I spoke with Charles Rich, Vice President, Product Management and Marketing for Nastel, about the speculation that one of its competitors had closed its doors and why. Since I can't confirm that the competitor has actually disappeared, I thought I'd leave them unnamed.
What Nastel thinks happened
Rich pointed out that based on customer feedback and comments from those in the industry who are close to the competitor, the product they offer isn't really the packaged, off-the-shelf product they advertise. It is really a software development project. This company would sell the vision of what the technology could do and would then do its best to develop that technology onsite. In essence, Rich said, that competitor offered technology in search of a problem.
Rich believes that selling projects as if they were packaged software at a fixed price is a dangerous way to grow. Developing new technology can be a risky business and cost overruns should be expected. If the company wasn't able to completely scope out the resources and time required to develop the needed technology, it would lose money on every deal. Losing money on every deal and hoping to make it up on volume isn't a workable strategy.
Nastel started over twenty years ago to provide its customers with technology that can unravel the complexities of event processing and turn the data gathered into powerful management tools. At that time, the founders of Nastel realized that applications were becoming ever more complex. The approach to gathering, analyzing, and then reporting on operational information on distributed, multi-tier applications has served as a powerful foundation for addressing the needs of companies deploying virtualized and cloud-based workloads as well.
Rather than offering customers projects, Nastel has a history of overbuilding the capabilities of their products. Customers purchase AutoPilot to solve one problem and are delighted to learn that it can solve many other problems as well.
Having been involved in product planning, product development, product launches and ongoing product support, it is clear to me that Nastel's approach of carefully learning about customer requirements, developing a development plan to deliver solutions to customer problems, underselling the capabilities of the final product and over-delivering is likely to build a strong business and customer loyalty. Selling a dream and then hoping engineers can deliver on time and on budget isn't a viable long-term approach.