Software as a Service (SaaS)
Analysis of software-as-a-service offerings with a database or analytic focus, or data connectivity tools focused on SaaS. Related subjects include:
- I spent three weeks in California on a hybrid personal/business trip. I had a bunch of meetings, but not three weeks’ worth.
- The timing was awkward for most companies I wanted to see. No blame accrues to those who didn’t make themselves available.
- I came back with a nasty cough. Follow-up phone calls aren’t an option until next week.
- I’m impatient to start writing. Hence tonight’s posts. But it’s difficult for a man and his cough to be productive at the same time.
A running list of recent posts is:
- As a companion to this post, I’m publishing a very long one on vendor lock-in.
Subjects I’d like to add to that list include:
- Spark (it’s prospering).
- Databricks (ditto, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding).
- Flink (it’s interesting as the streaming technology it’s now positioned to be, rather than the overall Spark alternative it used to be positioned as but which the world didn’t need).
- DataStax, MemSQL, Zoomdata, and Neo Technology (also prospering).
- Cloudera (multiple topics, as usual).
- Analytic SQL engines (“traditional” analytic RDBMS aren’t doing well).
- Enterprises’ inconsistent views about vendor lock-in.
- Microsoft’s reinvention (it feels real).
- Metadata (it’s ever more of a thing).
- Machine learning (it’s going to be a big portion of my research going forward).
- Transitions to the cloud — this subject affects almost everything else.
Cloudera released Version 2 of Cloudera Director, which is a companion product to Cloudera Manager focused specifically on the cloud. This led to a discussion about — you guessed it! — Cloudera and the cloud.
Making Cloudera run in the cloud has three major aspects:
- Cloudera’s usual software, ported to run on the cloud platform(s).
- Cloudera Director, which for example launches cloud instances.
- Points of integration, e.g. taking information about security-oriented roles from the platform and feeding then to the role-based security that is specific to Cloudera Enterprise.
Features new in this week’s release of Cloudera Director include:
- An API for job submission.
- Support for spot and preemptable instances.
- High availability.
- Some cluster repair.
- Some cluster cloning.
I.e., we’re talking about some pretty basic/checklist kinds of things. Cloudera Director is evidently working for Amazon AWS and Google GCP, and planned for Windows Azure, VMware and OpenStack.
As for porting, let me start by noting: Read more
I’m on two overlapping posting kicks, namely “lessons from the past” and “stuff I keep saying so might as well also write down”. My recent piece on Oracle as the new IBM is an example of both themes. In this post, another example, I’d like to memorialize some points I keep making about business intelligence and other analytics. In particular:
- BI relies on strong data access capabilities. This is always true. Duh.
- Therefore, BI and other analytics vendors commonly reinvent the data management wheel. This trend ebbs and flows with technology cycles.
Similarly, BI has often been tied to data integration/ETL (Extract/Transform/Load) functionality.* But I won’t address that subject further at this time.
*In the Hadoop/Spark era, that’s even truer of other analytics than it is of BI.
My top historical examples include:
- The 1970s analytic fourth-generation languages (RAMIS, NOMAD, FOCUS, et al.) commonly combined reporting and data management.
- The best BI visualization technology of the 1980s, Executive Information Systems (EIS), was generally unsuccessful. The core reason was a lack of what we’d now call drilldown. Not coincidentally, EIS vendors — notably leader Comshare — didn’t do well at DBMS-like technology.
- Business Objects, one of the pioneers of the modern BI product category, rose in large part on the strength of its “semantic layer” technology. (If you don’t know what that is, you can imagine it as a kind of virtual data warehouse modest enough in its ambitions to actually be workable.)
- Cognos, the other pioneer of modern BI, depending on capabilities for which it needed a bundled MOLAP (Multidimensional OnLine Analytic Processing) engine.
- But Cognos later stopped needing that engine, which underscores my point about technology ebbing and flowing.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Business Objects, Cognos, Databricks, Spark and BDAS, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Hadoop, Information Builders, MicroStrategy, Software as a Service (SaaS), Teradata||5 Comments|
When I find myself making the same observation fairly frequently, that’s a good impetus to write a post based on it. And so this post is based on the thought that there are many analogies between:
- Oracle and the Oracle DBMS.
- IBM and the IBM mainframe.
And when you look at things that way, Oracle seems to be swimming against the tide.
Drilling down, there are basically three things that can seriously threaten Oracle’s market position:
- Growth in apps of the sort for which Oracle’s RDBMS is not well-suited. Much of “Big Data” fits that description.
- Outright, widespread replacement of Oracle’s application suites. This is the least of Oracle’s concerns at the moment, but could of course be a disaster in the long term.
