TIBCO has vision and chops. Can it bring its customers along?

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At the TIBCO NOW conference in San Diego, the venerable independent middleware pioneer unveiled a set of new products and capabilities, building on announcements at its Berlin event earlier in 2017.

Slimmed down, pushing forward

Three years after its transition back into private hands (with its purchase by PE firm Vista Equity Partners for $4.3bn in 2014), TIBCO is confounding lots of people’s expectations about what happens to tech firms that go private: it’s stripped back its product portfolio, yes, but it has regained – and in fact, boosted – its R&D momentum. After several years of misplaced diversification, as we said a few months ago, TIBCO seems to be getting its mojo back – and in returning to its digital business infrastructure focus, finally embracing cloud computing and open-source software distribution.

TIBCO’s pitch is now ‘Connected Intelligence’, supported by two primary groups of offerings – one focused on interconnection (messaging, integration, automation) and the other focused on intelligence (data management, analytics).

This aligns neatly with what we’ve long argued are the key elements of a business platform for digital transformation – a platform that:

  • Instruments experiences, products, and processes
  • Enables organisations to rapidly get meaningful insights from that data
  • Enables those insights to rapidly drive automations and optimisations within those experiences, products and processes
  • As well as enabling smart decisions about new digital business opportunities.

Anywhere, everywhere

TIBCO has always pitched itself as “like Switzerland” – as an independent and trusted neutral third party in enterprise integration. It’s doubling down on this: increasingly making its new products and capabilities available (and getting them certified) not only on its own (AWS-hosted) TIBCO Cloud but also on Pivotal Cloud Foundry, OpenShift, Google Cloud Platform, Azure and more. It’s also starting to embrace open source distribution for the projects it’s using to enable new growth: new flow-focused microservices framework Flogo and new microgateway framework Mashling are now available in free, open-source community editions. A community edition of TIBCO’s existing low-latency messaging tech FTL is now available free of charge (though it’s not yet open-sourced).

Other key announcements, from my perspective:

  • Spotfire is now available on TIBCO Cloud (in beta), having access to data created/managed by all other TIBCO Cloud capabilities (Integration, Live Apps, Messaging today) as well as being easy to hook up to external data sources.
  • Flogo is now available natively on AWS Lambda; and additionally, Flogo now integrates ML frameworks right into the runtime, with TIBCO Statistica and Google’s TensorFlow supported today.
  • TIBCO’s acquisition of Composite from Cisco creates a new TIBCO offering, Data Virtualization.

The Flogo announcements are particularly interesting because of a fundamental property of Flogo: its runtime is small. So that ML capability? You can now run analytic models on a Raspberry Pi. If you run Flogo code on AWS Lambda, you’ve got the potential to incur only very low levels of cost (on Lambda, pricing scales with memory usage among other things).

NOW what?

There is serious innovation going on here. TIBCO will only have itself to blame if it can’t now attract significant numbers of new customers with new problems to solve. For this, the company’s main focus has to be about increasing market visibility and awareness.

What is just as important for TIBCO now, though, is working to get its existing customer base to explore the new capabilities on offer. TIBCO might do well to treat existing customers the same way as its wider potential audience: certainly, it can’t assume that the roles and teams that invested in its heritage technologies are naturally going to be inspired by the new.

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