Salesforce.com might be leading the charge when it comes to bringing social networking to customer relationship management but it's not the only CRM vendor banging the social drum.
Nimble on Tuesday released a new version of its eponymous cloud-based CRM offering. The new Nimble 2.0 adds tighter integration from third-party social networks, including Facebook and Google+. In addition, Nimble 2.0 consolidates notifications from the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. The aim is to allow sales reps to better serve customers based on their social network interactions.
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The new release also sports improved contact records, which Nimble describes as the embodiment of the customer relationship. With the new user interface, the contact records can bring together messages and feeds from contacts' social networks. Nimble said the upgrade offers improved navigation and data-importing capabilities. It also now supports closed loop marketing, or CLM, through integration with social marketing platform provider HubSpot.
Nimble's SaaS-based offering is primarily used by small businesses. The company boasts 30,000 subscribers among 2,800 companies who pay $15 per user per month and 250 channel partners worldwide.
Since its launch last year, the company has generated a lot of buzz. Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara launched GoldMine Software in 1989, which went on to become a major supplier of CRM software to small and medium businesses. Nimble last month received $1 million in funding from Google Ventures, along with a variety of angel investors who include Mark Cuban, Jason Calacanis, Don Dodge and Dharmesh Shah.
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/14/2012 at 1:44 PM0 comments
Oracle on Thursday said it has agreed to acquire Taleo, a leading cloud-based provider of human capital management (HCM) apps, for $1.9 billion.
The move is hardly surprising. In December, two of Oracle's key rivals made similar moves; SAP announced its $3.5 billion deal to acquire SuccessFactors and Salesforce.com agreed to acquire Rypple.
Given the newfound cloud religion of its CEO Larry Ellison and its $1.5 billion deal, announced in October, to acquire online customer service provider RightNow Technologies, it was safe to presume Oracle would want a piece of the HCM pie.
"These acquisitions indicate the increasing enterprise acceptance of the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, with HCM following in the footsteps of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as the next SaaS battleground," said Ovum chief analyst Tim Jennings in a statement. "It also emphasizes the urgency that the major enterprise application vendors attach to establishing a strong position in cloud-based software. Both Oracle and SAP have existing on-premise HCM solutions, but both have been prepared to pay out large sums on cloud-based equivalents, rather than simply transitioning their existing solutions to the cloud. Taleo will further advance Oracle's public cloud strategy."
Workday, seen by many as the leading SaaS-based HCM service, was presumably out of reach, but clearly the leading apps vendors want in. "Human capital management has become a strategic initiative for organizations," said Thomas Kurian, Oracle's executive VP for Oracle development, in a statement. "Taleo's industry leading talent management cloud is an important addition to the Oracle Public Cloud."
Oracle said Taleo's Talent Management Cloud is aimed at letting organizations recruit, develop and retain employees and gain maximum performance out of them.
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/09/2012 at 12:25 PM0 comments
Alfresco on Thursday released a major new version of its enterprise content management software platform that will help enterprises transition the use of ECM to the cloud.
The new release, Alfresco Enterprise 4, introduces an HTML 5-based user interface targeted at supporting mobile devices, notably iPads. The new UI embeds key social network features such as the ability to favorite, like and comment on content. It also integrates with social networks and has links to GoogleDocs, Microsoft Office and Quickoffice HD for iPad users.
With a new emphasis on bringing the use of social networking to the enterprise, Alfresco 4 is a precursor to the company's launch of a pure cloud-based version of the ECM platform this spring. Alfresco Enterprise 4 will synchronize with its cloud version via the forthcoming cloud connector, which will let customers integrate their premises-based content management system with the cloud version, enabling file sharing and other forms of collaboration.
"In the same way we focused in open source in our first wave of disruption of the ECM industry, we think cloud is driving the second phase of disruption for this industry," said Alfresco chief marketing manager Todd Barr in an interview. "We're trying to stay out in front and innovate to make sure we make Alfresco a platform that can be used to the cloud."
