I posted a brief remembrance of Ken Olsen, founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, on my Opinons blog.
At Lotusphere, Social Business is the main theme.
That means using business versions of social software (Lotus has a full and growing portfolio) to add a valuable social element to both internal collaboration with your employees and external collaboration with contractors, suppliers, business partners, and – most importantly – customers.
New VP of worldwide Sales for Lotus and IBM Collaboration Solutions, Sandy Carter, considers herself an Evangelist for social business. She noted that IBM is itself a social business and that it wants to take that experience and be a mentor for its customers. IBM saves $50 million for every 1% increase in its retention rate and social business software, successfully implemented, is a significant factor. With high performing firms 57% more likely to use social business tools, Carter says it doesn’t make sense to wait to develop a perfect 5 year plan – just get started.
This is mainly based around LotusLive software, a SaaS collaboration application which is getting significantly updated for function, but the real story is that it’s not a consumer application, but rather a business application, built to enterprise standards. Lotus believes that the key to getting more business organizations to put more applications onto the cloud, particularly public clouds, is to make the secure and reliable, with the kinds of functions and features businesses require.
So, for example, while Lotus can support mobile platforms like Apple’s iPhone and iPad, it also embraces business platforms like the BlackBerry phones and, soon, its tablet, Playbook. In fact, Jim Basille of RIM was there as a speaker (and I wanted to mug him for the Playbook he carried, but he kindly demonstrated it for me and promised that delivery would be soon.
At Lotusphere, LotusLive Symphony was announced as ready for a test ride. This is Lotus’ on-line version of Symphony, its Open Office-based office suite. The shared word processor and spread sheet are up and running and the presentations segment will follow it shortly. This is the first on-line editor that has enough function, I think, to lure more “writers” (as opposed to readers) to try and perhaps use it. In case there’s a function missing in the on-line version of Symphony, it’s compatible with the off-line version (which is free), but it’s intended to be robust enough for most writing (except, I think, heavily formatted documents).
It includes neat features, like an ability to segment a document into sections and assigning writing/editing responsibilities to different members of the team. Other features include real-time co-editing, author presence awareness, a revision history, and contextual community and discussions.
With all the talk of on-line collaboration, the cloud, and the new LotusLive Symphony, one could think that the traditional, on-premises Notes/Domino product might be less important. “Notes is core, core, core,” said Alistair Rennie, GM of Lotus, when I asked him that question. He pointed to enhancements to Notes, comments about its next version (called Notes Next), and an on-line Notes client. The message was, the cloud and LotusLive are great new ideas, but Notes users get to pick and choose what goes where. In fact there is a Collaboration Assessment Tool for potential customers to use and an IBM workshop for customers designed to help them plan a customized roadmap.
IBM believes Social Business is transformative in that it changes both how your employees get their work done in a more interesting and productive way and in how it deepens relationships with customers, all while staying within the corporate need for security, reliability, governance, and compliance.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. More tomorrow about the goodies Lotus is sharing from the research labs!
Clouds (and their children, mobile devices and SaaS applications) will be the centerpiece of 2011 computing discussions and decisions.
Woe to the vendor who thinks desktops will continue to come before mobile devices or that clouds are not a real IT destination. They'll get plowed under by dozens of vendors. big and small, old and new, who are already offering lots of cloud-based solutions.
Ahead are lots of challenges:
Phil Wainewright wrote a great article about the cloud market (and other things enterprise IT). He and I don't agree about private clouds (he thinks they're a bad idea and need to disappear; I think they're a great solution to some problems, but not all) but we are very much in agreement about how clouds, SaaS, and mobile devices are going to change IT in profound ways.
Get your lifejacket out -- this is going to be a bumpy ride.
And Happy New Year to all of youl
At the Oracle OpenWorld conference last week there was a lively rivalry between Larry Ellison and Marc Benioff on using Oracle CRM versus Salesforce.com.
Lauren Carlson of Software Advice.com is doing a survey to see what people think about the following proposition: Does Oracle need to buy Salesforce.com to own on-demand CRM?
Take the survey:
I think the answer is yes, but I can't quite imagine Marc Benioff deciding to go back to work for his former boss. I also thought that we had already decided that CRM was the prime application for SaaS.
Salesforcecom has more than an on-demand application; they have a platform for other ISVs to build applications which will integrate with Salesforce. It is this dense ecosystem that helps make Salesforce such a popular choice.
In the past few days, just how important the Private Cloud will be can be glimpsed through several announcements.
We will note that most of the private cloud deployments so far have been IBM's, but generally built from scratch. (The link above will offer you an IBM Client Case Studies (all cloud) on the right side of the page.) This gives them an easier product that can compete in the mid-market.
Microsoft is expected to bring its BPOS suite to Azure later this year.
Both IBM and Microsoft's newest cloud offerings are largely fueled by organic (internal) growth, but both companies, especially IBM, enhance their software portfolios by acquisition. We expect this acquisition race to continue.
By the way, if you'd like to see someone else acquiring their way into a broader software portfolio and the cloud, SoftwareAdvice.com has an excellent article on how Oracle did that, complete with fascinating charts at http://www.softwareadvice.com/articles/enterprise/oracle-mergers-acquisitions-whos-next-1080310/. There's also a survey on who Oracle may buy next.
There's an excellent article on many of the cloud computing vendors, including Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, and RackSpace by Michael Miller of PC Magazine. I highly recommend it, especially for a nice understanding of the difference between Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS), and of just what each vendor is offering.
