AppExchange critique strikes a chord

AppExchange critique strikes a chord

Summary: and its partners may not like what I said about AppExchange, but others do. Here's what NetSuite's Zach Nelson wrote me yesterday.


I guess my criticisms of's AppExchange a few days ago (AppExchange is so 1998) probably didn't go down too well among the throngs gathered at the company's DreamForce user and partner conference this week. But I seem to have struck a chord with the views of others in the industry. Here, for example, is what Zach Nelson, CEO of NetSuite, wrote me yesterday in an email (republished with his permission):

Phil, you are a god. Your blog about the goings on at DreamForce (we call it PipeDreamForce at NetSuite) were spot-on. Finally, somebody gave critical thought to AppExchange. You are definitely right that this is SO 1998, I can't believe it. 

Actually, I think it is safe to say the concept is so 1988.  How many decades have customers heard "Oh yeah, my application works seamlessly with that one," only to be utterly disappointed with the results?

Also. the majority of these so-called "applications" are done by, and they look like pretty rudimentary customizations of's core app. Below are a few (I got tired of looking at this stuff and stopped, but there are probably another 10-15 ginned-up apps in there). And you're right, many of these (commissions, channel, etc.) need a transaction engine behind them (ie, something like NetSuite):

I know Zach didn't quite mean it this way, but I was intrigued by the idea of using NetSuite as the transaction engine for your AppForce applications. Theoretically, it ought to be possible, hooking up NetSuite's NetFlex web services API with's AppForce APIs. Hmm, would you call that a mash-up or a smash-up?

Topic: Apps

Phil Wainewright

About Phil Wainewright

Since 1998, Phil Wainewright has been a thought leader in cloud computing as a blogger, analyst and consultant.

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  • Architecture First

    Oracle buys Seibel, BEA buys Plumtree, announces AppExchange. What is the common thread?

    Filling gaps, whether it is beating a competitor to the punch or recognition that something is missing.

    In the case of they were first movers in delivery of a quality application in the hosted ASP mode, designed and developed from the ground up to do that and arguably does it well or even best.

    But what I see is a recurring theme that a small number of leaders in the sofware industry see, a good solution/application does not an Architecture make. The leap of from good/best application to "operating system" dubious at best.

    To's credit their API is Services Oriented using web services very well. But a full SOA it is arguably not. If AppExchange/MultiForce were all it is cracked up to be, then why the Cisco push back?

    SAP is re-architecting but it has some of the same limitations as ever other existing Software Solution's provider and that is inertia. It is VERY difficult to re-architect using today's technologies and preserve the existing solutions. Webification of Client Server normally means sacrifice in one area or another. Taking any existing solution and trying to re-architect to an SOA with EAI/EDI and you take on a huge risk.

    In my view, some relatively small startup is going to come up with an Open Source based Service Oriented Architecture that is Componentized and employs Content Management, Enterprise Application Integration and Enterprise Data Integration in a layered approach and will be acquired by one of these folks. Then they take that architecture and break their solutions up into components they can plug in.
  • Missed The Point

    As one of the partners involved in the AppExchange *preview* launch, I can tell you that the focus on the 35 or so supplied applications is misdirected. readily admits that the bulk of their initial self-supplied content are "base applications" provided to demonstrate what can be done with the infrastructure.

    The real takeaway should be in the AppExchange infrastructure and how the partner apps seamlessly extend's core functionality. We may have talked about this kind of capability in 1998, but this is the first time I've seen anybody actually deliver.

    This is a good first move in this space by Analysts, bloggers, and even competitors should rethink the oh-I've-seen-it-all-before skepticism and take a much closer look.
    Mike At VMI