Alfresco was founded in 2005 by John Newton, who also helped launch ECM vendor Documentum, a leading provider of document management software that is now part of EMC. Based on London, Alfresco has its U.S. headquarters in Atlanta and now has 250 global channel partners. The company claims it has thousands of enterprise customers, including Toyota, NASA, Merck and Cisco.
The Alfresco platform is Java-based and includes a document repository that puts metadata around objects to add intelligence to file management with such features as version control, sharing and search. Alfresco also uses Microsoft's SharePoint Protocol to integrate with Office.
In addition to EMC's Documentum business unit, Alfresco competes with IBM's FileNet, OpenText and SharePoint. Barr pointed out that Alfresco also interoperates with SharePoint repositories, thanks to support for the Content Management Interoperability Services (CMIS) standard. Alfresco played a key role in convincing ECM vendors, including Microsoft, to support CMIS.
The cloud version of Alfresco is currently in beta. Barr said it runs on Amazon Web Services' EC2 service and will provide a multitenant ECM platform. Alfresco also plans to offer integration with DropBox, letting users tie files stored in that file sharing services to the Alfresco ECM.
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/02/2012 at 11:13 AM0 comments
Amazon remains secretive about revenues from its business in providing cloud services to enterprises, and nothing was said in this week's earnings announcement to shed further light on the question. But if you consider the amount of content stored in its cloud service as any indicator, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is growing like gangbusters.
At the end of 2011, there were 762 billion objects in Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3), up nearly three-fold, or 192 percent, from the 262 billion objects stored at the end of 2010. "S3 grew faster last year than it did in any year since it launched in 2006," said AWS evangelist Jeff Barr in a blog post that revealed the latest metric.
It is widely believed that AWS was close to a $1 billion business in 2011 and, based on the $1.5 billion in annual revenues classified as "other," that appears to be on target.
Last year, Amazon's S3 annual growth was two-and-a-half-fold and, presuming it stays even close to the same trajectory, the number of objects will be in the trillions this year. Barr said Amazon is looking to expand the S3 team and has posted open positions for several software engineers, a senior product manager and a director.
|Source: Amazon Web Services |
Meanwhile, looking to address one of the largest complaints about AWS -- that it has limited customer support -- the company plans to role out new services for its Gold and Platinum AWS Premium Support offerings. In beta now, Amazon plans to offer support for operating systems including Microsoft Windows, Ubuntu Linux, Red Hat Linux, SuSE and the Amazon Linux AMI.
The service, called Third Party Support, also lets customers ask for help with and administering Apache and IIS Web servers, Amazon SDKs, Sendmail, Postfix and FTP, according to Barr in a separate blog post. "A team of AWS support engineers is ready to help with setup, configuration, and troubleshooting of these important infrastructure components," Barr said.
Amazon is also readying a new service, called AWS Trusted Advisor, that will allow the company to inspect a customer's cloud environment and report on how they can save money, improve performance and address security holes, according to Barr.
"AWS Trusted Advisor does not have access to customer data," he said. "Recommendations are made by analyzing information gathered using a constrained set of internal and documented AWS API calls."
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/01/2012 at 3:19 PM0 comments
Joyent is getting ready to bring online new datacenters that it says will equip it to compete with cloud behemoth Amazon Web Services.
San Francisco-based Joyent is building new datacenters in Europe and in the Asia Pacific. The datacenter in Europe should be up and running next month and the Asia Pacific facilities are slated to go online by May. Also, through a partnership with telecom provider Telefónica, Joyent is establishing a series of alliances to add further capacity around the world.
To support its global expansion and build on its offerings and go-to-market efforts in North America, Joyent last week received a healthy investment of $85 million from Weather Investment II and Telefónica Digital, which join existing investors El Dorado Ventures, Epic Ventures, Greycroft Partners, Intel Capital and Liberty Global.
"With investments in the public cloud expansion and seeing this compute network come together with large service providers, starting with Telefónica, our expectation is by the end of 2012 there's going to be a very large federated footprint of high quality of service, cloud services available and that will be across every continent in the world," said Joyent Cloud President Steve Tuck in an interview.
