Will Actian Connect, Analyze and Act on the SMB Market Opportunity?

After marking my calendar to attend Pervasive’s 2013 Integration World, I had to wonder whether or not Actian’s pending acquisition of Pervasive would be a done deal–or not–by April 14, when the conference was due to kick off.

After all, I figured that if things were still up in the air, I’d probably leave with more questions than answers. Although it seemed pretty clear to me that the combined entity would be able to bring a lot more to the table in the large enterprise big data space, it wasn’t clear to me what it would mean for the merged company’s future in the SMB market.

Evidently, the events team wasn’t sure about whether or not the acquisition would be a done deal in time for the event either, as they had two sets of signage and materials printed up and ready to go for either eventuality.

Fortunately, the acquisition became final on April 11, three days in advance of the event, and the events team got to use the Actian version. And although it’s too soon to expect a roadmap from the freshly combined entity, the event did give me a chance to think about what may be on tap.

 Actian Connects with Pervasive

actian pervasive imagesFirst, the background. Privately held Actian Corp closed the deal to acquire Pervasive, which had prior to this been publicly traded on NASDAQ, on April 11 for $161.7 million. Under the agreement, Pervasive becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of Actian. In total, the merged company employs about 510 people.

Each company has been around a long time and has deep roots in the database world. Actian got its start from a predecessor company named Ingres in the late 1980s, which went through two acquisitions and a divestiture to then emerge as the new Ingres Corporation, best known for Ingres Database, an SQL relational database management system, available in community (open-source) and enterprise versions. On a quest to evolve into a big data company, the company acquired VectorWise, an analytical database in 2010. In 2011, the company rebranded itself as Actian and in 2012, it bought object-store database vendor Versant.

Likewise, Pervasive began as a database company in 1982, with its Btrieve offering. After a few acquisitions, spinouts and name changes, the company became Pervasive Software in 1997, when Btrieve evolved into Pervasive PSQL. In 2003, Pervasive entered the integration business when it purchased Data Junction (now Pervasive Data Integrator). Today, many SMB-oriented ISVs use Pervasive data integration solutions in their offerings. Data Integrator technologies are also at the core of Galaxy Marketplace, which Pervasive launched in 2011 (see Pervasive Puts Its Galaxy Integration Community Into Orbit). In addition, Pervasive jumped into the big data arena, most notably with DataRush, a predictive data analytics engine, in 2006.

In both companies, legacy database products still account for a big chunk of revenues, and have funded expansion to develop and/or acquire the big data solutions that they are targeting to fuel future growth. As noted by Steve Shine, Actian CEO in the press release announcing the deal, that target is to deliver big data solutions for enterprises of all sizes:  “Every moment, people, businesses and machines generate explosive volumes and varieties of data leveraging their existing networks and, more increasingly, the cloud. Companies that embrace this data as their most strategic asset will thrive, while those that don’t lose their competitive advantage.”

Giving companies the ability to “Connect, Analyze and Act” is Actian’s corporate mantra. Pervasive gives Actian the strong integration capabilities that it needed to fill out the connect piece of its big data story. Meanwhile, DataRush’s high-powered BI and analytics solutions should significantly beef up analytics and processing capabilities.

Where SMBs Have Fit Into the Story to Date

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) have been vital to Pervasive. The company has relied primarily on indirect channel partners to reach SMBs. ISVs in particular have been integral to its success. It has partnered with vendors such as Intuit, Salesforce, UserVoice and others who sell through embedded integrations and connectors built with Pervasive Data Integrator and with ISVs, such as GlobalShop, EBP, and Abacus, that build their solutions on Pervasive SQL database. A good strategy, as SMBs don’t often have the bandwidth, expertise or resources to tend to the integration plumbing necessary to connect financials, marketing, CRM and other solutions.

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 2.41.23 PMIn 2011, Pervasive also introduced Galaxy Integration Marketplace, a portal where users can find integration guidance and buy pre-built integration solutions in Amazon-like fashion. On the flip side, the portal gives integration developers a window into what integrations people are looking for, as well as a lot of very handy tools–including a storefront–to provision and manage products, subscriptions, payment processing, etc.

Currently, Galaxy has about 100 integration apps, from Freshbooks to Salesforce, which is priced at $25 per month, to integrations that are priced at $5000 or $6000 per year.

Pervasive is also working on a new capability, code-named Maestro, that will have a simple mapping interface so providers can map custom fields on top of pre-built connectors. Again, the Galaxy approach makes it easy for under-resourced SMBs to tackle the complicated integration problem.