But I was disappointed that IBM, HP, and the other enterprise-focused cloud vendors were only mentioned, especially since IBM is believed to be one of the largest of the cloud vendors, with a very broad portfolio of offerings -- so broad, in fact, that it's hard to find one IBMer who can put all of them on one page! I'm going to try to do that shortly, but it's important to remember:
It's particularly interesting to note that long before we started talking about community clouds, IBM was building some, providing cloud computing services to governments, software start-ups, and other groups, both non-profit and for-profit.
It's easy to overlook exactly what enterprise vendors are doing; they operate in a somewhat different environment than the highly visible Amazon, Google, et al. But they are an important part of the new cloud computing infrastructure and through their customers and business partners affect large movements in computing from older architectures to the cloud computing paradigm.
It is always amusing (and illuminating) when different events converge about a common issue or problem.
I the last few days, I have read an article demanding that multitenancy is the only way to go for SaaS applications and that ISVs with existing applications must make the substantial investments required to change their traditional on-site application into a vibrant, cost-effective SaaS application.
I guess I'd say I semi-agree.
And then, in the very same week, I saw a really interesting product that attempts to answer the traditional ISV's need to provide a true, multi-tenant SaaS product, without the need to do the extensive development investment. SaaSGrid from Appendra offers ISVs a SaaS environment (complete with infrastructure, metering, billing, etc.) where your existing application can be programatically dissected and reappear as a multi-tenant SaaS application.
This is a very clever and timely idea. I spoke with Sinclair Schuller, Appendra's CEO, and he told how he and some of Appendra's other team members had built several earlier SaaS programs, spending most of their time in building the common elements every SaaS program needs, and only a much smaller portion of their time focused on the application itself. It occurred to them that it might be better to build that infrastructure as a business offering and let application vendors simply plug it in. Sinclair pointed out that when he was building those applications if there had been something to buy that would have provided this substantial development shortcut (and significant cut in ongoing support and management costs), he would have been happy to use it.
Appendra has already attracted both ISVs looking to move their commercial applications to the cloud and enterprise customers looking to turn some of their legacy applications into cloud-based internal offerings that can be delivered and supported for geographically dispersed user populations.
I suspect that ISV's desire to move their offerings to the cloud, combined with a better understanding of just what a SaaS applications involves, will make offerings like Appendra very attractive. As far as I now they are a unique offering. There are lots of vendors offering ISV partners assistance in moving to the cloud, but this particular combination of offerings is the first I've seen. Of course, I'm assuming I'll see more soon.
In the past, much of the activity in SaaS has been new vendors entering the SaaS marketplace with new business models (mainly) and new software written to SaaS standards.
Of course, we've always had
But that opportunity, to ignore SaaS or make small adjustments to the model, may be drawing to a close asserts Don Fornes of Software Advice. In a long and well-thought out article on what enterprise software vendors may need to be thinking about, Fornes looks at Clayton Christensen's theories in the Innovator's Dilemma and the Innovator's Solution. He relates them to the current and future state of the SaaS market and how that might affect existing software vendors with large businesses based on the traditional software model.
I don't completely agree with everything he says (he asserts, for example, that early on SaaS vendors were aimed at small companies in less competitive sectors; I think some went right after bigger fish), but I do think the article should be read and used as the basis for broader discussions.
Have a look. I do agree that even very large and reluctant vendors are now being driven to the SaaS model and the questions are:
So first ship day for the Apple i-Pad came (and went), with thousands of folks standing in line to see and buy the latest New Thing. And a very good day for Apple, with a reported 300,000 pre-orders and first day sales.
Now the focus shifts, not just to how many they'll sell in the first month or the rest of 2010, but also (and perhaps just as importantly) to what people will do with them and what apps will be available.
The usage patterns and the apps (which to some extent will determine who will buy the i-Pad and what they'll be using it for) are what I'm interested in.
(I managed not to pre-order an iPad -- it was very hard -- because I don't want the Wi-Fi version. I think I will order the 3G version even though I know that waiting for the next version is probably a more sensible idea. Techno-lust!)
There's an article about the fact that Google immediately ported Google Docs to the i-Pad (I'm not exactly sure why you couldn't just get there on the browser) and the fact that MS doesn't seem to be interested in getting their new on-line apps ported (same question). The interesting thing isn't so much the article (which is quite straight forward), but rather the comments (76 when I looked) on what it means.
Ignore the expected open source guys who hate Microsoft and always say something way over-the-top negative on every occasion. I love open source, but it's not really the point of this discussion.
The guys who get it are writing about the fact that Microsoft is a software company and that should mean that when a relevant platform appears -- especially one that is anticipated to offer a broad market -- software developers should get on board.
Of course, some might think that Microsoft is waiting for the delivery of its Courier tablet (which exists today, as best I can tell as a concept video). Perhaps they're much further along with Courier than we suspect and they want to save their software for their own platform? Even so, a software company usually writes for other platforms -- just as Microsoft writes Office for the Macintosh, even though it runs on a competitive OS.
I'll be tracking who writes for the i-Pad much more eagerly than I tracked all the pre-ship hype. That's predictable for any hot product and Apple is a master at gathering attention. But what applications run on the i-Pad and better yet run well, exploiting its features, will determine the size and shape of its marketplace.
Even better, of course would be an application no one ever thought of before, because it took the arrival of the i-Pad platform to spark some developer's imagination.
Some Additional Thoughts
After I read ZDNet's article (see above) I read a great article by Jason Hiner on Tech Republic on the i-Pad and business -- again, with many comments. This is more about whether an i-Pad fits into the business environment and pros and cons of using the machine, but again applications and Apple-s application environment are a recurring topic. More food for thought.