After more than 20 years in high tech, culminating in a four-year stint as executive vice president at PeopleSoft just prior to the Oracle acquisition, Ram Gupta considered himself retired from the industry and happy to sit on a few tech company boards. But, after taking a year off, he has jumped back in with Cast Iron Systems.
Not exactly a startup, Cast Iron was founded in 2001 and developed an "application router," an appliance for point-to-point integration in large enterprises. Customers for the appliance (starting at $100,000) include Motorola, DHL and Toyota USA. Gupta has plans to expand Cast Iron's appliance and product portfolio into demand platforms (the company already works with salesforce.com), email integration and within different market segments. The pricing model will also have more tiers and subscription pricing per appliance.
In our podcast interview Gupta explains why he decided to join the ranks of the employed and gives his take on the post-PeopleSoft world, now ruled by Oracle and SAP. He thinks the traditional integration middleware companies, such as Tibco and Vitria, are trying to boil the ocean, whereas Cast Iron's approach is to have a 'purpose-built' box (like a set-top box) that only deals with point-to-point integration (such as from salesforce.com to SAP master data or Niku to PeopleSoft), which is the dominant integration scenario.
Gupta also believes that Web services and SOA create some challenges for application vendors and their customers. The application vendors aren't motivated to become providers of commoditized (interchangeable and interoperable) Web services. The larger enterprise software customers want to own the complete customer, but customers like to have choices and the ability to negotiate, Gupta said. Despite the self interest in his view--Cast Iron profits from multivendor integration--the tension between winning on implementation based on standards and customer service versus having some secret, proprietary sauce isn't going completely away. Throw in open source and the tension becomes even greater.
Gupta was also an inside witness to Oracle's 18-month hostile takeover of PeopleSoft. In his opinion, Oracle didn't have choice--its application business was in trouble and it had to make acquistions. Meanwhile SAP is taking advantage of the upheaval.