Another Take on Intalio's Cloud

Scott Francis
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My 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 experiences with Intalio. First, there is the natural (at this point almost knee-jerk among us techies) skepticism toward anyone flouting that “cloud” buzzword.  After all, most of the “cloudiness” (is that appropriate?!) comes from virtualization technologies, and not from the software vendors.  In a sense, the software vendors have to “get out of the way” of the virtualization.  This is similar to what I used to say about a good J2EE application – if it does its job right, it “gets out of the way” of the J2EE container and let’s it do the clustering, transaction management, messaging, etc. (or, at least, the configuration of all of the above). Second, Mr. Tuli praises Intalio’s acquisition strategy. Third, he expresses concern about the nature of the sales pitch – that it might be too focused on the big enterprise clients, rather than on the open source community which is using various Intalio products.  If I can take the liberty to quote his best passage:
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.
Finally, he finished with a critique of the maturity of their support of the open source community that uses Intalio’s software, including a lack of documentation.   In the comment stream, an Intalio developer responded to the lack of documentation, pointing out: “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.”  And this is where you find the sticking points with software companies – when the simple analysis might be that improved documentation would undermine training revenue.  It isn’t true, actually, but it is easy for software companies’ personnel to come to this conclusion.  Specifically in the case of an opensource company, it might be reasonable to accept small payments for improving documentation on behalf of customers, much as they might accept payments for fixing bugs or adding features to product specifically for a particular customer (I’m not sure if Intalio does this, but certainly it has been done on other platforms, like oscommerce, by developers who contribute to that project). Overall it will be interesting to see how Intalio’s strategy plays out and where it leads for the company.  It is, at the least, a different strategy than what we’re seeing from other BPM vendors, which makes it interesting to read about and interesting fodder for blog posts!