technologies and the like. One of the interesting topics that came up was around packaged software. This CIO was confused about a major issue. What is the benefit and danger of implementing a package software offering that has all the industry best practices, business process, and middleware integrated together. What are the opportunities and risks of this approach? Likewise, what are the risks of buying piece parts and integrating them together?

This is an important question and one that I have obvious opinions about. I think that it can be dangerous for companies to buy a too well integrated SOA environment from a single vendor. While it might seem like the path of least resistance might be to just buy an entire software suite from a company like SAP or Oracle and be done with it. While this may seem like a pretty straight forward question it actually is much more complicated. On the plus side, a customer could get a head start by using a SOA model where everything is designed to work together. On the other hand, I would submit that this approach is antithetical to the reason companies are approaching SOA in the first place. Companies are moving to SOA in order to create a flexible, modular environment where it is easier to add or subtract components based on either a new business initiative or a new innovative technology. If the SOA platform is too well integrated, change becomes hard.

So, what did I suggest to my CIO friend? I told him that it is better to look at packaged software as components in an overall SOA strategy rather than the lynch pin of that strategy. It is better to begin with the overall business strategy and an Enterprise Architecture and select technologies that are designed with standardized interfaces. The foundation should be based on loose coupling of services.

A packaged offering can work if customers finds a package that is standards based and extensible does not lock them into one perspective on the world. I think we’d all like to have a world where you just buy what you need off the shelf and life is good. But unless you are buying a commodity, I think the world is still too complicated for packaged SOA. Are there SOA commodities? Of course, for example, a set of best practices that are well understood across a broad spectrum of customers can be packaged as a business service and used broadly. Even a large service such as those offered by ADP is an example of a service offering that is well understood and not differentiated. Who would want to write their own service for managing payroll.

I do think that there will be a time when the SOA software market has matured to the point where building blocks are mature and well structured enough to be able to link together services smoothly and easily. But I don’t think we are there yet…do you? Let me know what you think.

Can Experience and Performance Management Transform Business?

January 10, 2008 1 comment

Just as I finished writing my last entry about how complicated it was to install my router I met with a company called Knoa that focuses on the customer experience. That got my attention.

The company was started by two engineers (Yee-Ping Wu and Dr. Philip Lui) in 2003 with experience in the consumer market. Clearly, the average consumer does not expect to require training to use products. In fact, the team’s last project before starting Knoa was creating a multimedia authoring tool for Microsoft Home project. A good background for tackling the customer experience in the enterprise application space. In essence, the company decided to follow the pain and has focused on customer experiences with SAP solutions and Oracle E-Business suite. I guess that if you are looking to solve customer problems you might as well start by focusing on real pain!

 

Knoa positions itself in the experience and performance management space. Big words that basically mean that the company focuses on how the end customer or user interacts with software. The software sits between the graphical interface of packaged software and the operation system. The software is intended to determine what is impacting the user’s ability to get their work done and is intended to pinpoint user adoption issues. There are some interesting distinctions. For example, there are mistakes that are user error such as inputting the wrong product code. This is a problem related to how that individual has been trained in their job. However, there are other errors that are related to a response time problems, poor navigation within the software, or problems related to the network or the operating system. Knoa’s focus is providing technology that monitors the behavior of the user as they are using these packaged applications.

The company uses a passive monitoring 864K agent that is implementing on each desktop. This agent intercepts any application that is running. The agent is mapped to a specific template designed to discover and monitor a core application from SAP or Oracle. In essence, these templates are intended to measure a specific set of metrics that are important to managing the end user experience. Knoa focuses on issues ranging from response time to what part of the application the user is actually using. What I thought was interesting is the type of metrics that the company focuses on. For example, the software can be used to track which parts of a CRM system a majority of the sales team is actually using. It could also be used to see where employees are having difficulty with a packaged application. Is the problem a bug in the software or is it that users do not understand how to use an application and therefore bypass it altogether. The application has obvious uses in support of call centers.

 

The company seems to be off to a good start. It’s 2007 revenues tripled from 2006. Knoa won’t state revenues, its revenue per customer ranges from $300,000 to several million dollars. It has an impressive customer list including brand names like BT, AstraZeneca, AOL, McKesson, Kimberly Clark, and Pfizer. In all the company has 50 customers and 50 employees.