- Transition to “the cloud”. This trend amplifies the other two.
Oracle’s decline, if any, will be slow — but I think it has begun.
There’s a clear market lead in the core product category. IBM was dominant in mainframe computing. While not as dominant, Oracle is definitely a strong leader in high-end OTLP/mixed-use (OnLine Transaction Processing) RDBMS.
That market lead is even greater than it looks, because some of the strongest competitors deserve asterisks. Many of IBM’s mainframe competitors were “national champions” — Fujitsu and Hitachi in Japan, Bull in France and so on. Those were probably stronger competitors to IBM than the classic BUNCH companies (Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data, Honeywell).
Similarly, Oracle’s strongest direct competitors are IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server, each of which is sold primarily to customers loyal to the respective vendors’ full stacks. SAP is now trying to play a similar game.
The core product is stable, secure, richly featured, and generally very mature. Duh.
The core product is complicated to administer — which provides great job security for administrators. IBM had JCL (Job Control Language). Oracle has a whole lot of manual work overseeing indexes. In each case, there are many further examples of the point. Edit: A Twitter discussion suggests the specific issue with indexes has been long fixed.
Niche products can actually be more reliable than the big, super-complicated leader. Tandem Nonstop computers were super-reliable. Simple, “embeddable” RDBMS — e.g. Progress or SQL Anywhere — in many cases just work. Still, if you want one system to run most of your workload 24×7, it’s natural to choose the category leader. Read more
|Categories: Cloud computing, Database diversity, Exadata, IBM and DB2, Market share and customer counts, Microsoft and SQL*Server, NoSQL, Oracle, Software as a Service (SaaS)||25 Comments|
There’s a lot of talk these days about transitioning to the cloud, by IT customers and vendors alike. Of course, I have thoughts on the subject, some of which are below.
1. The economies of scale of not running your own data centers are real. That’s the kind of non-core activity almost all enterprises should outsource. Of course, those considerations taken alone argue equally for true cloud, co-location or SaaS (Software as a Service).
2. When the (Amazon) cloud was newer, I used to hear that certain kinds of workloads didn’t map well to the architecture Amazon had chosen. In particular, shared-nothing analytic query processing was necessarily inefficient. But I’m not hearing nearly as much about that any more.
3. Notwithstanding the foregoing, not everybody loves Amazon pricing.
4. Infrastructure vendors such as Oracle would like to also offer their infrastructure to you in the cloud. As per the above, that could work. However:
- Is all your computing on Oracle’s infrastructure? Probably not.
- Do you want to move the Oracle part and the non-Oracle part to different clouds? Ideally, no.
- Do you like the idea of being even more locked in to Oracle than you are now? [Insert BDSM joke here.]
- Will Oracle do so much better of a job hosting its own infrastructure that you use its cloud anyway? Well, that’s an interesting question.
Actually, if we replace “Oracle” by “Microsoft”, the whole idea sounds better. While Microsoft doesn’t have a proprietary server hardware story like Oracle’s, many folks are content in the Microsoft walled garden. IBM has fiercely loyal customers as well, and so may a couple of Japanese computer manufacturers.
5. Even when running stuff in the cloud is otherwise a bad idea, there’s still: Read more
|Categories: Amazon and its cloud, Cloud computing, Emulation, transparency, portability, IBM and DB2, Microsoft and SQL*Server, Oracle, Pricing||6 Comments|
1. I think the next decade or so will see much more change in enterprise applications than the last one. Why? Because the unresolved issues are piling up, and something has to give. I intend this post to be a starting point for a lot of interesting discussions ahead.
2. The more technical issues I’m thinking of include:
- How will app vendors handle analytics?
- How will app vendors handle machine-generated data?
- How will app vendors handle dynamic schemas?
- How far will app vendors get with social features?
- What kind of underlying technology stacks will app vendors drag along?
We also always have the usual set of enterprise app business issues, including:
- Will the current leaders — SAP, Oracle and whoever else you want to include — continue to dominate the large-enterprise application market?
- Will the leaders in the large-enterprise market succeed in selling to smaller markets?
- Which new categories of application will be important?
- Which kinds of vendors and distribution channels will succeed in serving small enterprises?
And perhaps the biggest issue of all, intertwined with most of the others, is:
- How will the move to SaaS (Software as a Service) play out?
1. The rise of SAP (and later Siebel Systems) was greatly helped by Anderson Consulting, even before it was split off from the accounting firm and renamed as Accenture. My main contact in that group was Rob Kelley, but it’s possible that Brian Sommer was even more central to the industry-watching part of the operation. Brian is still around, and he just leveled a blast at the ERP* industry, which I encourage you to read. I agree with most of it.
