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The Half Ass Consumerization of the Enterprise

This is the first of a series of posts that will attempt to provide a pragmatic view of the consumerization of the enterprise phenomena and demystify some of marketing cloud surrounding this term. As an industry, we are identifying the consumerization of the enterprise as a movement within traditional organizations to enable employees with tools and applications similar the ones they use in their personal life. This movement has been triggered by different technology factors such as the raise in the use of connected devices within enterprises or the emergence of new application delivery mechanisms such as cloud computing, application stores, etc.

While, undoubtedly, there is a tendency within organizations to embrace a new type of enterprise software technologies that look closer to traditional consumer applications, I believe the consumerization of the enterprise is far from becoming a relevant phenomenon in the enterprise software industry. From my standpoint, the consumerization of the enterprise is more of a psychological phenomenon accelerated by a marketing frenzy than a technological movement.  As a matter of fact, I firmly believe that, unless software providers and enterprises make some serious changes, the consumerization of the enterprise might never expand beyond being a sexy marketing term.

Let me try to explain;

When we think about the consumerization of the enterprise, we can easily related this movement to a number of emerging disciplines in the software industry that are starting to have an impact in the enterprise:

  • Enterprise mobility
  • Enterprise social networking and collaboration
  • Cloud computing
  • Gamification

While there are others, we can pretty much associate any “consumerized enterprise application” with some the 4 technology areas listed above. When we look deeper into the enterprise technologies   in each one of these areas, we quickly realize that the true enterprise-ready software technologies are far from being consumer friendly and the products that truly leverage consumer technology concepts are far from being enterprise ready. I know, it totally sucks :(.

To put this in the context of an example, let’s look at the enterprise mobility space which, arguably, is leading the charge in the consumerization of the enterprise movement. Currently, SAP and IBM (yes those two) are the dominant players in the space followed by companies such as Antenna Software and Kony. When you deep dive into the technologies offered by those vendors or talk to some of their customers, you realize that the experience is no better or simpler than traditional enterprise packages in the space such as the old Blackberry server stack. The sad thing is that the consumer market is full of mobile technologies that deliver a far superior experience than the enterprise products but, unfortunately, none of those technologies is well suited to be applied to enterprise applications.

In order to become a relevant movement in the software industry, the consumerization of the enterprise needs a deeper commitment and collaboration by the product vendors as well as the enterprise. Here are some of the things I believe are desperately needed:

  • Enterprise tailored software products that leverage consumer technology concepts
  • Deeper understanding of enterprise mechanics by the new generation of enterprise software vendors
  • Flexible pricing models based on economies of scale
  • Simpler software acquisition policies
  • More flexible compliance, procurement and other enterprise regulatory processes.

Each one of the aforementioned areas represent is a major challenge for the new generation of enterprise software technologies. I will cover each one of the areas listed above in more detail in future posts but, for now, I am happy if this post is making you reflect about the realities of the consumerization of the enterprise movement.

In my opinion, without addressing some of the challenges in the areas listed above, the consumerization of the enterprise might be destined to stay as an engaging marketing line with a minimum impact in the enterprise software industry.

 

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Is open source in the cloud still open source?

Open source platform as a service (PaaS) platforms are one of the most exciting topics in the software industry nowadays. Following the $212M acquisition of Heroku by Salesforce.com, we’ve seen how in a matter of months, platforms like dotCloud of VMWare’s Cloud Foundry have emerged with complete PaaS suites based on popular open source technologies.

The value proposition behind this type of PaaS offer is very simple. These platforms will enable the foundation to host, manage, provision and scale solutions based on some of the most renowned open source technologies such as Ruby on Rails, Hadoop, MySQL among dozens of others.

When we start exploring these technologies in detail, we will quickly realize that they could have a profound impact in the software industry that changes the economics and cultural aspects of the open source model.

For the last 20 something years, open source technologies have been fighting an uphill battle to gain a wide adoption within traditional business that favors commercial software alternatives. Lack of support options, poor documentation or vendor commitment are some of the reasons (or prejudices J ) that are often seen as limitations of open source technology stacks. Those years of anti open source mindsets have had a deep influence in the software markets. If you think about it, other than JBoss, MySQL or SpringSource, we can’t cite many other big exits of open source technology vendors. While it is true that the number of exists or acquisitions is not a direct in direct correlation to the viability of a business model it’s a pretty good indicator of the health and stability of a specific market segment.

Can open source PaaS platforms change this? I definitely think so. Let me try to explain.

Does it matter if it is open source when somebody can provision, host, manage, and scale it for you?

I think the open source PaaS model is removing a lot of the friction that companies experience when adopting open source technology stacks. Think about it, would you still be concerned of using Ruby or MySQL if Heroku, VMWare or dotCloud provisions, hosts, manages and scales the technology for you in a very elastic, self-healing infrastructure?

We have to think about open source PaaS beyond the technology landscape and see it as a phenomenon that can change the economic dynamics of the open source model. To put it in very simple terms, open source PaaS platforms have the opportunity to erase a lot of the non-technical advantages that, sometimes, were attributed to commercial software compared to open source alternatives.


Playing by the same rules…. what does this mean for commercial software vendors?

The emergence of open source cloud platforms will force commercial software vendors such as Microsoft or IBM to focus more on innovations of the cloud stacks and less on the advantages of their delivery model. At the same time, commercial software vendors will now have to compete with very complete technology stacks that group a large variety of open source technologies. For instance, I think developers are going to find themselves evaluating complete cloud fabrics like Windows Azure vs. Cloud Foundry, instead of individual technologies SQL Server vs. MySQL.

What does this mean for enterprises?

I think open source PaaS should be a primary option for companies when considering embracing cloud computing. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that it will take some time for organizations to get rid of the same anti open source prejudices that were common when evaluating on-premise open source technologies. In any case, we have to trust the influence that software communities can have in the industry.

Do open source communities need to change?

I don’t think open source communities will change drastically in this cloud computing era but I do believe we need to start considering open source PaaS platforms on the roadmap of the different open source technologies. For instance, I believe open source communities should be very influential regarding which features should be enabled on the different open source cloud platforms and, at the same time, guide the path of the technology in a way that won’t harm the platforms that are enabling those technologies in a cloud environment.

Who will win the PaaS wars?

I believe we will have multiple winners. Microsoft has a head start and a fantastic platform with Windows Azure. I believe VMWare’s Cloud Foundry and Salesforce.com’s Heroku can leverage their strong presence in the virtualization and business software aspects to grow its adoption.

 

In any case, I believe we have interesting times ahead of us.

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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