A quantum of Solace? (Systems)

jamesbondSo, as I mentioned in my previous blog that Lustratus has been looking at companies in the High Performance Messaging (middleware) space recently.  A couple of ex-colleagues from Sonic (Dave Clare and Annalisa Sarasini) have both found themselves in this space, with Solace Systems and 29West respectively.  My colleague Steve Craggs is looking to produce a paper on the space so we arranged a couple of briefings.

Steve and I have both served our message oriented apprenticeship.  Steve ran IBM’s MQSeries division for many years and I was part of the team at Sonic Software that brought SonicMQ to market and then launched the ESB category. So we both understand the manic vendor space race for continually lowering latency in message delivery.  For years the delays in message transmission to reception have been falling mainly as factor of incremental improvement in software techniques, network improvements and ever increasing hardware processing speeds.

However now, Solace Systems together with other vendors such as Tervela and Celoxica are using dedicated hardware platforms to handle message delivery.  They promise dramatic increases in the number of messages per second that can be handled and an equally dramatic reduction in message delivery latency.

Comparing Solace Systems’ and 29West marketing approaches is an interesting exercise.  For organisations that appear to address the same basic pains, they take a very different approach to marketing their respective offerings.

Solace System’s proposition, it appears,is aimed at financial institutions, information providers and communication services providers.  Their dedicated hardware solutions for message and content routing appear to have a broad appeal outside of the obvious market of financial services.  Contrast this to 29West and you see a company that has a razor sharp understanding of it’s target market and target prospect – financial institutions who see the opportunity created by reducing the delay in exchanging market data and trading information between computer systems.

So 29West is focused on it’s target market but does it risk being an 8 fingered glove company?  How big is the market opportunity provided by this very narrow niche?  The good news for 29West is that the market for low-latency, high performance middleware within financial services is quite a broad narrow niche – if you see what I mean.  But it does mean that 29West’s growth is certainly limited by their incredible focus.

A greater concern for 29West is that, perhaps in recognition of fact that their market opportunity is limited, they appear to be taking off those 8 fingered gloves and are attempting to reach outside of financial services and into the realm of generic application to application messaging.  The issue will then become one of differentiation from the many long standing products that already exist in that space who are now seeing messaging as an enable to SOA with all the additional expected capabilities that that might imply.  Achieving this is not an easy, inexpensive or quick thing to do.  Still, the company is run by good people (ex-Talarian/ex-TIBCO) so we’ll watch with interest.

So Solace Systems comes off best in the marketing strategy comparison then?  Well – maybe.  They do suffer from another early market trait – that of evangelism over proof.  It appears that they’re doing a lot of evangelism about the way that they enable exciting new ways for organisations to manage content in their network.  And whilst this evangelism in itself is not a sin (I’ve done it myself countless times and it’s an essential part of the early market marketing mix), they don’t appear to supply many references to back up their claims.

They do describe their very interesting relationship with TIBCO, who have bundled/white-labelled Solace’s technology to help the ancient Rendezvous limp through another couple of years of maintenance revenue. But other than that I can see little evidence of the claims they make.

As I said above, Steve is going to take a little look at the technological and product strategies of the two companies in an upcoming paper so we’ll track them from here on in and see what develops.

Danny Goodall

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