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January 21, 2008

DataSynapse Changes its Tune for the Better

Derrick Harris

Not only did last Monday mark the release of DataSynapse’s FabricServer 2.5, but it also marked something much bigger for the infrastructure software vendor, and possibly for the distributed infrastructure software market as a whole. DataSynapse, the grid-computing-turned-application-virtualization vendor, has changed its tune again, this time burying both technologies and marketing itself as a provider of real-time infrastructure (RTI).

The reason for the change, according to company virtualization evangelist Gordon Jackson, is that DataSynapse was focusing too heavily on the technology and not putting enough emphasis on the resulting business benefits. “The problem that we were having around the marketing that we’ve been doing up until this point was … we were telling people what we do,” he explained. ” ‘We do application virtualization, we do grid infrastructure. We do all these cool things.’ It was geek speak.” Essentially, while technologists got what DataSynapse was talking about, IT decision-makers were having a difficult time correlating the underlying technologies with results and business objectives.

By playing up the RTI angle, the company hopes to lure in organizations seeking lower costs, increased utilization, less complexity and, ultimately, increased customer satisfaction as a result of improved service levels. In what I believe is a smart move, the discussion of the enabling technologies will just be moved a level lower, reserved for later on, after the discussion about what business objectives FabricServer will help them meet has gotten customers in the door. Jackson noted that “grid” and “virtualization” are not terms that will be going away any time soon — in fact, he believes “grid” experienced a resurgence this year in relation to how it facilitates SOA — but they are not what DataSynapse provides. Rather, they are how it provides.

Of course, even if companies are intrigued by the promise of increasing flexibility and quality of service while cutting capital and operational investments – major selling points of RTI — Jackson said DataSynapse realizes that these customers won’t likely be ready to jump in headfirst. With this in mind, the company will be offering what is currently being called its RTI Design service, a “consultative engagement” wherein DataSynapse will help customers start with the RTI components (e.g., SOA, SaaS, utility computing, grid, etc.) it wants right away and incrementally work their way into a full-on RTI. “It gives an organization, when we go through this process, the ability to understand how they’re going to eat that elephant of moving to a real-time infrastructure,” said Jackson.

Overall, I’d say DataSynapse is making a wise move, one that likely will help them improve on their successful 2007. As the company continues to improve its software and make inroads into the Microsoft and VMware user communities (see the announcement for the technical details), broadening its message to hit targets without computer science degrees can only improve its chances of reaching new customers. Plus, if DataSynapse is serious about attracting customers outside of the financial services world, as Jackson acknowledged it is, it might take a higher-level discussion to really start turning heads.

Considering how successful DataSynapse continues to be, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see other infrastructure solution vendors follow its lead — as they did in the past by cutting back on the “grid” talk — and lose some of the techno-speak altogether. We can discuss and wax poetic about the various components of what DataSynapse (and Gartner, for that matter) call “real-time infrastructure” in our little world, but the reality is that many people in the real world are overwhelmed (and rightfully so) by discussions of cloud computing versus grid computing versus utility computing, or by the differences between server virtualization, application virtualization and I/O virtualization. As Jackson summed up, “The idea here is to make sure that those applications that are most important to my business have the resources that they need whenever they need them — on demand and in real time.” While technologies like grid or application virtualization make this happen, they are not necessarily the right lures to catch the greatest number of customers.

Elsewhere in this issue, be sure to check out my story on database start-up xkoto, which is using virtualization to make database environments far more available and far more scalable than many might have thought possible. Also, there is more movement on the cloud computing front with Salesforce.com rolling out its cloud architecture and with IBM unveiling its new Tivoli Provisioning Manager. On the capital markets front, we have GemStone teaming with IBM and Intel for a low-latency transaction benchmark, as well as BEA Systems and Lab49 tackling complex event processing for the front office. Finally, and speaking of BEA, we have the news that Oracle will be adding BEA to its stable of acquisitions, followed by GigaSpaces’ invitation for disillusioned BEA customers to make the switch to GigaSpaces’ eXtreme Application Platform.

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Comments about GRIDtoday are welcomed and encouraged. Write to me, Derrick Harris, at editor@gridtoday.com.