The Village View

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The eBay Commercial That Ended Up on The Cutting Room Floor

funny and work safe.

I think my childhood neighbor actually had that Farrah Fawcett poster.

Database Problems behind Salesforce's Woes - UPDATED

I blogged about Bruce Daley's piece on SFdC's outtages last week. Now, it seems Benioff is going out of his way not to blame Oracle:

Your readers may be left with the impression that recent performance has been Oracle’s fault. Not true. Our recent issues have been more about the new data center we have moved in to, and the surfacing of defects in a variety of vendor products including hardware and network technology.

Another mention by Benioff that the new data centers are causing problems. Are the new DCs fully up and running (and going down) or is the problem around switching over to the new DCs?

Thanks to Charles for the heads up on this.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Putting my money where my mouth is

A couple of thoughts as the result of a discussion I had on Saturday night:

1) Disagreement and argument are inevitable in human discourse, hell they're necessary both in personal relationships and in government. One thing, however, that I think has slipped is our ability to disagree without being disagreeable. Unless someone is making a racist or sexiest comment, or directing a personal attack at you (or your mother), most times we could probably do a better job of separating the argument from the one doing the arguing. Heck, maybe if we do it in every day life, our politicians will pick up on it.

2) As Thoreau before me, "I heartily accept the motto,—'That government is best which governs least....'" Fundamentally, I think that the state's role is to provide the basic services (establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense), but that many things are better left to the private sector or individuals. For one thing, the private sector is more efficient generally then the government. Furthermore, and this is the crux, "it's my money" (that the government is using to pay for services). I understand that the government needs to take some of my money(through taxes) to pay for common goods, but I don't want the bureaucrats and politicians to forget that it's my money and they should use as little of it as possible. Ergo: a limited government spending the least amount possible to provide the basic services.

It is, therefore, imcumbant upon the citizens of such a limited state to step up to the plate. Don't want the government to spend so much money on homeless services? Get your ass out of bed on saturday morning and work in the soup kitchen, whip out that checkbook and make a donation to hurricane relief, disease research or your house of worship.

I've decided that since I feel strongly about the role of the state vs private citizens, I need to put my money (and time) where my mouth is. No more, "I'll do it once I'm more established finanacially" or "once I pay off my student loans." Therefore, I have decided increase my commitment to those non-profits that I support. One of these is The Nature Conservancy where I've recently decided to join the Young Professionals Council here in New York.

I would encourage those of you, who like me, cursed out loud when you looked recently at the various "tax withheld" boxes on your W2, to find a non-governmental organization with which to get involved.

Friday, February 24, 2006

You think Larry noticed?

I haven't seen any news stories on it yet, but a colleague just pointed out that SAP's market cap surpassed Oracle's:

SAP (ADR) market cap: $64.2 billion
Oracle market cap: $64.0 billion

SAP's shares are trading just below their 52 week high.

Thursday, February 23, 2006 outages - part II

A couple of further thoughts on the SFdC outages and on demand in general:

- Liz Herbert over at Forrester did a piece recommending that SaaS customers push their vendors for standard SLAs around availability and that they demand compensation for outages. Seems that while NetSuite (99.5%) and Salesnet(99.6%) offer standard SLAs, SFdC doesn't. My understanding is that for large clients, SFdC, if pushed, will include an SLA in the contract, but that smaller customers get no SLA love. Unbelievable. When I was in consulting, I did some work with clients around SLAs from both their internal IT departments as well as outsourced IT. SLAs, at least around infrastructure, db and app servers, if not full application availability, are pretty common, at least in most larger companies. Why wouldn't you expect the same from your app vendor?

- I've heard conflicting statements about whether SFdC had its new Mirrorforce datacenters up and running at the time of the latest outages (January 30). Benioff seemed to blame these outages on the new data centers. Question: was Mirrorforce fully in place when these outages took place? If so, what does this mean regarding SFdC's ability going forward to reach it's desired availability? If anyone has any insight into this, please comment.

- I registered at the Salesnet site a few weeks ago b/c I wanted to access the Free Test Drive area. I entered my company name (SAP), role(strategy), everything fully legit. (I did use my yahoo email address as I didn't want to clog up my work inbox with marketing material). Turns out last week I got a voicemail from a salesperson there wanting to speak with me about how her company's products can help my company become more successful. :) Wonder if they were using there own CRM system to filter prospects. Or did she not recognize the SAP name?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Database Problems behind Salesforce’s Woes


Sources close to the company have confirmed to The Enterprise Software Observer that recent outage problems at are being caused by the on-demand company pushing its Oracle database to its limits.