On the other hand, Pervasive’s big data offerings, such as DataRush, have pretty much been a large enterprise play, and Actian’s primary focus and customer base has resided with large enterprises to date.

Where Will SMBs Fit in the Future?

Will Actian continue to maintain a strong focus on SMBs? In conversations at Integration World, as well as in the press release, Shine indicated that Actian intends to cover the spectrum from large to small: “Actian’s innovations make it easy for organisations large and small to connect, analyse and act on their fast-changing and fast-growing diverse data assets throughout the entire data lifecycle.”

Furthermore, Pervasive has an established and successful model of working with ISVs to embed and sell through its solutions–a solid approach to reach and serve SMBs, who need  integration solutions that they can quickly deploy and from which they can get value. The Galaxy Marketplace complements this approach by adding the value of community insight and new ways to source and purchase integration solutions.

However, Actian will face many challenges as it tries to span from large enterprises to small–especially in increasingly crowded and hyped integration, analytics and big data markets. And, as more SMBs become aware of and educated about what big data is and why they need to have a strategy for it, how will Actian push through the noise and surface to get into consideration in that arena?

Easier said than done–both on engineering and marketing fronts, especially as large customers tend to have a lot more pull than small ones, and the fragmented nature of the market makes SMBs much harder to reach and serve.

Actian will need to make a bold statement. It must double down on engaging SMB-focused developers, SIs and other sell-through partners both within, as well as beyond its current integration ecosystem. If Actian could, for instance, apply low-friction approaches such as Galaxy into other areas, such as analytics, it could prove a powerful play for helping SMBs not only connect, but to also analyze and act on their data once its integrated.

I’ll be watching to see if Actian chooses to make some significant moves in SMB directions as well as in the large enterprise space. Will SMBs be treated as a strategic market focus, or as business as usual? Actian’s decisions will signal whether it intends to pursue a broader play in the SMB market–or not.

Pervasive Puts Its Galaxy Integration Community Into Orbit

–by Sanjeev Aggarwal and Laurie McCabe, SMB Group

At its annual Metamorphosis conference earlier this month, Pervasive announced Pervasive Galaxy, which merges an online integration marketplace and community into a single, streamlined platform. Pervasive has designed Galaxy to remove boundaries between buyers and sellers and make it easier for end-user customers to understand options, review vendors, figure out what’s best for their needs, and shop for/purchase integration solutions. Galaxy’s built-in community capabilities help vendors connect with customers to gain input, gather feedback, exchange ideas and help crowdsource new solutions.

As we noted in our SMB Group Top Ten 2011 SMB Predictions, better, faster integration is becoming a critical business solutions differentiator. Cloud computing has made business solutions more accessible and affordable for a wider swath of companies, but integrating them can break the bank. This is especially the case for SMBs, who usually don’t have the money or appetite for complex or time-consuming integrations.

This reality drove Pervasive, a long-time leader in the integration space, to send Galaxy into orbit on the heels of some very big players making significant acquisitions in the integration space; IBM’s purchase of Cast Iron earlier this year, and Dell’s recent deal for Boomi.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the announcement, and our take on what it means for the integration market and the stakeholders in it.

The Integration Challenge

Integration is one of the biggest and costliest hurdles for companies that need to adopt new applications. Companies need to integrate applications and data sources to maximize productivity, reduce redundancy and inaccuracies, and streamline workflows. Yet integration between and among external cloud and on-premise applications, different data sources and existing business workflows can be costly and complicated. This is particularly true for SMBs, who lack IT staff that can develop integration between applications, or the budgets for solutions that require time and labor services.

How Galaxy Addresses the Integration Challenge

With Galaxy, Pervasive is creating a place where customers can easily identify and access affordable and capable integration solutions and vendors, and also provide vendors with feedback about their integration requirements. Galaxy will offer data integration products, solutions, connectors, plug-ins and templates, and serve as a community platform for customers, developers, integrators and other relevant vendors. Pervasive’s intent is that this convergence will nurture a strong ecosystem which will facilitate more rapid, innovative and accessible integration solutions.

Vendors on Galaxy will offer customers both integration components and turnkey cloud integration services. For instance, integration components available in Galaxy include engines, workflows, connectors, agents and rich data services that can support a range of needs, such as data loading, data matching, profiling, transformation and business analytics. Galaxy will also offer ready to run solutions for point-to-point solution integration in a subscription-based SaaS model.

How Galaxy Works for Customers

Galaxy enables community participants to build, preview, test and buy integration solutions. These might include pre-built data integration solutions, connectors, plug-ins or templates that enable faster integration solution development.

