Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Next Target for SpringSource?

I'm convinced there is a new powerhouse emerging in the Java enterprise domain, now that the Sun has virtually set. SpringSource is rapidly entering the radar of industry watchers with its recent acquisitions. These acquisitions extend its reach outwards from its core strength (application frameworks), both downwards (the Apache products through the Covalent acquisition) and sideways (the acquisition of G2One and the Groovy/Grails toolset, Hyperic and its enterprise monitoring tools). While important, these acquisitions have all been rather technology-focused and limited in mainstream commercial potential. Now logic demands that SpringSource move up the stack into userland.

Up the stack, there are plenty of soft, juicy targets ripe for the plucking.

Among the softest targets is Enterprise Content Management. Gartner's Magic Quadrant has the usual suspects in it: IBM, Oracle and Microsoft, plus EMC and OpenText. None of them is particularly known for affordable pricing, except perhaps Microsoft (which is known for predatory pricing - killing off competitors before turning on the customer.)

I believe there is pent-up demand (especially in this economic climate) for an affordable ECM product that provides Document Management, Records Management, Image Management, Web Content Management and Collaboration.

There are many Open Source products in this category - Joomla!, Drupal, Plone and Alfresco. If SpringSource acquires (or otherwise takes over the stewardship of) one of these products and gears itself up to offer comprehensive support, training and consultancy around it, they could enter the big league.

The SharePoint phenomenon is rich in lessons to be learnt. By all accounts, SharePoint is a bear to install and maintain. Yet it's growing like a weed in thousands of organisations worldwide. A reasonably-priced alternative with strong support can carve a good chunk out of this market. Plus, my technical suggestion (putting on my architect's hat) is for this alternative to ensure adherence to the CMIS standard. CMIS is still only a proposal, but Alfresco is already implementing support for it, I understand. (It'll be a great coup to be able to tout AtomPub as the interface to content :-). This isn't just a nerdy bragging right. Integration costs are probably the biggest component in any rollout, and integration should be a breeze with the RESTian AtomPub interface.

My only caution, as before, is that SpringSource should be careful not to get too greedy. The customer is the goose that lays the golden eggs. If SpringSource scrupulously respects the freedom of its customers (including the freedom to shop elsewhere for the same products), they'll definitely see more business flowing their way.

1 comment:

The Simplist said...

What does Alfresco gain by becoming a part of the SpringSource family? It's not like it is starving for funding or press coverage. Alfresco has good buzz in the ECM world.

I agree there a strong Open Source ECM/BPM player would serve the industry well. I would go so far as to say that it is less important that the new player is open source (or pretends to be) and more important that they execute a quality offering and respect their customers.