Discussion of salesforce.com, force.com, database.com, data.com, and Heroku.
I think that most sufficiently large enterprise SaaS vendors should offer an appliance option, as an alternative to the core multi-tenant service. In particular:
- SaaS appliances address customer fears about security, privacy, compliance, performance isolation, and lock-in.
- Some of these benefits occur even if the appliance runs in the same data centers that host the vendor’s standard multi-tenant SaaS. Most of the rest occur if the customer can choose a co-location facility in which to place the appliance.
- Whether many customers should or will use the SaaS appliance option is somewhat secondary; it’s a check-mark item. I.e., many customers and prospects will be pleased that the option at least exists.
How I reached them
Core reasons for selling or using SaaS (Software as a Service) as opposed to licensed software start:
- The SaaS vendor handles all software upgrades, and makes them promptly. In principle, this benefit could also be achieved on a dedicated system on customer premises (or at the customer’s choice of co-location facility).
- In addition, the SaaS vendor handles all the platform and operational stuff — hardware, operating system, computer room, etc. This benefit is antithetical to direct customer control.
- The SaaS vendor only has to develop for and operate on a tightly restricted platform stack that it knows very well. This benefit is also enjoyed in the case of customer-premises appliances.
Conceptually, then, customer-premises SaaS is not impossible, even though one of the standard Big Three SaaS benefits is lost. Indeed:
- Microsoft Windows and many other client software packages already offer to let their updates be automagically handled by the vendor.
- In that vein, consumer devices such as game consoles already are a kind of SaaS appliance.
- Complex devices of any kind, including computers, will see ever more in the way of “phone-home” features or optional services, often including routine maintenance and upgrades.
But from an enterprise standpoint, that’s all (relatively) simple stuff. So we’re left with a more challenging question — does customer-premises SaaS make sense in the case of enterprise applications or other server software?
|Categories: Data warehouse appliances, HP and Neoview, salesforce.com, Software as a Service (SaaS), Surveillance and privacy||5 Comments|
Generalizing about SaaS (Software as a Service) is hard. To prune some of the confusion, let’s start by noting:
- SaaS has been around for over half a century, and at times has been the dominant mode of application delivery.
- The term multi-tenancy is being used in several different ways.
- Multi-tenancy, in the purest sense, is inessential to SaaS. It’s simply an implementation choice that has certain benefits for the SaaS provider. And by the way, …
- … salesforce.com, the chief proponent of the theory that true multi-tenancy is the hallmark of true SaaS, abandoned that position this week.
- Internet-based services are commonly, if you squint a little, SaaS. Examples include but are hardly limited to Google, Twitter, Dropbox, Intuit, Amazon Web Services, and the company that hosts this blog (KnownHost).
- Some of the core arguments for SaaS’ rise, namely the various efficiencies of data center outsourcing and scale, apply equally to the public cloud, to SaaS, and to AEaaS (Anything Else as a Service).
- These benefits are particularly strong for inherently networked use cases. For example, you really don’t want to be hosting your website yourself. And salesforce.com got its start supporting salespeople who worked out of remote offices.
- In theory and occasionally in practice, certain SaaS benefits, namely the outsourcing of software maintenance and updates, could be enjoyed on-premises as well. Whether I think that could be a bigger deal going forward will be explored in future posts.
For smaller enterprises, the core outsourcing argument is compelling. How small? Well:
- What’s the minimum level of IT operations headcount needed for mission-critical systems? Let’s just say “several”.
- What does that cost? Fully burdened, somewhere in the six figures.
- What fraction of the IT budget should such headcount be? As low a double digit percentage as possible.
- What fraction of revenues should be spent on IT? Some single-digit percentage.
So except for special cases, an enterprise with less than $100 million or so in revenue may have trouble affording on-site data processing, at least at a mission-critical level of robustness. It may well be better to use NetSuite or something like that, assuming needed features are available in SaaS form.*
|Categories: Amazon and its cloud, Buying processes, Cloud computing, Data mart outsourcing, Data warehouse appliances, Data warehousing, Infobright, Netezza, Pricing, salesforce.com, Software as a Service (SaaS), Workday||3 Comments|
It’s hard to make data easy to analyze. While everybody seems to realize this — a few marketeers perhaps aside — some remarks might be useful even so.
