Bridgekeeper: "What ... is your name?"
Traveler: "John Swainson of Dell."
Bridgekeeper: "What ... is your quest?"
Traveler: "Hey! That's not a bad idea!"
We suspect Dell's process was more methodical than that!
This acquisition was not a surprise, of course. All along, it has been obvious that Dell needed stronger assets in software as it continues on its quest to avoid the Gorge of Eternal Peril that is spanned by the Bridge of Death. When the company announced that John Swainson was joining to lead the newly formed software group, astute industry watchers knew the next steps would include an ambitious acquisition. We predicted such an acquisition would be one of Swainson's first moves, and after only four months on the job, indeed it was.
In the Business Apps Casino, change is afoot. For a long time, one table – software-as-a-service ERP – attracted a limited number of players and fans. However, over the past 12 months, an increasing number of ERP vendors have lined up to place sizeable SaaS bets, while more potential customers are paying close attention to the gambles those vendors are making.
In Forrester ERP inquiries, it’s now the norm for clients to ask us about SaaS ERP. In fact, it’s unusual to field a call where SaaS isn’t mentioned. Firms may be actively considering a future change in deployment model or simply wanting to kick the tires on SaaS ERP adoption, pros and cons, and comparisons with on-premises ERP. They also seek more information about SaaS ERP market players and likely future entrants. In general, what’s changed since a year ago is that companies want to include SaaS ERP options in their assessments.
Each ERP vendor’s SaaS bet differs somewhat from those of its peers, determined both by the type of customers it’s aiming at and architectural concerns. However, there are some shared themes:
Repurposing existing apps. Some ERP vendors began their SaaS endeavors with apps targeted at small and midsize businesses. They’re now working to deepen the functionality of those apps to appeal to a broader, more enterprise audience. There are two key approaches: 1) expand the scope of an existing SMB product and aim it up market; or 2) carve off functionality from a SaaS midmarket apps suite (while retaining that suite) and create a new enterprise app.
In typical Microsoft fashion, they don't catch a new trend right with the first iteration but they keep at it and eventually strike the right tone and in more cases than not, get good enough. And often good enough wins. That seems the be the pattern playing out with Windows Azure, its cloud platform.
Just three months after SAP acquired SuccessFactors, a cloud leader for human capital management solutions, for $3.4 billion, it has now announced the acquisition of Ariba, a cloud leader for eProcurement solutions, for another $4.3 billion. Now, $7.7 billion is a lot of money to spend in a short amount of time on two companies that hardly make any profit. But it’s all for the cloud, which means it’s for the future business opportunity in cloud computing services. So far, so good; SAP has invested and acquired quite a number of cloud companies over the past years: Frictionless, Clear Standards, Crossgate, etc. The difference in this most recent acquisition is the big overlap with existing solutions and internal R&D.
Following the first wave of cloud acquisitions, SAP was sitting amid a zoo of cloud solutions, all based on different platforms: ePurchasing, CRM-OnDemand, BI-OnDemand, Carbon Impact, ByDesign, Streamwork . . . They all used very different technology, resulting in big integration and scale challenges behind the scenes. The market welcomed with open arms SAP’s announcement 1.5 years ago that it would consolidate its cloud strategy on the new NetWeaver platform for both ABAP- and Java-based cloud solutions.
Over the last two months, I’ve had the opportunity to interview a plethora of managed service providers (MSPs) and MSP platform vendors across the US, Europe, and Asia. The experience has provided me with an inside view into the fastest-growing technology channel today, but it has also provided me with a clear understanding of the evolutionary path MSPs must take as they attempt to reach a new level of maturity (and profitability).
For those tech vendors hoping to cash in on the budding billion-dollar managed service opportunity, it is critical to first understand where the movement began in order to understand where it is headed. The figure below (from my most recent report, Managed Service Providers, Part 1) highlights the three unique stages of MSP development:
Past (pre-1997): solution provider model. Up until the end of the 1990s, SMBs employed their own internal IT systems, supported by a small IT staff or local consultant. They purchased from and had their IT systems installed by VARs, and got their phone systems from telecommunications providers. An IT solution provider (most often the VAR or consultant) provided reactive break-fix support and maintenance for their hardware and software. For SMBs, this model represented a heavy capital investment (capex) for their IT systems and a heavy operating expense (opex) for labor, all executed on-site.