Tuck makes no bones that the Joyent cloud competes with Amazon Web Services and in fact points out that his company launched its infrastructure as a service in 2004 -- before Amazon started peddling its offering. While there are similarities between the two services -- for instance, both are API-driven services aimed at those looking to consume virtual compute -- Tuck argues that the Joyent offering is better suited for mission-critical apps.
"The difference is when you look at performance and availability," Tuck said. "The kinds of companies that you'll see running on Joyent's cloud services in North America are typically running production-class applications, things that are driving revenue, things that always have to be up. In fact a lot of our customers come from Amazon when they've hit a wall, in terms of scale, in terms of performance."
In addition to its global build-out, Tuck said Joyent is expanding its capacity in the United States, notably the addition of a datacenter in Ashburn, Va., which adds to its seven datacenters in North America.
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 02/01/2012 at 2:47 PM0 comments
Salesforce.com on Tuesday launched a cloud-based help desk offering conveniently called Desk.com.
Based on Salesforce.com's September 2011 acquisition of Assistly for $50 million and its procurement of the Desk.com domain earlier this month, the subscription-based help desk service will let businesses offer customer support from mobile devices and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Founded in 2009, Assistly was primarily aimed at small businesses, and that appears to be the focus of Desk.com, which will keep the $49 monthly subscription price per agent, but will also introduce in the future a fee for part-time agents starting at $1 per hour. This is not a traditional help desk offering, but rather one that is targeted at employees that use social networks to track their businesses and have support people who may not always be at their desks. The company estimates that 72 percent of small businesses use mobile apps.
"We built Desk.com so that every company can deliver personal customer service in a social and mobile world," said Alex Bard, Assistly's CEO and founder and now VP and general manager of Desk.com, in a statement. "Desk.com is social at its core; its mobile app instantly lets any employee, anywhere, deliver awesome customer service; and it can be deployed quickly and easily."
According to the Desk.com Web site, the service can link directly to a company's social network account to its customer help desk in five clicks. The Desk.com mobile app works with any HTML 5-compatible smartphone.
The company said it intends to offer analytics and reporting.
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/31/2012 at 10:22 AM0 comments
Amazon Web Services (AWS) on Wednesday introduced a service that lets enterprises connect their on-premises data with its cloud-based storage.
The company's AWS Storage Gateway consists of an appliance that sits in the customer's datacenter and allows them to mirror their local storage with the cloud. This lets customers create backup and disaster recovery scenarios using Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3).
Customers can install the appliance, which can support up to 12 volumes totaling 12 TB of data. The offering allows customers to install multiple gateways and they can choose between Amazon's datacenters in Northern Virginia, Oregon, Ireland, Singapore or Tokyo.
The gateways will create VM images based on VMware's ESXi 4.1, though AWS Evangelist Jeff Barr said in a blog post that the company plans to support other VMs in the future. Customers must have adequate local disk storage in the form of direct attached storage of a SAN for application data used by iSCSI storage volumes. Barr said Amazon currently supports iSCSI storage volumes using Windows and Red Hat iSCSI Initiators.
Amazon CTO Werner Vogels explained the offering in a separate blog post.
The AWS Storage Gateway is a service connecting an on-premises software appliance with cloud-based storage. Once the AWS Storage Gateway's software appliance is installed on a local host, you can mount Storage Gateway volumes to your on-premises application servers as iSCSI devices, enabling a wide variety of systems and applications to make use of them. Data written to these volumes is maintained on your on-premises storage hardware while being asynchronously backed up to AWS, where it is stored in Amazon S3 in the form of Amazon EBS snapshots. Snapshots are encrypted to make sure that customers do not have to worry about encrypting sensitive data themselves. When customers need to retrieve data, they can restore snapshots locally, or create Amazon EBS volumes from snapshots for use with applications running in Amazon EC2.
Amazon said the AWS Storage Gateway costs $125 per month per installed gateway. Snapshot storage pricing starts at $0.14 per GB per month (the company posted a more detailed price list here). Amazon is offering the first 60 days on a free trial basis.
