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Powerpointware can be expensive

There's a reason why we, as a society, have chosen automobiles over jetpacks, though jetpacks are a far more sophisticated and sexy technology. Likewise, we're increasingly pushing back against over-engineered and over-hyped middleware and integration platforms in favor of cheaper, simpler solutions.

There's a reason why we, as a society, have chosen automobiles over jetpacks, though jetpacks are a far more sophisticated and sexy technology. Likewise, we're increasingly pushing back against over-engineered and over-hyped middleware and integration platforms in favor of cheaper, simpler solutions.

Yesterday, I had privilege of co-presenting a Webcast with Gartner analyst Frank Kenney, who made some very eye-opening observations about the state of the middleware market (the heart, soul, and brains of service-oriented architecture). The Webcast was sponsored by FusionWare. (Note: A full recording is available here.)

Many middleware needs are tactical in nature, Kenney pointed out, and companies typically will not spend more than $100,000 for a tactical deployment.  However, once the project expands, and becomes more strategic in nature, then its value increases dramatically. "For projects that are deemed more strategic, the market is willing to pay more money for technology that addresses those projects."

This may seem like conventional wisdom, but Kenney observed that middleware vendors don't seem to get this message. "The vendors are trying to sell solutions that don't necessarily reflect what the market will demand. For instance, when last year's UCCNet mandates started coming down, many of the technology vendors started selling products for $100,000 or more. When in reality, the market was demanding a product that was maybe $10,000, or $25,000. There was a real disconnect." The vendors that did offer relatively cheap solutions did well, he added.

Kenney noted that many vendors load up on capabilities and complexity in bids to achieve a ranking in one of Gartner's magic quadrants. "Perhaps its more complex because some vendors want to seem like they're the thought experts," he opined. "We have to ask the question, how much is too much. We have to look at solving real business problems.  You're not necessarily just trying to create efficiency, and trying to streamline processes, though that stuff is good. The reality is that you're looking to buy technology to solve a real business problem.  Maybe its Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPAA. Maybe there are partner mandates from larger retailers. Maybe it's a larger B2B, or maybe you just want to give your customers back-end access to those applications that will provide more value."

Complex solutions only incur more complexity after implementation -- which can be very costly in the long run. "If you're working with a technology provider that can give you everything but the kitchen sink, what about your resources?" Kenney asked. "How much is it going to cost you to onboard your resources? Get them up to speed? How much in  professional services? How available are those resources for what you need to do? Doesn't it make more sense that the vendors in this space concentrate on solving your business needs? On solving and addressing your market requests? Instead of delivering what amounts to PowerPointware?"