Instead of starting with a Google search, or contacting a VAR or consultant and trying to figure out if there is an existing integration solution that’s right for their needs, customers can go to Galaxy and see if there’s an existing solution that fits the bill. They can also use Galaxy to locate a partner than can customize an available integration to their individual needs, or build a custom solution from scratch.

Building an integration community is Galaxy’s other primary focal point. End users will not only be able to shop for ready-made solutions on Galaxy, but will also be able to view and rate templates, connectors, plug-ins and solutions. They can also use Galaxy to inform developers and integrators about their needs, request new integrations, and link to others with similar needs to share the costs of getting a new integration developed. End-users who build integrations themselves can, if they want, also sell them to others via the Galaxy platform.

How Galaxy Works for Partners

Pervasive Galaxy offers developer and system integrator (SI) partners an integration marketplace platform, development tools, store, community collaboration and revenue sharing–basically everything they need to build and sell their solutions. There is no charge to build integrations. Once partners build the solution and start selling it on Galaxy, they keep 70% of the sale and the other 30% goes to Pervasive. Partners retain their intellectual property, and can offer documentation and the required technical support (possibly for an additional fee).

Galaxy should help developers get their integrations to market more quickly, and make their offerings more accessible to a broader constituency. For instance, Galaxy’s “try and buy” program gives developers a way to demonstrate ROI before they commit to a purchase–giving skittish and/or cash-strapped SMBs a risk-free way to try the integration and see if it pays off before they have to spend money for it.

In addition, partners can take advantage of Galaxy’s community to tap into integration requirements across a range of businesses. This should enable them to tune their integration solutions more closely to actual requirements, to explore potential new markets for their products and meet customer needs in a more repeatable and profitable manner.

What Does Galaxy Do for Pervasive?

Galaxy gives Pervasive a centralized mechanism to market and provide access to its growing array of development and testing tools–including Pervasive Data Integrator, Pervasive DataCloud, Pervasive Data Profiler in a more streamlined way to developers and integrators–and build a new revenue stream based on the sales of the integrations that partners build and sell.

Pervasive has initiated, built and will maintain and manage the Galaxy marketplace platform. As the Galaxy community grows, Pervasive should also be able to extract a lot of insight about customer and partner integration requirements and demands across different horizontal, vertical and geographic markets, which it can use in its own product planning efforts. Pervasive and its community members will jointly develop and participate in demand generation and building visibility for the Galaxy market, vendors and community.

At some point, Galaxy could serve as a launch pad for integration testing and certification, conducted either by Pervasive or by the community, helping to reinforce the company’s position as a leader in the integration space.

Quick Take

The integration challenge is becoming increasingly more complex because of trends such as cloud computing, mobile solutions, social media and the exponential growth of data. These trends will continue to drive the need for companies to integrate more applications and data from an increasingly dizzying array of sources.

These trends are also driving Pervasive and its integration competitors to tear down some of the barriers that have made integration so difficult in the past (see Dell and Boomi: Doubling Down on Integration, for our view on Dell’s approach to this challenge).

With Galaxy, Pervasive has built a streamlined, in-context ecosystem for customers to search for, identify, evaluate and purchase integration solutions. As important, Galaxy gives users a place where they can voice their integration experiences, concerns and requirements. Meanwhile, Galaxy should help partners market their solutions, and gain insight on integration gaps and requirements from a much broader audience, and amortize the costs of developing their integrations over a larger number of customers. The ecosystem approach puts vendors and customers on the same page and fosters the collaboration that should result in a win/win for all involved.

However, while Pervasive has built Galaxy, the question remains whether enough users and partners will come to make it a true integration destination point. To fuel customer interest, Galaxy needs a strong cadre of actively engaged developers, SIs and integrations in the Galaxy ecosystem. Conversely, to attract partners, it needs a lot of customers that partners can sell their services to. Pervasive will need to double down on its social media, marketing, partner engagement and other related activities to ensure Galaxy reaches its goals–especially as it faces strong competition from the big guys–in our opinion, particularly from Dell-Boomi, which appears to be thriving under the Dell umbrella.

But, Pervasive’s smaller, independent status can also play in its favor, as noted in Top Takeaways from Pervasive’s 2010 IntegratioNext Conference. The company can keep a laser-like focus on the integration needs of customers and the business development needs of partners. And its independent status may appeal to prospective partners that may having differing agendas than or encounter red-tape challenges when working with Pervasive’s larger rivals. If Pervasive can use this agility and focus to its full advantage, and rev up marketing and social media engagements, Galaxy should succeed in it mission to create a vibrant integration marketplace.