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/26/2012 at 9:47 AM0 comments
Scribe Software, which last year released a cloud service to connect Microsoft Dynamics CRM data with other business applications including Salesforce.com apps, is extending its capabilities to synchronize content more easily with disparate premises-based business-critical software.
The company is billing Scribe Online Synchronization Services (SYS), released this week, as an alternative to integration middleware such as Dell Boomi, IBM Cast Iron and Microsoft's own SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) and BizTalk connectivity software. Scribe Online SYS connects Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce.com data with business critical apps using third-party connectors via the cloud.
The goal of the Manchester, N.H.-based company is to extend the value of both premises and Software as a Service (SaaS)-based CRM environments to include other data sources such as ERP apps, marketing systems, legacy databases and even social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Among those developing connectors so far are GoodData, Metanga, Aplicor and Xactly. To enable partners to build connectors, Scribe this week has also launched its Spark Solution Developer Program, aimed at ISVs with SaaS-based apps, implementation partners and consultants. It is also available to corporate IT and development shops.
Participants in the partner program can use Scribe's new connector development kit (CDK), which consists of a set of APIs and documentation. With the connectors, updates to customer information are captured and reflected in both the CRM system and the corresponding application, ensuring information is always current and accurate across the organization, said Scribe CEO Lou Guercia in an interview.
Systems integrators can manage the use of these cloud connectors for customers, Guercia said. Scribe has 12,000 customers, 1,000 of which it picked up last year, and has 1,000 partners, according to Guercia. "That gives us tremendous leverage," he said.
Scribe, which claims it saw its business grow 22 percent over the past year, is hoping more systems integrators and VARs will build mappings between ERP applications, custom software and SQL databases. Likewise, internal IT organizations can opt to build their own connectors and can also access the CDK. If a shop has a proprietary system that they want to integrate with their CRM data, they can build a native connector rather than relying on ODBC or native SQL connectors.
The service runs on Microsoft's Windows Azure. When someone wants to build maps between different applications they use Scribe's wizard-based UI, enter the names of servers they want to connect to and the service will show the different entities that are within the target and source systems. "The user can drag and drop across the screen which entities they want to map and synchronize," Guercia said.
Dana Gardner, who follows the data integration market and is a principal analyst of Interarbor Solutions, pointed to the need for better connectivity between disparate CRM data and other data sources. Gardner believes Scribe is employing a unique and potentially effective route to market to solving that problem.
"Integration from a cloud vantage point is the right way," Gardner explained. "Doing integration point to point from inside the firewall is difficult and costly but standardizing and then creating a community effect, whereby more people create more types of connectors that then get relayed back into the community, that's an effective model. It's been proven in many ways in an open source type of environment. I expect that the same effect will play out in the cloud ecosystem or cloud of clouds. I do think there's a strong need and the go-to-market approach of the community and the channel is smart."
It will be interesting to see how much traction the new program gains in the coming months. Do you like Scribe's approach to the CRM integration problem or are you more partial to other alternatives? Leave a comment below or drop me a line at email@example.com.
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/25/2012 at 1:11 PM0 comments
AppDynamics, a provider of cloud-based application performance management (APM) software, last week received an infusion of $20 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB). The C-Series funding adds KPCB as its latest investor, joining Greylock Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
AppDynamics' namesake software helps IT manage distributed Web applications running on premises and in the cloud, and is targeted at both operations and development teams.
Jyoti Bansal, AppDynamics' founder and CEO, said in an interview that the company sees a significant market for managing mission-critical business applications on distributed cloud servers. Bansal, a one-time lead software architected for Wily Technology (now part of CA Technologies), founded San Francisco-based AppDynamics nearly four years ago. Large cloud-services users such as Netflix, Priceline and Tivo run AppDynamics app management software.
As companies move business applications to cloud architectures from large monolithic servers, operations and development teams are challenged with managing the apps and ensuring reliable performance, a satisfactory user experience and consistent availability. "AppDynamics technology is about providing a management platform for people to effectively manage applications as they move into the cloud," Bansal said.
