Too cloudy

I was at the Intalio Road Show yesterday where among other things Intalio introduced The Intalio Cloud or “Cloud in a Box” as Intalio likes to call it.

Just a few days ago a friend of mine rightly pointed out that all of this talk about Cloud is just some virtualisation at the data center level among other things – it’s a mishmash of technical things just packed to look like new. I could understand where he is coming from, nothing in the Intalio offering was truly out of the world either (appliances are not really new). To me Cloud was never a technical concept, but rather something that businesses would understand – more than virtualisation and services, businesses could understand the need to form, break and reform technical services, benefiting from what already exists, to suit their ever changing needs. But Cloud in a box? I have more sympathy for my friend now because this does reek of some marketing gimmick. Ismael Ghalimi, the CEO of Intalio, says it offers elastic scalability. Again I know what he means, but I would prefer if it wasn’t termed like that – all too often scalability means scaling up rather than finding the right size whatever that may be.

Coming back to the road show, it was good overall. Intalio has made what look like smart acquisitions. ProcessSquare which forms Intalio’s Business Edition would now allow actual business users to design their own processes. It offers a level of abstraction over their existing BPMN-based designer which is more familiar ground for analysts and process experts rather than real business users. And then Intalio have acquired CodeGlide which means Intalio now has a CRM offering which on paper at least seems to match (and maybe even better) salesforce. And there are more acquisitions coming in HRM for example, which mean Intalio Cloud now has the infrastructure, the platform to build and customise, and the applications on top that makes it a strong offering. Or as Intalio’s architecture diagram called it Infrastructure-as-a-service, Platform-as-a-service and Software-as-a-service levels. Oh dear!

Even though it was exciting to see these latest developments, I couldn’t help but feel that this road show was a sales pitch to larger, existing client representatives. After all, I was surrounded by some big name clients in financial services and retail. And I found myself concerned about Intalio’s early open source community users (there are some 50,000 companies in that crowd), but there was no mention of what was unique in the new Intalio for them. With these upcoming acquisitions Intalio would soon have some 10-15 million customers, and with this so called Boxing I just felt that perhaps the Bazaar was being boxed neatly into a Cathedral.

I must say that I am a fairly new Intalio user and this was my first ever Intalio road show. Ismael Ghalimi came across as a very confident and smart executive – more in tune with what the business is about and where it’s headed than some of the other Intalio reps on the day. But the whole show had a feeling that Intalio wanted to be in the “me too” crowd rather than taking a stand and being counted as different. Like any typical road show, they even had a couple of VAR/partner presentations thrown in. Intalio is trying to step up into the big league and acting like it, but it seemed unnatural. I have no clue what the VARs were doing there apart from selling their own. I would have much appreciated their presentations on why they are an Intalio partner and what their clients like about Intalio.

In my limited experience with Intalio, as good as the underlying open source technology seems to be, their documentation (or lack of it) is frustrating. They haven’t matured into an open source platform who knows what it means to support a community. And now I am not sure whether they are really scaling their presence or changing track all together. Intalio is backed by investors and I know how this bunch thinks. But it seems too sudden, almost unnatural, and I am not sure where all of this will land up. This could propel Intalio into a different league. But just as easily marginalise their community users and literally scare those simple-thinking aspirants. The good thing is Ismael said that Intalio acts on what their users tell them, in which case they should do fine.


4 comments so far

  1. Antoine on

    Our documentation (I am a Software Engineer working for Intalio and managing the Community forum as a volunteer) concerns mainly the Intalio|BPM offering, and more specifically the Intalio|BPMS Community Edition, which is offered for free.
    We offer training services to help people grasp and discover more about the product.
    As I say from time to time on the forum, we need to eat at some point, and training, helping people is where the most painful part of our job is. So we are constantly making choices between putting more content on the community website to attract more people and adapting our offering to help more people and drive adoption.
    We have a good community building up though – some people have been sticking around for years now. I hope our recent acquisitions will accelerate its growth and bring a good mix of developers and business users to our platform to extend and play with it.

    As to support a community, well, I make sure to reply on all open threads on the forum, I offer help when it is possible, I also encourage people to contact our professional services when they are looking for more help or asking for features that aren’t provided by the community edition. I’m open to your suggestions to mature our community.

  2. Howard Smith on

    I was at this roadshow. I don’t believe it was Intalio’s intent to give the impression of an uneasy move. It was just some lack of preparation by the team and partly because Ghalimi partly hyjacked the meeting to spread the cloud meme. And I must say, that part of the show was a compelling and distinctive vision. As Intalio makes the transition towards commercial applications atop its leading open source infrastructure, there will be bumps in the road no doubt.

    • adityatuli on

      Howard, many thanks for your comment. I may have missed to read between the lines. And like you say leaving out the community and developer editions from the road show wasn’t by design but something that just unfortunately happened. I was a little worried cause that’s the avenue for real innovation. I was also assured having read Ghalimi’s post that more should be expected on these soon. Of course I am impressed by the power of Intalio’s combined offering of infrastructure, the design platform and the apps. I will be dabbling with both the CRM and on-demand BPM editions to understand more.

  3. […] google alerts recently turned up a reference to a new blog post from Aditya Tuli, Too Cloudy, in which he engages in a very thoughtful critique of Intalio’s roadshow, as well as his […]

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