Welcome!

Agile Computing Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Stackify Blog, ManageEngine IT Matters, Carmen Gonzalez

Related Topics: @CloudExpo, Microservices Expo

@CloudExpo: Blog Feed Post

SaaS & Business Intelligence at Dreamforce

It's a great time to be in this business

SalesForce.com Journal on Ulitzer

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.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Jerome Pineau

Twenty years of extensive hands-on software development, application engineering, customer interaction, management and consulting experience spanning a diverse array of industries and business models.

Now a "full-service" sales engineer, solutions architect, evangelist, technical ambassador (or whatever you want to call it) in the business intelligence space, specializing in high-performance analytical database management systems (ADBMS).

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud computing technologies. Ge...
Existing Big Data solutions are mainly focused on the discovery and analysis of data. The solutions are scalable and highly available but tedious when swapping in and swapping out occurs in disarray and thrashing takes place. The resolution for thrashing through machine learning algorithms and support nomenclature is through simple techniques. Organizations that have been collecting large customer data are increasingly seeing the need to use the data for swapping in and out and thrashing occurs ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Fusion, a leading provider of cloud services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Fusion, a leading provider of integrated cloud solutions to small, medium and large businesses, is the industry’s single source for the cloud. Fusion’s advanced, proprietary cloud service platform enables the integration of leading edge solutions in the cloud, including cloud...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interoute has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Interoute is the owner operator of Europe's largest network and a global cloud services platform, which encompasses over 70,000 km of lit fiber, 15 data centers, 17 virtual data centers and 33 colocation centers, with connections to 195 additional partner data centers. Our full-service Unifie...
SYS-CON Events announced today that WineSOFT will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Based in Seoul and Irvine, WineSOFT is an innovative software house focusing on internet infrastructure solutions. The venture started as a bootstrap start-up in 2010 by focusing on making the internet faster and more powerful. WineSOFT’s knowledge is based on the expertise of TCP/IP, VPN, SSL, peer-to-peer, mob...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DivvyCloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DivvyCloud software enables organizations to achieve their cloud computing goals by simplifying and automating security, compliance and cost optimization of public and private cloud infrastructure. Using DivvyCloud, customers can leverage programmatic Bots to identify and remediate common cloud problems in rea...
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
SYS-CON Events announced today that HTBase will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. HTBase (Gartner 2016 Cool Vendor) delivers a Composable IT infrastructure solution architected for agility and increased efficiency. It turns compute, storage, and fabric into fluid pools of resources that are easily composed and re-composed to meet each application’s needs. With HTBase, companies can quickly prov...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Systena America will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Systena Group has been in business for various software development and verification in Japan, US, ASEAN, and China by utilizing the knowledge we gained from all types of device development for various industries including smartphones (Android/iOS), wireless communication, security technology and IoT serv...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Infranics will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Since 2000, Infranics has developed SysMaster Suite, which is required for the stable and efficient management of ICT infrastructure. The ICT management solution developed and provided by Infranics continues to add intelligence to the ICT infrastructure through the IMC (Infra Management Cycle) based on mathemat...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Loom Systems will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded in 2015, Loom Systems delivers an advanced AI solution to predict and prevent problems in the digital business. Loom stands alone in the industry as an AI analysis platform requiring no prior math knowledge from operators, leveraging the existing staff to succeed in the digital era. With offices in S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that A&I Solutions named "Bronze Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Founded over 15 years ago in 1999, A&I Solutions continues to provide companies with premier integrated enterprise solutions. By partnering with the trusted and proven solutions of leading technology companies, our customers are assured high performance levels across all IT environments including:...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus intern...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive ad...
The hot topics in the industry today seem to center around Digital Transformation and Mobile Apps. While a digital transformation strategy is crucial to keep up with the chaos in your industry, customer demands, and other disruptions, the need to create mobile apps to remain relevant in your market and to your customers is equally a no-brainer. Regardless of the approach, the next question always seems to pop up: What architecture should I chose? Native? Hybrid? Managed? Hosted?
SYS-CON Events announced today that Progress, a global leader in application development, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enterprises today are rapidly adopting the cloud, while continuing to retain business-critical/sensitive data inside the firewall. This is creating two separate data silos – one inside the firewall and the other outside the firewall. Cloud ISVs oft...