In addition to causing me a slight, mid-afternoon smile, this news brought up the following thoughts:

- Obviously, these outtages are negative news for both Oracle and SFdC. However, I think the quote by SFdC competitor RightNow's CEO Greg Gianforte is spot on, "“Continued outages could set the entire software as a service industry back." How much harder did it just get for some sales manager to convince his boss to bypass IT and get a hosted CRM/SFA system up and running? Risk, namely risk of not being able to access sales/customer data or of losing said data, is a key hurdle in moving SaaS from the early adopter to the mainstream market. Even if RightNow or NetSuite pick up a few SFdC customers, these outtages are net/net a negative for all players in this market.

- What do you think the folks at NetSuite think of Larry's quote about his invesment in SFdC: " I'm an investor in Salesforce, and I want to see my investment go to zero?"

Monday, February 20, 2006

Larry's new revenue stream or just new excuse

Here's Oracle CEO Larry Ellison at the recent Credit Suisse Software conference explaining how to view Oracle's revenue stream:

"...I think new license revenue is an interesting number, but I think you've got to remember, we are -- our business is largely a subscription-renewal business. In other words, the bulk of our revenue, the largest business is not our "what new license or new subscriber" business. By far, our largest business and by far our most profitable business are existing subscribers that renew their subscriptions every year...

...we are heavily biased towards building our recurring revenue stream rather than a new license stream, because it's just much more profitable business. There's more money in it."

One thought is that this could explain Oracle’s recent interest in and acquisition of Open Source software companies. After all, most OSS companies don’t make money by charging for an up-front license, but rather collect on maintenance and support contracts. These contracts are generally charged on a monthly or annual basis. Hmm, sounds kind of like a subscription business.

Of course, maybe there’s another reason that Larry is so interested in the subscription business: including acquisitions, Oracle's total new application and database license revenue fell 16% from Q2-05 to Q2-06.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Plan B: It seems things have really heated up at the ole alma mater

Prescriptions (of the morning after pill) have increased at college health centers, including Tufts University, where they doubled between 2001 and 2005.

I'm not sure how my alma mater got called out in this article. Two thoughts on reading this: 1) I don't remember there being this much, uh, "action" when I was there (at least not for me) and 2) this is supposed to be one of the better colleges in the US; are these kids really so stupid that they don't know how to use protection?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Zillow: I thought it was cool

I read about Zillow demoing at Demo 2006 and immediately checked it out. Since I'm not a homeowner, I checked out the house I grew up in (i.e. my folks' house). My first reaction was, "friggin cool."

I sent the link to my sister and mom, both realtors. They had somewhat different reactions:
"I just don't see how it can even be remotely accurate without taking
upgrades, condition of house, materials, floorplan, etc. in to account.
These types of sites are dangerous b/c everyone thinks they are an expert
when they are really clueless. (hint hint)" - this is from my sister and the "hint, hint" I believe is directed at me. My mom had similar reactions.

While I don't disagree with them, I think some of the reaction is defensive. This could be a threat to realtors. I also think it could end up being a pain in the ass for them (see my sister's comments above). It's analogous to what has happened to doctors with prescription medicine commercials; everybody comes in and "knows" what they need.

Finally, Nick Carr had an interesting take on it. Thought he raised a relevant potential issue:
The danger is that if users keep coming up against unreliable data they could end up rebelling against the entire Web 2.0 model.

FON blogging: what's the backlash going to be?

Bloggers, who are also advisors to FON, were writing positively about the company amid its funding annoucement this week. Most, if not all, mentioned their role as advisors although some did not disclose that they may be compensated in the future.
I'm honestly not that interested in the debate on potential conflict of interest and ethics around blogging (think it's important, just doesn't interest me too much).

