April 17, 2012 | Leave a Comment
I am at the Higher Ed Data Warehouse conference (HEDW) sitting in a session describing the procees of selecting a BI platform where cost was one of the primary considerations and amazed at the continued myth that open source is free.
Free as in “free puppies”, not “free beer”.
This is one of the best analogies I ever heard and I attribute to Linda Hilton from the Vermont State Colleges.
Apparently the institution presenting this session was surprised at the actual cost to pay for support, maintenance, and training. If you are in the process of selecting a BI technology, be sure you research the full cost picture as well as the functionality requirements.
Open Source may be a good option, but there are many commercial options such as Micro Strategy which give their full functionality for a given number of licences before having to pay license fees. SAP Business Objects online has a very low per user per month pricing where you don’t have worry about the hardware infrastructure. There are many possibilities to consider.
September 8, 2011 | Leave a Comment
I’m surprised that I haven’t seen much in the way of analysis of the proposed merger between Datatel and Sungard Higher Education (or SunGard HE as it is affectionately known). Certainly the news coming from the two companies has been scant and limited to that of a general statement, but since this really is one of the biggest stories in higher education technology, one yearns for more. So, as a former product manager of Datatel’s Student System, I will attempt to consolidate some of the analysis that I have seen and add some speculation of my own about how the product lines may evolve.
First, let’s clear up one of the common misunderstandings that I have seen on various comment threads on LinkedIn and elsewhere. Despite the fact that John Speer, current CEO of Datatel, will lead the new combined company, this is not Datatel acquiring SunGard HE. Hellman & Friedman, a venture capital firm that already owns Datatel, is buying SunGard HE with plans to meld the two companies into one. As such, I would tend to consider the transaction a merger of equals. Hellman & Friedman clearly have a greater understanding of the higher ed. marketplace through the eyes of Datatel management – having owned them for the past several years – while SunGard HE brings the greater client base and broader product and service portfolio. In the end, I believe that we’ll see a blend of products and services from the two companies that it truly will be a fusion of the best talent from each that rises to the top.
But it is a long way from here to there. The first 18 months will be the consolidation phase. There is much duplication between the two companies that will have to be dealt with. While the two companies do essentially the exact same thing, I don’t think we’ll see much in the way of product or service consolidation from the outset. Early on we will see layoffs in areas such as accounting, human resources, corporate IT, sales, and marketing. I suspect that software and services will largely be untouched. If layoffs are to be had in these areas it will be more about productivity and utilization then it will be about product consolidation.
Now, let’s speculate about product and service direction.
If you are running Banner or Colleague, don’t worry; neither of these systems is going away any time soon. In fact, I would expect the combined company to double-down and provide even greater focus to each of the platforms. Datatel has been increasingly looking to base its solutions on Microsoft technologies, while Banner is essentially married to the Oracle platform. Look for the company to further position Colleague around the Microsoft database and application eco-system as the technology will largely be the differentiator between the two ERPs.
New ERP sales in higher education are drying up. They have been for the past several years, with near 100% saturation of the target market. As a result, the company will need to eat into the client bases of the other remaining ERP companies. Look for Banner to be positioned against Oracle PeopleSoft customers, while Colleague will be aimed aggressively at the Jenzabar client base.
So what about PowerCampus? SunGard HE acquired this Microsoft based solution from ABT several years ago. After some initial investment in the student system early on, this application never seemed to gain enough traction in the industry. In the medium term, I would expect some kind of “upgrade” package presented to PowerCampus clients, designed to get them to move to Colleague.
From an overall product perspective, my guess is that new functionality will increasingly come from partner companies and software development efforts will largely be directed toward integration technologies. It’s likely the two companies will pool resources together to build common APIs and data transport technologies to help partner and 3rd party companies tie into each of the ERPs without having to do twice the work.
Business Intelligence has been a big focus for both companies in the last few years. The myriad of tool options between the two is dizzying. Expect for further consolidation around the Business Objects platform for Colleague clients and Cognos for Banner. The real action is in the data models, however. Each has a fairly well formed set of operational data models. I would not expect too much in the way of new models, as it is likely that the two will want to standardize on a single data warehousing model that works for either system.
So, what do you think? Poke some holes in my analysis above. Speculate some yourself in the comments. I’d love to hear more from some customers themselves.
September 21, 2009 | Leave a Comment
As an IT professional, how do you know when it is time to not only consider migrating off a legacy technology but to quickly make plans to jump ship? How long before development and ultimately support come to an ignoble end? Nothing is certain in this industry as I have come to learn over the years, but the announcement last week by IBM of the sale of the U2 division offers some illustrative clues. The first is the remarkably short press release. I guess there really wasn’t much to say since U2 is not well known — even within IBM itself.
Perhaps a little context first. The U2 product line consists primarily of the Universe and UniData multi-value nested relational databases and related development tools. They can trace their heritage back into the 1960′s as an offshoot of the Pick architecture. In short, there’s a long history with numerous established commercial applications using it. Perhaps the best known is the DataStage ETL tool. IBM purchased the conglomeration of products in 2001 after a turbulent period of buyouts and mergers. At the time there was a large worldwide license base generating healthy recurring revenues coupled with a strong development and partner community. Those invested in the technology were relieved to be under the umbrella of a large, stable, recognized brand. It seemed credibility, new investments, and a future were assured. But that was before Microsoft entered the application database world with force and the shift toward low cost PC servers. You can see where this train is going.
Back to the writing on the wall. Whenever a large, established player in the software world like IBM sells assets to a global company that nobody has heard of, I see that as a red flag. Rocket Software? Let’s do a poll. That’s what I thought. Though, there are other companies like them specializing in niche markets like mainframe software. Ever heard of ASG? These companies don’t need marketing and name recognition because they aren’t trying to compete head to head with the current technologies of the day. They’re making a business selling into and supporting the products people invested in years ago.
Yet, one has to conclude the license growth and maintenance renewals hit a concrete ceiling and have come crashing down in recent years, especially as many of U2′s largest application VARs have provided alternative so-called “industry standard” database options like SQL Server for their applications. These have proved far more popular with new customers and existing customers alike. The U2 product line just can’t generate the numbers being demanded by a company like IBM. So out it goes. However, a company like Rocket with a very different corporate strategy and cost structure, probably can make a go of it for awhile. But, I wouldn’t expect to see much in new innovation. In the Higher Education ERP market this will have the greatest impact on Datatel customers and to lesser extent Jenzabar clients who will now need to accelerate their plans to move to alternate database platforms.
It seems U2 has been put into palliative care. No one can be certain if there will be significant changes in the near or medium term, but the ultimate prognosis is still the same. Technologies are moving forward and fast leaving U2 behind. The IBM press release trumpeting Rocket’s ability to “stimulate growth” is a veiled marketeering attempt to put life in a terminally ill product line.