One of the face palm moments I had while researching PM's role in SaaS was the timeline for platform and app development. The traditional path for on-premise products was platform first, then application. The cloud products flip this sequence, putting the applications first, then the platform. We're so used to seeing this pattern that it's easy to take it for granted, or mistake the reasons why it exists (hence the face palm).
There were two reasons for this evolution in the natural history of a tech vendor's portfolio. The first is distance from the customer. In an on-premise world, where there's a lot of geographic and organizational distance between the producers and consumers of technology, the collection mechanisms about customer adoption (infrequent "How ya doin'?" conference calls, cryptic bug reports, etc.) are labor-intensive. For however much effort you put into this research, the information returned is often incomplete, distorted, or just plain wrong. For example, the game of Telephone played among product teams, customers, and the salespeople in between often leaves PMs with more questions than answers about what a customer really wants.
Therefore, the product strategy for on-premise products have to accommodate a lot of uncertainty about how customers use the technology. While it's not the only reason for customization and custom application development, it's certainly an important one. Rather than guess wrong about customer adoption, on-premise vendors tend to say, "Here's a toolkit. Go build what you want."
Informatica also added more enterprise-level connectivity and a 24x7 support to its cloud offering, thus making it more enterprise ready than ever.
Let’s have a look at these trust.platform.com sites for a minute and analyze the value of this new way of communicating availability:
It actually looks like the industry is moving away from the traditional service-level agreement (SLA) communication, with its well-defined statistical availability number of 99.9%, 99.995%, etc. I believe that this makes a lot of sense for most cloud computing platforms in the SaaS and PaaS category, as I noted in my recent blog on cloud computing taxonomy:
Marc Benioff, CEO of salesforce.com, gave a typically energetic performance at London’s Royal Festival Hall yesterday, both in the main-stage keynote and the private lunch for press and analysts. In addition to some humorous digs at Oracle, SAP, and pretty much any company that wants to run its own data center, Benioff described his vision for enterprise applications in the world of social computing, which he calls Cloud 2. Key to this vision is salesforce.com’s own Chatter application, which is . . . er, well actually it's not really clear what it is. Various spokespeople described it as an internal Facebook, a collaboration engine, Twitter but secure, but to me it still seems to be a user interface in search of an application.
The demonstration reminded me forcibly of the scene in Bruce Almighty in which Morgan Freeman lets Jim Carrey hear all the prayers being made at that instant by the citizens of Chicago. The user gets a stream of tweets, discussion threads, notifications, and alerts from feeder applications, messages from colleagues to each other, general questions, etc. My question, which no-one could answer adequately was “how is this different from email?” The features they cite — filtering, highlighting, threading, categorizing, etc. — are all in Outlook if you care to use them.
The main difference, apart from the fashionable user interface with the sender’s photo next to each message, is the switch from emailers deciding who they want to read their message, to readers deciding whose chats they want to see. Benioff’s description of his own Chatter feed puts him as the omniscient Bruce, watching every sales process, customer service problem resolution, product design collaboration, and invoice approval throughout his organization.
Informatica is one of the traditional leaders when it comes to data quality and data integration. More than 4,000 customers trust Informatica's software products globally and drive more than half a billion dollars in revenue. Informatica solves many of the traditional data integration challenges, for example, between custom developed apps and packaged ERP solutions. As a result, IT operations professionals and enterprise architects are well aware of Informatica’s solutions. However, what has gone under the radar so far is Informatica's cloud computing approach. For about two years now, Informatica has provided www.informaticacloud.com, a cloud-based integration offering, for customers. Informatica recently announced a new version of this service, and Forrester had the chance to talk to the vendor prior to the launch. The new solution offers an improved service for data quality, B2B data transformations, and a number of continuous improvements. But what really caught my attention is Informatica's well-kept secret of a sophisticated agent technology.
Back-office managers and European customers have ignored the message — until now
Today, Google announced Google App Engine for Business, and integration with VMware’s SpringSource offerings. On Monday, we got a preview of the news from David Glazer, Engineering Director at Google, and Jerry Chen, Senior Director Cloud Services at VMware.
For tech industry strategists, this is another step in the development of cloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS). Java Spring developers now have a full platform-as-a-service host offering in Google App Engine for Business, the previously announced VMforce offering from salesforce.com, plus the options of running their own platform and OS stacks on premise or in virtual machines at service providers supporting vCloud Express, such as Terremark.
What’s next? IBM and Oracle have yet to put up full Java PaaS offerings, so I expect that to show up sometime soon – feels late already for them to put up some kind of early developer version. And SAP is also likely to create their own PaaS offering. But it’s not clear if any of them will put the same emphasis on portability and flexible, rich Web-facing apps that Google and VMware are.
So Google aims to expand into enterprise support – but will need more than the planned SQL support, SSL, and SLAs they are adding this year. They'll also need to figure out how to fully integrate into corporate networks, the way that CloudSwitch aims to do.
VMware And salesforce.com Join Forces To Push PaaS To Mainstream Adoption With vmforce
salesforce.com and VMware announced today the development of a joint product and service offering named vmforce. Forrester had a chance to talk to executives at both companies prior to the announcement, and I am quite impressed by the bold move of the two players. Most developers in corporate environments and ISVs perceive the two stacks as two totally different alternatives when selecting a software platform. While the VMware stack, with its Tomcat-based Spring framework, reached mainstream popularity among Java developers with its more lightweight standard Java approach, salesforce.com’s Force.com stack was mostly attractive to developers who liked to extend CRM packaged apps with individual business logic or to ISVs that created new applications from scratch. In some cases, the Java standard and the more proprietary APEX language at Force.com even appeared as competitive options.