Tom Siebel's C3 IoT looks to expand, slay giants

Tom Siebel's C3 IoT is aiming to make its mark on Internet of things deployments at scale beyond the energy sector. Here's the platform and plan.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Tom Siebel's C3 IoT has 20 customers, an Internet of things platform that is operating at scale and a penchant for taking on giants such as General Electric's Predix.


Siebel, CEO of C3 IoT, has experience landing big accounts and taking on giants. At Siebel Systems, Siebel popularized CRM and then sold his company to Oracle. Before starting that effort, Siebel was among Oracle's best sales leaders.

Those stints, along with four decades of enterprise application experience, give Siebel an interesting view on the Internet of things possibilities. C3 IoT is a relatively new name for Siebel's company, which previously focused on energy-related customers.

With the energy sector serving as a proof point industry, C3 IoT is now entering markets such as fraud detection, healthcare, banking and predictive maintenance. "Utilities were early adopters and a good place to start," said Siebel, who recently stopped by the CBS Interactive New York office for a chat.

The case for C3 IoT goes like this:

  • It has scale deployments managing data and sensors. "Cloudera, MapR, Predix and Pivotal don't have the large scale deployments we have," said Siebel.
  • The company has a platform-as-a-service architecture that doesn't require enterprises to replace what they have. C3IoT charges 1x hosting costs for PaaS and 2x hosting for software as a service applications.
  • A model-driven architecture run by 1 million lines of Java code and in most cases on top of Amazon Web Services.
  • A patent-pending approach on its data integration process. The patent information took up as many pages as a phone book for a small town before the ads went away.
  • Focus.

On that final point, Siebel had a quote that's worth pondering. "You can't build software with 2,000 people. AWS had 10. The original Oracle and Siebel had about 20," said Siebel, who was referencing GE's Predix platform.

The argument for C3 IoT is that enterprises looking to scale IoT sensors and data management have to either cobble together open source technologies or bet on a company like GE that doesn't have the sensors in the field. "It's like the difference between an IT professor and one who actually builds IT. Or the car driver vs. someone who builds the car," said Siebel.


Is the timing right? Siebel said the timing for scale IoT deployments is perfect. C3 IoT was formed in 2009 because it became clear that cloud, big data, machine learning and mobile and sensor networks would converge to solve business problems. "We were betting that these vectors would come together," said Siebel, who made a similar bet in 1993 with Siebel Systems.

Indeed, C3 IoT has one deployment that's operating at 200PB of data and has 200,000 virtual machines to process the information. The real hurdle is integration and processing data at scale for machine learning. Other customers include Enel, which has 13 unique source systems providing data and 1.7 trillion rows of data aggregated and 7 trillion rows of historical data; Exelon, which has a 20 TB federated cloud image of data and 650 analytic signals across the platform; and Engie, which uses C3 IoT for smart thermostat analytics.

SEE: The Power of IoT and Big Data (ZDNet/TechRepublic special report) | Inside GE's Digital Solutions unit: Talking IoT development with Ganesh Bell

C3 IoT is now going after market share. Like Siebel did at his CRM company and Oracle, the plan is to knock on big enterprise doors. "We're ringing one doorbell at a time. At Oracle and Siebel we tended to ring doorbells at big doors. That's what we've done," he said. It's also worth noting that AWS is one of C3 IoT's biggest sales partners.

Trial pricing ranges from $60,000 to $400,000 depending on time required for data integration, support, strategy and product management. There are also additional services as well as ongoing hosting fees.

The entire time, I'm talking to Siebel I'm thinking 'here's a billionaire that could be relaxing.' C3 IoT has raised $150 million and most of the cash came from Siebel. Why bother? IoT is a challenging systems problem.

"Nothing about this is going to change my life financially. That being said, building relational database management systems was an important technology that changed the world. At Siebel I'm confident we did something important. I think this is more important and can change the face of computing. This is what is motivating me. I want to make a big contribution."

ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. As a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.

Previously on the Monday Morning Opener:

Editorial standards