Top Takeaways from Pervasive’s 2010 IntegratioNext Conference

Wow the déjà vu is just too strange! In June of this year, I attended Pervasive’s Metamorphosis Partner event–during which IBM announced that it would acquire Cast Iron. Now, in November, during Pervasive’s very well-attended IntegratioNext User Conference, Dell announced plans to buy Boomi.

As I wrote after the Metamorphosis event, IBM’s acquisition of Cast Iron put the spotlight on the tremendous demand that cloud computing is creating for integration software to bridge the gap between on-premise and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications—as well as between SaaS solutions. This drumbeat has continued to strengthen, leading Dell to the conclusion that Boomi’s integration capabilities are an essential ingredient to making its Virtual Era solutions and services strategy a success. Integration is very strategic and critical for both IBM and Dell, and each has vast marketing and technology resources to invest in these acquisitions. As a result, Cast Iron and Boomi are likely to become more formidable opponents for Pervasive.

So how will Pervasive, which has arguably been the market leader in the integration space to date, fare as competitive pressure continues to mount? Based on what Pervasive announced at IntegratioNext, and as importantly, the conversations I had with many customers and partners at the event, I think Pervasive will manage just fine, for several reasons.

1.     Pervasive has an innovative, stress-tested integration portfolio that’s growing stronger. Pervasive has been a leader in helping end-user customers, ISVs and channel partners solve the tricky problems of data and application integration since 2003. Today, Pervasive’s integration line-up includes a wide range of integration options for on premise, cloud to cloud, between cloud and on premise, including:

  • Data Integrator, an integration platform that connects a plethora of databases, flat files and legacy formats and applications, including virtually any software-as-a-service (SaaS) and on-premises applications. With the latest release, Data Integrator V10 in now available the cloud as well as on-premise.
  • DataCloud2, initially launched in 2009, is a fully multi-tenant, on-demand integration platform that combines the Data Integrator platform and DataSynch with Pervasive Integration Agent, a lightweight agent that sits behind a company’s firewall to connect on-premise apps with the cloud. Developers can tap into Pervasive data services, including its catalog of data adapters, to accelerate development.
  • DataCloud Marketplace, where both customers and partners can shop for integration tools. End users only buy the solution the need, they don’t have to purchase other technology from Pervasive. Pervasive has already created several small business integrations, such as Salesforce.com to Intuit QuickBooks and Salesforce.com to Freshbooks–pricing starts ad $19.95 per month.  Developers that create integrations with Pervasive technology can put them the marketplace, set their own price, and create an ongoing annuity revenue stream.

2.     Pervasive enjoys a great track record with ISV partners. About 60% of Pervasive’s business today goes through the channel, mostly via ISVs that embed Pervasive integration within their solutions. Embedded ISV integrations are becoming a key differentiator for business software and cloud vendors because they ensure that the integration won’t cost more than the solution.

3.     More focus on the SI and consultant channel. While embedded ISV integrations are a great, friction-free way to provide integration, they won’t solve for an endless combination of integration scenarios—particularly in the SMB market. Pervasive is providing more tools and marketing programs that SI and consultant firms are also finding very attractive. Strategic Growth, for instance, uses Pervasive technology to provide reasonably priced, repeatable and easy to integration between Salesforce.com and NetSuite. Since these software vendors won’t integrate with their competitors, partners can seize on the opportunity to build new revenue streams by creating integrations to serve their own customers, which they can also sell in the Pervasive Marketplace.

4.     The integration challenge has always been complex, and is becoming more multifaceted. More applications need to be integrated both in the cloud and on premise. In addition, adoption of new mobile and social media solutions is on the rise. By providing more turnkey (and less costly) integrations Pervasive and its partners can alleviate the problems of one-off custom integrations and costly updates.

5.     Pervasive is taking significant strides to boost its marketing capabilities. Pervasive hasn’t always articulated what it does and how it helps as clearly as some of its competitors. But, the vendor has hired new marketing people to help it articulate its strategy, messaging, and the business value of Pervasive integration solutions in a clearer, more compelling way. At the event, I did notice that Pervasive sessions seemed much more tuned to business value than in the past–now they need to keep it going.

Finally, Pervasive enjoys its freedom. Although I don’t believe that IBM and Dell will squander their respective acquisitions of Cast Iron and Boomi, each of these acquired companies is now a little fish in a very big pond. As such, they are likely to sacrifice some agility as part of these larger, more bureaucratic companies. In contrast, Pervasive, as an independent company, can keep a laser-like focus on integration, without worrying about having its focus diluted and/or dispersed within a large IT company that has many other irons in the fire.