AppDynamics competes with numerous software vendors that offer APM wares including CA, Compuware (which last year acquired dynaTrace), ExtraHop, Hewlett-Packard, Precise Software and Quest Software, among others. "The market for managing mission-critical Web applications is huge," Bansal said.
Last year AppDynamics' business grew more than five times, according to Bansal, though he declined to disclose revenues. Its software runs on Web servers on premises and in the cloud and works with applications written in both Java and Microsoft's .NET. AppDynamics also has a partnership with Amazon Web Services and has developed an Amazon Machine Image (AMI) to run AppDynamics' instrumentation on potentially thousands of servers, according to Bansal.
That instrumentation allows customers to determine the source of bottlenecks and slowdowns and perform remediations. "You can reduce time to resolution of problems by many orders of magnitude from around eight to 10 hours to 10 to 15 minutes," he said. One major customer uses AppDynamics to manage apps distributed among 5,000 Amazon cloud servers.
In addition to its relationship with Amazon, AppDynamics works on Microsoft's Windows Azure and cloud services offered by Rackspace. AppDynamics also has partnerships with some smaller cloud providers as well as RightScale, a popular cloud infrastructure management provider, and has a co-selling pact with BMC Software.
With its new round of funding, Bansal said AppDynamics plans to expand its international business (it now represents 30 percent of its current revenue) and extend its product line with more management functions that, among other things, help deploy distributed agile applications in the cloud and help scale, monitor, manage and analyze those applications.
The software runs on Linux and Windows servers, with pricing starting at $4,000 per agent running on a single server or operating system instance.
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/24/2012 at 5:20 PM0 comments
Looking to build on its e-discovery, compliance and storage management portfolio, Symantec this week said it has acquired cloud archiving provider LiveOffice for $115 million.
The deal will allow Symantec to extend its push into helping customers address retention of e-mail and other content. EMC, IBM and Hewlett-Packard all have competitive offerings. Thanks to its $10.3 billion acquisition of Autonomy last year, HP has become a major player in the market for enterprise search and e-discovery software and services.
LiveOffice focuses on cloud-based business continuity and offers an archiving and compliance service that is said to offer rapid access to archived data. Acquiring LiveOffice seems to make sense for Symantec -- it was already a hosted OEM provider of Symantec's Vault.cloud. LiveOffice already integrates with Symantec's recently acquired Clearwell eDiscovery platform, which allows for the analysis of data imported from LiveOffice, Symantec Enterprise Vault and other data sources.
I spent some time talking to the LiveOffice team last summer when Microsoft launched its Office 365 cloud-based e-mail and collaboration service. LiveOffice pitched its service as an add-on to Office 365 for those who need more storage capacity than the 25 GB per user limit imposed by Microsoft's service. The LiveOffice service is also a good hedge for organizations looking to regain access to their e-mail and SharePoint content in the event of an Office 365 outage.
LiveOffice also has partnerships with Salesforce.com, Dropbox and Box.net, in addition to Symantec. Symantec intends to continue offering the LiveOffice service offerings but a spokeswoman indicated that the company is considering branding scenarios in line with the Symantec brand.
LiveOffice CEO Nick Mehta will stay on board during an unspecified transition period. Jeff Hausman, LiveOffice's COO, is now VP of product delivery at Symantec.
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/19/2012 at 3:06 PM0 comments
AT&T is the latest major IT provider to add a public cloud service. Revealed at its developer conference in Las Vegas alongside the Consumer Electronics Show last week, Cloud Architect is targeted at enterprise app developers.
I caught up Wednesday with John Potter, AT&T's VP of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), to discuss how Cloud Architect, available now, will extend the telecommunications carrier's existing enterprise cloud offerings and compete with IaaS offerings from the likes of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Rackspace Hosting.
The plan with Cloud Architect is to go "down market," Potter explained. AT&T already offers hybrid cloud services through its AT&T Synaptic Hosting and storage offerings. The AT&T Synaptic cloud portfolio is a high-end offering aimed at extending private clouds via virtual private network connections to AT&T datacenters.
