I have five minutes to talk during the panel I am doing tomorrow at SXSW: Enterprise Invades the Apps Playground. It will cover this whole new world of enterprise app marketplaces. A topic of interest for sure, but there is more to this story than just storefronts. It’s also about what developers are doing to make their apps better and then holding similar standards to the marketplaces now emerging.
At the core of the app culture is conversation. Almost all apps have a read and write capability. But it’s time to make conversation part of the fabric of an app more than the main feature itself. The apps need more depth to actually help get work done. It’s not about social, it’s about making the apps useful.
Enterprise Apps Are Lacking
Lacking is the ease of connecting apps with incompatible legacy systems and data providers who have their own way of making their data accessible. As Geoloqi Co-Founder Amber Case said to me this morning: “Whatever happened to RSS?” Open APIs help but there still can be a lot of hacking that needs to happen. But the biggest problem comes with the legacy providers that have locked-down systems with little capability of data portability.
The Data Gravity Problem
The complexity of managing massive databases is getting easier with the maturing of the Hadoop ecosystem. Still, Hadoop and the big data universe it encompasses is still a mystery for most developers. The database market has accepted NoSQL but it is difficult to query in comparison to MySQL. So you can get a lot of data in, but getting it out is another story.
It’s a problem that Dave McCrory says comes with “data gravity,” which is his way of describing of what happens to data when it is set in place. Apps have to go to the data more so than pulling it from other sources. Here’s his description:
Consider Data as if it were a planet or other object with sufficient mass. As data accumulates (builds mass) there is a greater likelihood that additional services and applications will be attracted to this data. This is the same effect gravity has on objects around a planet. As the mass or density increases, so does the strength of gravitational pull. As things get closer to the mass, they accelerate toward the mass at an increasingly faster velocity.
Enter The App Marketplace
All of this brings us to this idea of the enterprise apps marketplace. There are a few factors to consider. Enterprise apps marketplaces have a better chance of success when the service has amassed considerable data and has an infrastructure to maintain it. Latency kills apps. Developers flock to AWS because they can program it look like a computer. They can add or subtract instances. With their data already there, it makes sense to use the AWS marketplace for selling its services. This creates an ecosystem as well for third-party vendors such as BitNami, which, like AppDirect, provides app-store infrastructure for service providers. Google Apps Marketplace has developed an ecosystem of apps that integrate with the Google Apps platform. Salesforce.com has App Exchange. And then there are the service providers, such as telcos that are also getting into the game.
The big question for me tomorrow: What is the match with enterprise apps and app marketplaces? Will they be the game changers?
I’ll end with what Zev Laderman, CEO and co-founder of Newvem said to me in an email interview:
From my experience as a former Oracle Executive in their app’s business (selling $500M in Oracle applications), valuable enterprise applications are not bought over online marketplaces. What maybe bought are incremental plugins that are very specific and make the underlying app more successful – for instance Salesforce.
SF marketplace is a great opportunity to buy applications for an audience to get more out of Salesforce itself. You won’t buy a CAD-CAM (engineering) offering, even if it’s hosted on force.com. It simply won’t get the business on the app exchange because shoppers for this type of app are not SalesForce users. An app-exchange needs to be relevant for the underlying app. In my opinion, because Azure store users will be a broader base of users, the Azure store has the potential of offering a broader range of Microsoft/Azure offerings that an AWS marketplace because the AWS marketplace specifically services the needs of developers from startups and small business divisions of large companies.
Okay, chime in. What do you think?