On May 15, 2012, the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore announced that it would award its much-awaited externally hosted g-cloud infrastructure five-year tender to SingTel. My colleague Jennifer Belissent and I published a report on g-cloud opportunities in Asia Pacific late last year that highlighted Singapore as one of the governments leading the way toward g-cloud adoption in the region.
Some key highlights from the Singapore g-cloud contract:
SingTel will be responsible for all of the capex- and opex-related costs needed to build and manage the central infrastructure from its own data center in Singapore.
Singtel will provide a central “G-Cloud Service Portal” to all government organizations and departments to access central g-cloud services (computing, storage, database, archiving, networking, and other basic resources) and derive revenue based on a subscription model.
The Singapore government has not committed to any particular minimum g-cloud usage level.
SingTel will provide the required training to government departments on g-cloud functioning.
SaaS vendors must collect customer insights for innovation and compliance.
As of the end of last year, about 30% of companies from our Forrsights Software Survey, Q4 2011, were using some software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution; that number will grow to 45% by the end of 2012 and 60% by the end of 2013. The public cloud market for SaaS is the biggest and fastest-growing of all of the cloud markets ($33 billion in 2012, growing to $78 billion by the end of 2015).
However, most of this growth is based on the cannibalization of the on-premises software market; software companies need to build their cloud strategy or risk getting stuck in the much slower-growing traditional application market and falling behind the competition. This is no easy task, however. Implementing a cloud strategy involves a lot of changes for a software company in terms of products, processes, and people.
A successful SaaS strategy requires an open architecture (note: multitenancy is not a prerequisite for a SaaS solution from a definition point of view but is highly recommended for vendors for better scale) and a flexible business model that includes the appropriate sales incentive structure that will bring the momentum to the street. For the purposes of this post, I’d like to highlight the challenge that software vendors need to solve for sustainable growth in the SaaS market: maintaining and increasing customer insights.
In the latest evolution of its Linux push, IBM has added to its non-x86 Linux server line with the introduction of new dedicated Power 7 rack and blade servers that only run Linux. “Hah!” you say. “Power already runs Linux, and quite well according to IBM.” This is indeed true, but when you look at the price/performance of Linux on standard Power, the picture is not quite as advantageous, with the higher cost of Power servers compared to x86 servers offsetting much if not all of the performance advantage.
Enter the new Flex System p24L (Linux) Compute Node blade for the new PureFlex system and the IBM PowerLinuxTM 7R2 rack server. Both are dedicated Linux-only systems with 2 Power 7 6/8 core, 4 threads/core processors, and are shipped with unlimited licenses for IBM’s PowerVM hypervisor. Most importantly, these systems, in exchange for the limitation that they will run only Linux, are priced competitively with similarly configured x86 systems from major competitors, and IBM is betting on the improvement in performance, shown by IBM-supplied benchmarks, to overcome any resistance to running Linux on a non-x86 system. Note that this is a different proposition than Linux running on an IFL in a zSeries, since the mainframe is usually not the entry for the customer — IBM typically sells to customers with existing mainframe, whereas with Power Linux they will also be attempting to sell to net new customers as well as established accounts.
Over the last couple of years, IBM, despite having a rich internal technology ecosystem and a number of competitive blade and CI offerings, has not had a comprehensive integrated offering to challenge HP’s CloudSystem Matrix and Cisco’s UCS. This past week IBM effectively silenced its critics and jumped to the head of the CI queue with the announcement of two products, PureFlex and PureApplication, the results of a massive multi-year engineering investment in blade hardware, systems management, networking, and storage integration. Based on a new modular blade architecture and new management architecture, the two products are really more of a continuum of a product defined by the level of software rather than two separate technology offerings.
PureFlex is the base product, consisting of the new hardware (which despite having the same number of blades as the existing HS blade products, is in fact a totally new piece of hardware), which integrates both BNT-based networking as well as a new object-based management architecture which can manage up to four chassis and provide a powerful setoff optimization, installation, and self-diagnostic functions for the hardware and software stack up to and including the OS images and VMs. In addition IBM appears to have integrated the complete suite of Open Fabric Manager and Virtual Fabric for remapping MAC/WWN UIDs and managing VM networking connections, and storage integration via the embedded V7000 storage unit, which serves as both a storage pool and an aggregation point for virtualizing external storage. The laundry list of features and functions is too long to itemize here, but PureFlex, especially with its hypervisor-neutrality and IBM’s Cloud FastStart option, is a complete platform for an enterprise private cloud or a horizontal VM compute farm, however you choose to label a shared VM utility.