TIBCO TUCON - complexity is cool

In the world of large enterprise, complexity is the norm. TIBCO is trying to make complexity look cool but in doing so it needs to re-engineer itself as a more marketing led organization. Vivek Ranadivé, the company's CEO talks to those issues.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

TUCON is one of the few user conferences I truly relish. So far, it has not failed to impress. The place is awash with great customer stories from brands everyone would know like Southwest Airlines, Interpol, Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, HP and Microsoft. Others perhaps less so like SmartGridCity. Each has a unique story based around unique challenges where complexity and massive scale rule the day. But it hasn't all been kumbaya.

TIBCO's Enterprise 3.0 message isn't something that will jibe with the social media crowd and my colleague Sandy Kemsley was less than flattering in her assessment of TIBCO's explanation:

TIBCO continues to embarrass themselves on stage by referring to the client-server era of 80's to current day as "Enterprise 2.0" #tucon

It should be no surprise that annoys TIBCO's messaging people but I sense they are onto something. While those of us who live in the enterprise goldfish bowl might be aghast at how TIBCO has attempted to change the course of accepted history (at least in some people's eyes) they have a point.

In TIBCO's world, enterprise 1.0 was that of the flat file. Then came the client/server era which allowed a jump forward. In TIBCO's vision of enterprise 3.0, the world is driven by events that come to you as an individual or company where the database which is so loved by E2.0 maven disappears into the background to manage transactions. In its place, in-memory data stores deliver the information you need in the context that matters to you. In corporations, this also means in process. It should be no surprise I find this story alluring because it exactly fits my mantra of 'content, context and process' as the key elements that drive value difference in the socialised world of tomorrow. It is a world of astonishing complexity where both humans and sensor machines interact with one another.

To put this in context, the keynote presentation by Interpol demonstrated some of the massive issues being faced by TIBCO customers. Last year for example, more than 500 million passports were not screened. There have been 133.8 million searches on passports since January 2010. 46 countries co-operate in knowing whether a passport is lost or stolen.

In a briefing by Xcel Energy, I learned what it is like being on the cutting edge of predicting power utilisation across millions of homes when trying to use more than 20% of renewables. I didn't realise just how complex the analysis becomes when power availability might be dependent on hourly weather patterns. Or telcos managing billions of events per day. This is the sort of stuff that makes Facebook's management of 400 million plus user accounts seem trivial.

So complexity is cool and later in the day I met with Vivek Ranadivé, TIBCO CEO and co-founder. Vivek is not a naturally gifted orator in the same way you might look at say Larry Ellison or Marc Benioff, but he is a fascinating person with an astonishing story to tell. In the video that appears above, I cherry picked some of the topics we discussed:

  • Transitioning the business from being purely engineering led to one that is directly responsive to a business audience.
  • Infrastructure as applications
  • TIBCO as the invisible company

For those that have ears to hear, it is a powerful story that resonates well with customers around the world. And if you don't think that China matters? Consider this. TIBCO had 20 customers from China in attendance.

Vivek was the man who told me years ago that search was the killer application for the Internet. That was at a time when a little company called Google was just emerging. Today, he says that events pushed to you before you know you need them are the Next Big Thing. Vivek was the person who coined the expression (and wrote the book) the Power of Now, talking about real time long before the social media mavens misappropriated it to describe the relatively simple world of the Twitteresque rivers of news. Given his track record for prediction and delivery of the technology that powers many of the services we all take for granted, I'm inclined to believe that his vision of Enterprise 3.0 is worthy of consideration. Customers believe it. Customers are working on some of the things TIBCO's world describes. They can't all be wrong.

In this second video clip, Vivek discusses the importance of in-memory as a substitute for relational SQL type databases. It's obvious when you think about it but it takes a company like TIBCO to be faced with the engineering challenges to make it real.

For more details on keynote sessions, check out Sandy's real-time analysis re: Interpol, Deutsche Bank and Vivek's session.

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