April 5, 2011

Whither MarkLogic?

My clients at MarkLogic have a new CEO, Ken Bado, even though former CEO Dave Kellogg was quite successful. If you cut through all the happy talk and side issues, the reason for the change is surely that the board wants to see MarkLogic grow faster, and specifically to move beyond its traditional niches of publishing (especially technical publishing) and national intelligence.

So what other markets could MarkLogic pursue? Before Ken even started work, I sent over some thoughts. They included (but were not limited to): 

It will be interesting to see what MarkLogic actually does.


6 Responses to “Whither MarkLogic?”

  1. Seth Grimes on April 5th, 2011 9:35 pm

    I’m still puzzled by the choice. So far as I can tell, Ken Bado has no experience or presence in MarkLogic’s two key markets, publishing and government. I suppose the company believes current relationships are stable and (other) executives and staff have the domain-knowledge and connections to sustain growth in those markets. Further, gov’t is not a happy place to be selling nowadays, so I can see de-emphasizing there.

    You say “I’m not sure MarkLogic has penetrated [law, regulation, compliance] as well as it could have,” but Bado similarly has no presence I can discern in those areas, in sales, products, or in business development to support building relationships with potential partners in those spaces.

    Further, it appears that Bado’s experience has been almost exclusively in sales; important, but a CEO should also know product development and management.

    You ask, “what other markets could MarkLogic pursue?” The clear answer — and a strong match to Bado’s background — is international. ML’s Web site lists, outside the US, London and Frankfurt office. I’ll bet you $.25 that ML opens an office or three in Asia/Australia, and one in France (noting the TEMIS partnership) or Amsterdam, by year end.

  2. Joe Harris on April 6th, 2011 4:27 am

    Seeing as I have been doing a lot of thinking about database opportunities lately ( http://joeharris76.blogspot.com/2011/03/analytic-database-market-opportunities.html ) I’ll wade in on MarkLogic’s as well. I can’t really comment about the specific verticals that MarkLogic sells into or should sell into. However, I see 2 fundamental problems with MarkLogic’s product positioning.

    First problem; they backed the wrong horse by focusing exclusively on XML and XQuery. This has been toned down a lot but the die is cast. People who know about MarkLogic (not many) know of it as a ‘really expensive XML database that you need if you have lots of XML and eXist-db is too slow for you’. They’ve put themselves into a niche within a niche, kind of like a talkative version of Ab Initio.

    This problem is obvious if you compare them to the ‘document oriented’ NoSQLs such as CouchDB and MongoDB. Admittedly they were created long after MarkLogic but the NoSQLs offer far greater flexibility, talk about XML only as a problem to be dealt with and use a storage format that the market finds more appealing (JSON).

    Second problem; ‘Enterprise class’ pricing is past its sell by date. What does MarkLogic actually cost? You won’t find any pricing on the website. I presume that the answer is that old standby ‘whatever you’re looking to spend’. Again, the contrast with the new NoSQLs couldn’t be more stark – they’re all either pure open source or open core, e.g., free to start.

    MarkLogic was essentially an accumulator bet: 1st bet – XML will flood the enterprise, 2nd bet – organisations will want to persist XML as XML, 3rd bet – an early, high quality XML product will move into an Oracle-like position.

    The first bet was a win, XML certainly has flooded the enterprise. The second bet was a loss; XML has become almost a wire protocol rather than a persistence format. Rightly or not, very few organisations choose to persist significant volumes of data in XML. And the third bet was loss as well; the huge growth of open source and the open core model make it extremely unlikely that we’ll see another Oracle in the data persistence market.

    The new MarkLogic CEO needs to acknowledge that the founding premise of the company has failed and they must pivot the product to find a much larger addressable market. Their underlying technology is probably very good and could certainly be put to use in other ways (Curt gives some examples).

    I would be tempted to split the company in 2; leaving a small company to continue selling and supporting MarkLogic at maximum margins (making them an acquisition target) and a new company to build a new product in start-up mode on the foundations of the existing tech.

    [I cross posted this to my blog since it got so long – http://joeharris76.blogspot.com/2011/04/unsolicited-advice-for-marklogic-pivot.html ]

  3. Seth Grimes on April 7th, 2011 5:31 am

    Joe, Mark Logic positions itself as the “database for unstructured information.” The company’s strength in publishing stems in part from the product’s ability to back publishing systems that atomize content, content that can be easily worked with at both the document and component (sub-document) levels given the XML structuring, metadata-management capabilities, and hooks to related technologies: taxonomies, semantic analysis/text analytics, search.

    ML isn’t just for organizations that “want to persist XML as XML.” It’s break-through value is in persisting *content* as XML to facilitate applications that benefit from “smart content.”

    (SC is a term that, so far as I can tell, was first visibly used by a ML customer a few years back. I like it: I used it for a conference I created last fall, http://smartcontentconference.com/ . ML should have participated but didn’t. We did just fine without them.)

    I think the market for these capabilities is strong, even promising given expected growth in semantic computing. As observed, it is a niche market, but it could still support order-of-magnitude growth.

  4. Extending the layered messaging model | Strategic Messaging on June 13th, 2011 4:30 am

    […] manage and serve content.” (MarkLogic’s classical positioning, perhaps to be changed going […]

  5. Michelle Agul on February 11th, 2012 7:55 pm

    Ken Bado didn’t last long at MarkLogic. I inadvertently uncovered this fact during an informal interview/discussion with one of the Directors who’s been employed at MarkLogic since early 2005.

    Ken always seemed a strange choice to replace Dave Kellog who has excellent credentials, wickedly smart, and knows the DBMS market very well.

    Despite MarkLogic having both CEO and VP of Marketing vacancies, the company appears to be firing on all cylinders, and plans to double its headcount in 2012.

  6. Curt Monash on February 11th, 2012 8:04 pm

    Yep. I talked with the company Friday. In particular, they claim that they did NOT miss their financial targets under Ken.

    That said, your comment on overall headcount doubling is surely inaccurate. Perhaps it applies to a specific part of the firm or area of revenue — e.g. channel revenue, which is an increasing area of focus.

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