Many different technologies purport to make data easy, or easier, to an analyze; so many, in fact, that cataloguing them all is forbiddingly hard. Major claims, and some technologies that make them, include:
- “We get data into a form in which it can be analyzed.” This is the story behind, among others:
- Most of the data integration and ETL (Extract/Transform/Load) industries, software vendors and consulting firms alike.
- Many things that purport to be “analytic applications” or data warehouse “quick starts”.
- “Data reduction” use cases in event processing.*
- Text analytics tools.
- “Forget all that transformation foofarah — just load (or write) data into our thing and start analyzing it immediately.” This at various times has been much of the story behind:
- Relational DBMS, according to their inventor E. F. Codd.
- MOLAP (Multidimensional OnLine Analytic Processing), also according to RDBMS inventor E. F. Codd.
- Any kind of analytic DBMS, or general purpose DBMS used for data warehousing.
- Newer kinds of analytic DBMS that are faster than older kinds.
- The “data mart spin-out” feature of certain analytic DBMS.
- In-memory analytic data stores.
- NoSQL DBMS that have a few analytic features.
- TokuDB, similarly.
- Electronic spreadsheets, from VisiCalc to Datameer.
- “Our tools help you with specific kinds of analyses or analytic displays.” This is the story underlying, among others:
- The business intelligence industry.
- The predictive analytics industry.
- Algorithmic trading use cases in complex event processing.*
- Some analytic applications.
*Complex event/stream processing terminology is always problematic.
My thoughts on all this start: Read more
Surprisingly often, I’m asked “Is salesforce.com going to stick with Oracle?” So let me refer to and expand upon my previous post about salesforce.com’s database architecture by saying:
- Today, salesforce.com uses Oracle as one of several ways to store data.
- salesforce.com’s use of Oracle isn’t very relational.
- salesforce.com is investing in HBase, after exploring other NoSQL options.
- salesforce.com surely has a very inexpensive Oracle license, reducing pressure to move any time soon. However …
- … salesforce.com’s use of Oracle has flipped from being a marketing advantage to a marketing liability.*
- It will be some years before any NoSQL option is mature enough to handle salesforce.com’s work.
- Especially through Heroku, salesforce.com is getting ever more experience with PostgreSQL.
Some day, Marc Benioff will probably say “We turned off Oracle across most of our applications a while ago, and nobody outside the company even noticed.”
- The marketing benefit “Oracle — it’s what the trustworthy big boys use” hardly matters any more.
- The marketing annoyance of Larry Ellison citing salesforce.com’s use of Oracle keeps growing.
Note: This blog post is less readable than it would be if I’d found a better workaround to WordPress’ bugs in the area of nested bullet points. I’m sorry.
Sarah Lacy argues that enterprise application software is due for a change. Her reasons seemingly boil down to:
- Users are increasingly eager for friendlier, consumer-like technology.
- The current generation of apps was installed long enough ago — often before the Year 2000 deadline — that enterprises are willing to contemplate rip-and-replace.
I’m inclined to agree, although I’d add some further, more technological-oriented drivers to the mix.
Changes I envision to enterprise applications include (and these overlap):
- Better integration with communication technology.
- Social software.
- Better stakeholder-facing interfaces.
- Voice control.
- Better integration with analytic technology.
- Dashboard-first UIs.
- Search-first UIs.
- Alert-first UIs.
- Analytic assessment aids (job performance, supplier desirability, expense approval, etc.).
- Automated decisioning.
- Some true analytic apps, interesting or otherwise.
- Better use of different kinds of data.
- Analytically-derived data.
In a comedy of briefing errors, I’m not too clear on the details of my client salesforce.com’s new PostgreSQL-as-a-service offering, nor exactly on what my clients at VMware are bringing to the PostgreSQL virtualization/cloud party. That said:
- PostgreSQL is good technology.