Cloud Architect is AT&T's foray into offering pure public cloud services, Potter told me. "Our Synaptic offering is a fully integrated stack as opposed as what we see as down market with Cloud Architect," Potter said, adding that the service gives customers choices around the sets of capabilities they can subscribe to, such as dedicated instances, single-tenant instances of servers and dedicated virtual machines, as well as bare metal machines for high I/O types of apps.
The intent is to give developers, ISVs and tech-savvy SMBs the opportunity to build as they see fit for the workloads that they need to serve, he explained. "It's really spin it up quickly and spin it down," he said. "Down market, not a lot of folks have VPNs. Developers in many cases don't want to be pinned down with VMware -- they don't need the functionality and they don't need the price point associated with it. And they want [Microsoft's] Hyper-V, they want Xen, they want other hypervisors that they can go and develop on, at different functionality points, and as a result a different price point."
That said, AT&T has a partnership with VMware and the company will be announcing new developments along those lines in the coming weeks, presumably for the larger-scale Synaptic cloud offerings, though Potter declined to elaborate.
Cloud Architect usage will typically range from $50 to $1,500 per month, compared with AT&T Synaptic usage, which will run form $5,000 to $10,000. "It's just a whole different bowl of wax," he said.
Given the fact that AT&T runs one of the largest mobile communications networks in the world, I asked Potter if the goal of Cloud Architect is to woo developers of applications for mobile form factors. To no surprise, he said yes. "For the mobile development environment, we are very interested in capturing mindshare and capturing the traffic and capturing the mobile developer," Potter said.
He argued that AT&T's Cloud Architect, which will spread workloads throughout its 11 datacenters throughout the United States, is a better option for mobile developers than AWS and Rackspace.
"The tolerance for Amazon scaling to a full production environment isn't there," he said. "From a security perspective, from an ability to scale perspective, folks are just not comfortable with the proposition being brought forward into a full production environment. We have the ability to provide a full value proposition with a single platform across development, test and run, and we are going to leverage that, coupled with the full mobility compliment of development capabilities that we think gives us a unique advantage versus the Amazons of the worlds and the Rackspaces of the world."
To aid developers in building apps to run on Cloud Architect, AT&T released a bunch of new APIs. Among them:
- Identity and security: To allow developers to federate identity across services
- Data analysis and personalization: Lets developers use data capabilities from AT&T to deliver personalized experiences for end users
- Network optimization: To ensure connections are used most efficiently
- Contextual services: Will let developers build location and presence into their apps
- Communications services: Provides session management, messaging services and call control
- Monetization: Provides a standard billing service
Among those major players who have recently announced public clouds are Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and IBM. Meanwhile, AT&T's largest rival in the telecommunications sector, Verizon Communications, last year acquired Terremark for $1.4 billion, giving it a significant cloud hosting presence.
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/19/2012 at 12:23 PM0 comments
Salesforce.com has nabbed Vivek Kundra, the United States' first CIO, as executive VP of emerging markets.
The company announced Kundra's appointment Monday. Kundra, who was named by President Barack Obama as the country's first CIO in 2009, stepped down last summer to take a fellowship at Harvard University as a joint fellow at the Kennedy School and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Kundra's claim to fame was not so much that he was the nation's first CIO, but his footprint on shifting a huge portion of the United States' $80 billion IT spending to the cloud. Under his "Cloud-First" policy, Kundra set the bar to move 25 percent of agencies' IT spending, amounting to $20 billion, to the cloud.
Having evangelized the federal government's move to the cloud, Kundra's credentials and stature as a proponent of cloud computing should give Salesforce.com a boost as the company looks to expand into new markets.
"Vivek Kundra is an amazing technology visionary who opened the eyes of millions to the transformational power of cloud computing," said Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com's chairman and CEO. "His disruptive leadership is just what the industry needs to accelerate the social enterprise."
While the goal is to extend Salesforce.com into emerging markets, Kundra told The New York Times Monday that he will interact with all governments.
Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 01/17/2012 at 11:58 AM0 comments