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Monday, October 1, 2012 by Neil Ward-Dutton
Last week I spent a few more days in Vegas, taking in TIBCO’s annual TUCON customer event. The theme for this year’s event was “Everything Is Different”. Some things certainly were: for example, there was a lot more humour on show (a good sign of confidence) and more importantly, some really solid and illustrative customer appearances and keynotes. I’ve been agitating for TIBCO to do more showing and less telling, and things seem to be moving in the right direction. Representatives from MGM Casinos, the Golden State Warriors and McKesson all helped to bring the business value of all this cool technology to life in a way that TIBCO hasn’t really managed to do until now. (As an aside, ever noticed how it’s the ‘adult’ industries – gaming, gambling, and so on – that most quickly grab new technology and innovate with it? If you want a scarily laser-focused example of how technology can be used to extract money from people, look no further than things like MGM’s MLife program.)
These events are always designed to include some new product announcements, and TUCON 2012 was no different. Among other things, TIBCO announced:
- tibbr 4 – TIBCO’s social collaboration platform now delivers more complete social profiles; more subtle analytics; implementation of an enhanced ‘enterprise social graph’ that links together people, organisational structures, files, applications, as well as subjects and messages. This graph is now exposed via a published API, and TIBCO has launched an Apps Marketplace – together with a handful of partners (Box, WayIn, FileBoard, Whodini, Badgeville, Teamly, ManyWorlds) to take advantage of that.
- Spotfire 5.0 – featuring a completely new predictive engine that implements the open-source R language, and additionally taking advantage of a new partnership with Teradata that allows Spotfire customers to push analytic queries into a Teradata database for execution.
- ActiveMatrix BPM 2.0 – no big functional changes here; rather, a number of small but useful changes, together with a whole lot of engineering effort focused on performance and scalability.
- Some updates to its ActiveSpaces in-memory data grid platform, including the now obligatory Hadoop integration.
- Silver Fabric 5.0 – significant updates to TIBCO’s private cloud technology that deliver more sophisticated scaling and provisioning, together with the ability to create and deploy ‘enterprise app stores’ that seamlessly deploy and provision applications to the platform.
- Silver Mobile 1.0 – a new development platform for TIBCO customers to build mobile apps for iOS and Android. Based on a ferret around TIBCO’s jobs page it looks as if Silver Mobile Server might leverage the popular PhoneGap or Sencha Touch frameworks; but I haven’t had the opportunity to check this yet.
These are all really good and sensible updates that keep TIBCO in the vanguard of enterprise tech. But interestingly, one thing that’s not got much coverage is TIBCO’s launch of a new developer relations program at TUCON (strangely, there doesn’t appear to have been a press release on the topic). Getting serious about developer relations is something that James knows ten times as much about as I do, but even I know that it’s something that TIBCO needs to prioritise.
The new developer program investment is part of a more significant and deliberate investment in marketing going forward from TIBCO, and this is desperately needed if the company is going to be able to fulfil its very aggressive growth ambitions. Historically it’s spent heavily on R&D in comparison to its peer group, but marketing has been much less of a focus.
The company’s ’2 Second Advantage’ and ‘Event Enabled Enterprise’ themes should be a good foundation for this marketing push. One thing I’m not so sure about, though, is the company’s vision statement – it goes something like this: “a little information, at just the right time, making the world a better place”.
Perhaps here – through vague uplifting platitudes – TIBCO is trying to reinforce how it’s no longer (only) focused on boosting the profitability of banks. That’s possibly a savvy PR move, but certainly it’s also grounded in reality: less than a quarter of the company’s revenue now comes from the financial services sector. But does it ring true?
My view is that the “making the world a better place” thing is a bit of a cop-out, and is evidence that the company has more to do as it starts out on its road to not only have very good technology, but also the ability to connect this with stuff that a broader business audience is looking for.
Let’s look at tibbr’s roster of customer stories, as an example. One thing that really stands out for me is how low the “kumbaya quotient” is: tibbr’s being used to help companies keep truck fleets on the road, diagnose failures in industrial equipment, share intelligence about potential border threats, and so on. This isn’t about vague notions of sharing because it’s “good to share”; this is crunchy, grubby, real stuff.
In my blog about TUCON 2011, I compared TIBCO to Progress Software. While Progress has – at least in the short term – regressed, TIBCO is still forging ahead. Now at around $1bn in revenue, it’s increasingly confident in connecting its very strong technology capability with real-world challenges. But as it looks forward to 2013 and beyond, TIBCO still has more work to do to pull what is a very, very broad portfolio of products together more coherently. Sandy says her head exploded when trying to note down all the product updates shared by CTO Matt Quinn in an analyst session. While a large portfolio isn’t by itself necessarily a big problem, TIBCO’s strategy depends on the company being able to show you how what you already know or have might link to other products, and how that will give you additional value. There’s still some work ahead for TIBCO before it can make that happen consistently.