- MySQL is narrowing the gap, but PostgreSQL is still ahead of MySQL in some ways. (Database extensibility if nothing else.)
- PostgreSQL has a lot of users. (Many of them in academia and/or Russia.)
- Neither EnterpriseDB (which now calls itself “The enterprise PostgreSQL company”) nor the PostgreSQL community leadership have covered themselves with stewardship glory.
- A significant number of interesting DBMS products can be regarded as PostgreSQL forks (e.g. Greenplum, Aster Data nCluster, Netezza if you squint, and Vertica if you stand on your head*).
- PostgreSQL advancement is not dead. For example, Hadapt beta users are running actual PostgreSQL on many nodes each.
- There’s no assurance that Oracle will be a benevolent MySQL steward forever. (Specifically, Oracle’s “Play nicely with others” antitrust commitments expire in 2014.)
So I think it would be cool if one or the other big company put significant wood behind the PostgreSQL arrow.
*While Vertica was originally released using little or no PostgreSQL code — reports varied — it featured high degrees of PostgreSQL compatibility.
|Categories: Aster Data, EnterpriseDB and Postgres Plus, Greenplum, MySQL, Netezza, Open source, salesforce.com, Vertica Systems||8 Comments|
salesforce.com, force.com, and database.com use exactly the same database infrastructure and architecture. That’s the good news. The bad news is that salesforce.com is somewhat obscure about technical details, for reasons such as:
- A long-ago marketing decision to not give infrastructure details, so as to convey a “Don’t worry; we’ll take care of everything” message.
- Even so, a long-ago and perhaps now-regretted marketing decision to disclose and even exaggerate salesforce.com’s reliance on Oracle, as part of an early-days attempt to prove salesforce was using enterprise-class technology.
- A desire to hide the recipe for salesforce.com’s secret sauce.
- Force of habit — I’m not sure salesforce even knows how to tell its technical story with any clarity.
Actually, salesforce.com has moved some kinds of data out of Oracle that previously used to be stored there. Besides Oracle, salesforce uses at least a file system and a RAM-based data store about which I have no details. Even so, much of salesforce.com’s data is stored in Oracle — a single instance of Oracle, which it believes may be the largest instance of Oracle in the world.
|Categories: Data models and architecture, Market share and customer counts, Memory-centric data management, Object, OLTP, Oracle, salesforce.com, Software as a Service (SaaS)||18 Comments|
As previously noted, I attended Dreamforce, the user conference for my clients at salesforce.com. When I work with them, I focus primarily on database.com and related businesses. I’ve had to struggle a bit, however, to sort out the various pieces, and specifically the differences among:
- salesforce.com. This is the parent company, and the runaway leader in the SaaS (Software as a Service) enterprise application market, especially in the area of CRM (Customer Relationship Management).
- force.com. This is salesforce.com’s application development stack split out for other SaaS vendors to use, both inside and outside the CRM segment. It can be referred to as a PaaS offering (Platform as a Service). force.com relies on a proprietary salesforce.com language called APEX, which has a strong stored procedure/ database trigger orientation.
- database.com. This is the database part of force.com, spun out separately in general availability as of Dreamforce two weeks ago.
- data.com. Also launched at Dreamforce (and based, if I understand correctly, on an acquisition), this is a provider of 3rd-party data you might use as inputs to your CRM systems.
- Heroku. Another salesforce.com acquisition, Heroku is in essence a PaaS competitor to force.com. Heroku is focused on Ruby and Java, and supports a number of DBMS, SQL and NoSQL alike.
- AppExchange. This is a marketplace for things designed to integrate with salesforce.com (and perhaps also apps built on force.com). The latest claim is that there are 1200+ AppExchange offerings.
- The complete set of SaaS apps built on force.com. A 2008 white paper refers to 47,000 organizations being “supported” by force.com. Recently I’ve heard a figure just under 100,000. I’m not clear as to what that metric measures — aggregate users of SaaS apps built via force.com? Clearly there are a lot of SaaS apps built on force.com, with actual customers, but I don’t know how big “a lot” is. (Perhaps a salesforce.com person could chime into the comment thread with some clarity.)