*Enterprise Resource Planning
Brian’s argument, as I interpret it, boils down mainly to two points:
- Big ERP companies selling big ERP systems are pathetically slow at adding new functionality. He’s right. My favorite example is the multi-decade slog to integrate useful analytics into operational apps.
- The world of “Big Data” is fundamentally antithetical to the design of current-generation ERP systems. I think he’s right in that as well.
I’d add that SaaS (Software As A Service)/on-premises tensions aren’t helping incumbent vendors either.
But no article addresses all the subjects it ideally should, and I’d like to call out two omissions. First, what Brian said is in many cases applicable just to large and/or internet-first companies. Plenty of smaller, more traditional businesses could get by just fine with no more functionality than is in “Big ERP” today, if we stipulate that it should be:
- Delivered via SaaS.
- Much easier to adopt and use.
It is extremely difficult to succeed with SaaS (Software as a Service) and packaged software in the same company. There were a few vendors who seemed to pull it off in the 1970s and 1980s, generally industry-specific application suite vendors. But it’s hard to think of more recent examples — unless you have more confidence than I do in what behemoth software vendors say about their SaaS/”cloud” businesses.
Despite the cautionary evidence, I’m going to argue that SaaS and software can and often should be combined. The “should” part is pretty obvious, with reasons that start:
- Some customers are clearly better off with SaaS. (E.g., for simplicity.)
- Some customers are clearly better off with on-premises software. (E.g., to protect data privacy.)
- On-premises customers want to know they have a path to the cloud.
- Off-premises customers want the possibility of leaving their SaaS vendor’s servers.
- SaaS can be great for testing, learning or otherwise adopting software that will eventually be operated in-house.
- Marketing and sales efforts for SaaS and packaged versions can be synergistic.
- The basic value proposition, competitive differentiation, etc. should be the same, irrespective of delivery details.
- In some cases, SaaS can be the lower cost/lower commitment option, while packaged product can be the high end or upsell.
- An ideal sales force has both inside/low-end and bag-carrying/high-end components.
But the “how” of combining SaaS and traditional software is harder. Let’s review why. Read more
1. There are multiple ways in which analytics is inherently modular. For example:
- Business intelligence tools can reasonably be viewed as application development tools. But the “applications” may be developed one report at a time.
- The point of a predictive modeling exercise may be to develop a single scoring function that is then integrated into a pre-existing operational application.
- Conversely, a recommendation-driven website may be developed a few pages — and hence also a few recommendations — at a time.
Also, analytics is inherently iterative.
- Everything I just called “modular” can reasonably be called “iterative” as well.
- So can any work process of the nature “OK, we got an insight. Let’s pursue it and get more accuracy.”
If I’m right that analytics is or at least should be modular and iterative, it’s easy to see why people hate multi-year data warehouse creation projects. Perhaps it’s also easy to see why I like the idea of schema-on-need.
2. In 2011, I wrote, in the context of agile predictive analytics, that
… the “business analyst” role should be expanded beyond BI and planning to include lightweight predictive analytics as well.
I gather that a similar point is at the heart of Gartner’s new term citizen data scientist. I am told that the term resonates with at least some enterprises. Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Data warehousing, Datameer, Hadoop, Log analysis, Oracle, Platfora, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, SAS Institute, Software as a Service (SaaS), Tableau Software, Web analytics||2 Comments|
- Continuuity toured in 2012 and touted its “app server for Hadoop” technology.
- Continuuity recently changed its name to Cask and went open source.
- Cask’s product is now called CDAP (Cask Data Application Platform). It’s still basically an app server for Hadoop and other “big data” — ouch do I hate that phrase — data stores.
- Cask and Cloudera partnered.
- I got a more technical Cask briefing this week.
- App servers are a notoriously amorphous technology. The focus of how they’re used can change greatly every couple of years.
- Partly for that reason, I was unimpressed by Continuuity’s original hype-filled positioning.
So far as I can tell:
- Cask’s current focus is to orchestrate job flows, with lots of data mappings.
- This is supposed to provide lots of developer benefits, for fairly obvious reasons. Those are pitched in terms of an integration story, more in a “free you from the mess of a many-part stack” sense than strictly in terms of data integration.
- CDAP already has a GUI to monitor what’s going on. A GUI to specify workflows is coming very soon.
- CDAP doesn’t consume a lot of cycles itself, and hence isn’t a real risk for unpleasant overhead, if “overhead” is narrowly defined. Rather, performance drags could come from …
- … sub-optimal choices in data mapping, database design or workflow composition.