I think that the company is in an interesting position in the market. It has wisely positioned itself as a packaged application in support of SAP and Oracle applications rather than a tool. Because of the design of the underlying engine, the company says that it can add support for a new packaged application in a few weeks. I like the fact that the company is not trying to be all things to all people in the application management space. It can integrate into an existing HP/Mercury dashboard and is planning to expand to support other vendors as well. The key question will be how well the company does in expanding its partner base. Clearly, customer experience management is an area that all of the major performance management/system management companies will like to have as a complementary capability. And Knoa is just scratching the surface of what is possible in this area.

 

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Predictions: Innovation, ROI, Cloud Computing and more…

December 21, 2007 2 comments

I love the end of the year. I get to sneak out of the office for a few days and stay off of airplanes. I also have a chance to look ahead to the new year. I like making predictions. Sometimes, I am years ahead of the market; other times I am able to hit the nail on the head. So, for what it is worth, here are my top ten predictions for 2008 (Hey, how did that happen? What happened to 2007? I thought it just started!)

1. There will be two hot buzzwords this year: innovation and ROI. Companies want to find ways to leverage the technology they have invested in, to do things in totally new ways. At the same time, companies are nervous about investing in technology. They want assurances that there will be a return on their investment — quickly. So, you will see a lot of discussion of both issues. But here is one prediction that I guarantee: most of the proof about innovation and ROI will be fluffy and devoid of any real meat!

2. Here come the clouds! I think that cloud computing, one of the latest versions of virtualization, will become one of the hottest trends of 2008. Any infrastructure company you can name will come up with a cloud computing strategy. No single leader will emerge in 2008 but you won’t be able to move without bumping into the hype.

3. Software as a Service goes mainstream. Sure, SalesForce.com has been the industry darling over the past few years. There can be no doubt that SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff’s imaginative adventure hit the bulls-eye. But I expect that in 2008 there will be numerous mainstream, innovative approaches to Software as a Service. We already saw SAP announce SAP By Design as its entry into the SaaS market. Expect a lot more from mainstream players. Now add a social networking twist and things really get interesting.

4. The world gets more virtual. VMWare’s spectacular IPO made the rest of the market wakeup and smell the roses. Maybe there is money in this virtualization stuff after all. There will be three virtualization market segments: client, server, and application. I can’t decide which one I think is more important. How about all three!

5. More vendors will make more acquisitions (that’s another one you can take to the bank). Yes, Oracle will certainly make more acquisitions, but I don’ t think that BEA will be in the mix. Nor will HP buy BEA. However, I do predict that BEA will probably go private. I predict that HP will buy more software companies, especially in the data management area. IBM will continue its buying especially in software — more companies in what they call information management, more in systems management, and in the collaboration space. I expect to see more action from EMC as well primarily in management and security. The list is too long for this entry but stay tuned, it is going to be a very, very busy year.

6. So, I didn’t mention Microsoft yet. This is the year when Microsoft’s server/enterprise business will get the respect it deserves. Therefore, I expect to see Microsoft continue to make small but strategic acquisitions that will fit into the forthcoming Oslo strategy. I would expect to see Microsoft look for information management picks (among others). However, I don’t expect that Microsoft will be buying big, traditional software companies. I expect that Microsoft will make interesting acquisitions in web collaboration, social networking, and advertising.

7. Online goes off-line. Companies like Zoho are starting to gain traction because they can provide both online services combined with offline usage. Being able to continue working when you can’t get connectivity is the tipping point for these collaboration offerings to challenge Microsoft in the office and collaboration space.

8. This is the year that Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) moves from IT strategy to business strategy. Therefore, SOA will officially move out of the hype cycle and into mainstream. CEOs and CIOs have bought into the importance of consistent business oriented services. Therefore, expect that customers will get down to serious business of moving out of pilots into slow, deliberate implementations. This doesn’t make for splashy headlines but it does make business sense.

9. Google will continue to move into any market that leverages the advertising revenue model — including collaboration software and various cloud computing options. No surprise there. I do not expect that Google will make a bid for the traditional enterprise applications. I do expect to see a strengthening partnership with IBM.

10. Partner ecosystems will reach a new level of intensity this year. Enterprise software leaders will be working hard to make sure the most popular emerging players support their platforms. They will be joined in the mix by Software as a Service players who are trying to build up their arsenal of partners. Emerging players will live or die by their ability to sign the best partnerships. At the same time, enterprise software leaders are upping the requirements for participation. The bottom line is: what’s in it for me?

11. I know I promised 10 predictions but I have to add one more. There will be at least a few trends that will come out of the blue. But that is what makes things interesting!