Suffer the slings and arrows

Filed under: Random Thoughts — barmijo — June 16, 2006 @ 8:00 pm

Bringing truly unique technologies to market takes a thick skin. Or, as I’ve often been accused of having, a thick skull.

We’re busily introducing 3tera and AppLogic to potential partners and customers and most of the feedback has been very positive. In fact, of all the products I’ve launched over the past 20 years, I’ve gotten more positive feedback on AppLogic than on any other besides BayStack, and that was a decade ago.

The feedback wasn’t always so positive. Last year, when we first tried to explain to folks what AppLogic was and how it would be used, we failed miserably. Most people couldn’t make the leap of logic from racks of servers, load balancers, firewalls and storage to our pretty pictures and disposable infrastructure. To be honest, it wasn’t just that customers and partners weren’t getting it, we weren’t always getting it ourselves. For instance, we resisted calling AppLogic an operating system for months. We were concerned it would make people feel they had to port software onto AppLogic and that’d be a huge barrier to adoption.

During this time we got tons of negative feedback. “No one will trust their apps to a new operating system.” “VMware already does this.” “Why not just make a single OS instance that spans servers?” “You’re just saving a little bit of labor.” “Enterprise buyers will still want their enterprise class servers.” “You’re over simplifying what it means to scale an application.” “No one will trust their mission critical data to anything less than a SAN.” Well, you get the idea.

All that changed one magic day last December when the first system came online. Suddenly we could show customers how AppLogic runs applications. How easy it is to replicate applications. How you can export an application to another grid in minutes. A short time later the Sun Grid went live, and the press picked up on the fact it only runs number crunching apps. Suddenly, almost everyone we show AppLogic to gets it.

As usual with my ramblings, I’m having too much fun telling to the story to trouble with getting to the point.

One of the toughest parts of bringing a new technology to market is interpreting criticism. Avoid it, and you’ll find out too late what the short comings of your product are. Let it sway you, and you’ll devolve into building yet another me-too piece of crap that litters our industry. Dwell on it too long, and you’ll deliver nothing at all.

To that end, rather than force people to talk about us behind our backs, we at 3tera have decided to include an anonymous comment form on virtually every page of our website. I’ve never seen a site like it other than wikis, but we want to know what you think and we’re not afraid to have it out in plain view.

Fear and greed in Las Vegas

Filed under: Random Thoughts — barmijo — June 15, 2006 @ 10:50 am

I just came back from the Software Business Transformation Summit in Las Vegas and I have to say the Tier 1 and 451 Group folks did a fantastic job. We had two days of in depth discussions about how SaaS will impact the software industry. The big boys (Salesforce, IBM, Sun, and Oracle) were all present but it was the large attendance from software firms in the midst of the conversion that made it truly valuable.

Most of the audience questions to panelists focused around the impact on margins, how to deal with running infrastructure, whether new sales commission models are needed, and how to convert customers. I find one thing missing in all these questions, though. Greed.

That comes accross harsh, but let me explain. IMHO there are only two possible reasons for a software firm to make the conversion to SaaS, fear or greed. The fear, of course, is of being left behind by the competition. All of the questions I listed above are based on fear.

Greed, on the other hand, is what I believe should be motivating the move. A CEO shifting the company to SaaS because of greed is looking to capture an order of magnitude larger market. What makes that possible is eliminating the barrier to adoption customers face in having to operate the software. All that presupposes the company can figure out the right business model.

A greed based shift generates different questions than the ones I heard. Questions that need to be asked before you can formulate a new business model. For instance, how do I identify the value of my solution to smaller customers? Do I need to maintain seperate support and pricing models? How will I reach this new audience effectively? Will these new customers have the same certification requirements as my existing customers? How long is the sales cycle? What’s the churn rate?

The Tier 1 and 451 folks tried to press these issues when they were on panels. Opsource was there, and Treb Ryan also pushed a couple of these buttons. On the whole, though, fear ruled the day.

btw: if you get a chance to go next year, I highly recommend the event.

Software Business Transformation Summit

Filed under: Random Thoughts — barmijo — June 13, 2006 @ 10:59 am

Today, for the first time, 3tera’s speaking at a public event.

Having had our heads down working on the system for the last couple years, we haven’t gotten out much. Heck, with Webex, we’ve even closed our first customers without hopping on a plane. Hence, our tans have faded to a uniformly pale complexion.

So, getting back to the point, I’m impressed with the turnout here today. No, it’s not 1998 again (when there were so many events folks were even booking me as a keynote), but there are about 150 very qualified people in attendance. The speakers have been interesting, not simply repeating the same old material. I’ve learned a few things already this morning. And, of course, we get to talk publicly about AppLogic.

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