Recent Vendor Briefing Highlights: IBM’s Cast Iron Acquisition

We are publishing recent vendor highlights on the SMB Group web site. As time permits, we discuss our key take-aways from more interesting briefings. I will try to remember to post them here as well. Here is the most recent one.

Highlights:

In May of this year, IBM acquired Cast Iron Systems (for an undisclosed sum) to help customers more effectively tackle the challenges of integrating cloud and on-premise solutions. Cast Iron, which was founded in 2001 and has 75 employees, provides hundreds of pre-built templates and a “configuration, not coding” approach to help streamline and shorten the time application integration. Cast Iron’s OmniConnect portfolio includes three deployment options, which all share the same interface, and deliver user interface mashups, process integration and data migration capabilities:

• Cast Iron Cloud2, a multi-tenant Integration-as-a-Service cloud offering
• Cast Iron Physical Appliance
• Cast Iron Virtual Appliance

Cast Iron has positioned itself as the “The #1 SaaS and Cloud Integration Company,” with more than 450 mid-market customers and an unspecified number of large enterprise accounts. Traditionally, Cast Iron has competed against rivals such as Boomi, Informatica and Pervasive in the integration market.

IBM will make Cast Iron’s solutions available worldwide as part of the WebSphere integration portfolio.

Quick Take:
IBM’s acquisition of Cast Iron was driven by a few fundamental market trends. First, cloud computing growth is exploding. IBM is forecasting global market CAGR for cloud computing is expanding by 28%, from $47BB in 2008 to $126B in 2012. In addition, data volumes are rising exponentially. IDC forecasts that data stores are growing an average of 60% annually, fueled by factors including the social media explosion, and the increasing trend to aggregate, mine and monetize data. More and more of this data will be stored in the cloud.

These forces ratchet up the need for simpler, cheaper integration alternatives. In the cloud, data and data control are widely distributed. And most companies will continue to operate in a blended or hybrid computing approach for the foreseeable future. Connectivity scenarios between cloud applications and data sources, cloud to on-premise, and between public and provide clouds are spiraling the number of possible integration scenarios. Developers, integrators and customers must deal with a staggering number APIs and technologies to accomplish these integrations.

While IBM’s WebSphere already includes a wealth of integration capabilities, Cast Iron enables IBM to provide more turnkey integration, which reduces cost and complexity, and removes significant barriers to cloud computing adoption. By leveraging this streamlined approach, IBM can strengthen its role as a integration hub for its existing enterprise customers, and more readily extend its integration footprint into the mid-market.

Of course, IBM had other acquisition options, most notably Pervasive, which is a significantly bigger company than Cast Iron, boasting more than 1,000 SaaS integration customers and dozens of integrations; and Boomi, which focuses exclusively on a cloud-based integration platform, and offers dozens of integrations. (Interestingly, Boomi, Cast Iron and Pervasive–all provide integrations for several of the leading SaaS vendors.)

So why Cast Iron? My take is that IBM took this route for a couple of reasons. First, I think IBM likes the fact that Cast Iron’s line-up features software, cloud and appliance options. IBM has been putting a lot of focus on appliances, in particular, as bridge between on-premise and cloud solutions. Cast Iron provides an appliance option, and also provides integration in a uniform way across all three delivery models. In addition, IBM likely viewed Pervasive’s PSQL database business, which still accounts for a majority of Pervasive’s revenues, as an asset it didn’t want or need.

For these and other reasons, the Cast Iron acquisition makes sense for IBM. But will IBM be able to successfully surface and leverage Cast Iron’s automated, simplified approach within the context of an increasingly complex and crowded WebSphere and Software Group portfolio–which, I’m told, is now comprised of more than 30,000 different offerings? IBM already has two disparate integration stacks, WebSphere for application integration, and InfoSphere for data integration. Smaller acquisitions have tended to get lost in the IBM shuffle in the past, and IBM Software has made additional, bigger acquisitions (such as Sterling Commerce and Coremetrics) since it acquired Cast Iron.

Meanwhile, what moves will Pervasive, Boomi and Informatica make to meet the challenges of a new integration gorilla in the mist? As important, what plays will IBM’s traditional competitors, such as Oracle and SAP, as well as cloud leaders such as Google, Amazon, Salesforce, etc. come up with as they pursue similar goals? Are other integration acquisitions in the works?

I don’t have a crystal ball–or inside information–to know how the details of new developments will unfold. But as the drivers for more streamlined cloud integration continue to intensify, this promises to be a very interesting space and one I’ll be watching closely.

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