Here's what I think is interesting: This incident shows the potential pitfalls that companies can fall into as they try to "manage" bloggers and blog readers. I could easily see this thing taking on a life of its own and "real" journalists writing a lot of pieces that are less then positive on FON.
One "so what?" of this is that it may give corporate Comm depts more ammunition not to implement a blogging strategy. It plays to their fears of losing control of the message (and messengers). Of course, their underlying assumption is that they have control of the message currently.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Wikipedia Meets Google Maps In Web Site

This a pretty fun thing toy:

U.S. Army helps officers learn Arabic, international business

I think this is a great idea, but am frankly surprised that it's part of a "pilot program." I'm refering primarily to the language component. The Army says its goal is to develop officers "who are culturally aware and have some language capability." Great, but why only 21 officers in the pilot program? Why not 2100? I understand that the military has other programs and schools, but it also appears that there are not enough folks that speak Arabic (or Pashto, Urdu etc for that matter): "his unit had one Arabic translator for more than 400 soldiers."
I'm not a military man, but it's logical that the more people on the ground you have speaking the language, the easier it is going to be to get intelligence, avoid misunderstandings and generally win "hearts and minds." I hope our guys/gals can get the language training they need to make their jobs easier (and safer).

Two further points:
- I don't think lack of language skills is a problem endemic to the US military (or gov't). When I lived in Argentina, I was shocked by the number of Americans who did business (and lived) in Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima with little or no Spanish. Unbelievable.
- Think the idea of sending military folks to business school can be a learning experience both for the officers and for the civilians. One of my closet friends in b school, and a guy I learned a lot from, was educated at a US military academy and currently serves in his nation's armed forces. His views certainly enhanced our classroom experience and I'm sure the education and academic environment benefits him (and his gov't).

Look what I found

wonder if they'd let me join?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

SAP launches CRM on-demand solution

Today was the CRM on demand launch event here in the SAP New York office (with satelite link with Palo Alto). Over 40 industry and financial analysts, press, partners and customers attended in New York. Also, here were Bill McDermott (CEO SAP Americas), Bill Wohl(Head of Product & Solution PR) and Bob Stutz et. al. Several IBM folks were here including Marc Lautenbach, General Manager IBM Amercias (also spoke). Analysts from IDC and 451 group asked questions in NYC. CNet and Josh Greenbaum in Palo Alto. In NYC, representatives from Goldman Sachs and Sanford Bernstein also asked questions. Liz Herbert from Forrester was here as well.

The event was fairly short and sweet (didn't drag on like the Fusion event in SF a few weeks ago). Analysts asked about 6-8 fairly straightforward questions. Product demos were done during(briefly) and after the event. Interviews with Bill, Bob, IBM followed here in the NY office.
Bill Wohl opened up and explained that the on-demand product was being launched now because clients asked for it. He introduced Bob Stutz who leads the team that spent the last 7 months developing the system. Bob explained that the road map for the product is as follows: 1) SFA 2) Marketing Operations 3) Services.

Why start with CRM? Bill McDermott: This is what our clients are asking for. Shai: SFA consists of less mature processes and thus lends itself better to a standardized on-demand offering

is the 3rd generation of on-demand1) Single tenancy - essentially the ASP model2) Multiple tenancy - problem is that at peak times there are brown outs (Shai took a swipe at SFdC by eluding to "log on challenges" of some other competitors)3) Isolated tenenacy - Multiple dbs, above app server layer one instance. "hybrid" model.

Sales target- Groups/divisions within large enterprises with more then 100 users- upper segment of mid market- Non-SAP users among current SAP clients are major target- however, need not be a mySAP or R/3 client
-- Shai made a point that there are 60MM potential users. SFdC and Siebel on-demand have only several hundred thousands (less then 1%). Wide open market.
--Shai was asked why the upper mid-market was the first target. He answered that we had done the segmentations and that it was felt that this was the best place to start. While not specifically addressing downmarket, he did say that other segments would be addressed in the future. That was about as specific as I remember him being.

Two clients spoke very brieflyAmerican Standard Bath and Kitchen - rolling out to sales and customer careDupont - will use across sales force

Pricing- $75-125 /user/month- $75 gets you the SFA launched today, 125 all three parts when available
Relationship with IBM- not a joint development- hosting on IBM servers with DB2- Shai refused to divulge the financial relationship

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

New German gov't takes drastic action

Germany will raise the retirement age from 65 to 67 much earlier then originally planned....... now by 2029 (previously 2035). Evidently the "severe strain" on the pensions system prompted this drastic action (what is the Html code to indicate that the previous statement should be read sarcastically?)

We also have retirement system woes here in the States and we're not doing too much about it either. (Sorry, Bush is going to set up "a commission to examine the impact of Baby Boom retirements on Social Security." Another commision outta do the trick!) However, at least here in the US, my full retirement age (currently I'm 32) is already at 67. And why not? My life expectancy is 81.

Sometimes I wonder if the Germans realize the extent to which they are no longer going to be able to afford their post-war social welfare system.