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Solution providers and consultants advising customers on boosting transaction-intensive applications using standard and non-pricey hardware laud Digipede's distributed computing technologies that bolster the stack's support of fast-paced applications.
West Monroe Partners, a Chicago-based consultancy, is fully aboard. "The ability of this product to accelerate application performance for our customers is tremendous," said Nathan Ulery, technology solutions practice leader at West Monroe Partners.
The consultancy's first implementation required two days of training and a day of setup at the customer site. In that time, they "grid-enabled" the client's component that performed myriad complex transactions. Digipede lets the customer "linearly scale" the application simply by adding nodes. "By adding another server, you cut the transaction time in half. You add another server, and you cut it in half again. That's powerful from our perspective because [with] the Microsoft platform you can already multithread the application, but it requires larger and larger servers. Now we just add additional blades or servers, or use other underutilized servers already in the environment, and you see huge improvements in performance," Ulery said.
Digipede's initial pricing starts at around $4,000, he said, with additional five-grid nodes then costing another $500 per node processor after that. All prices are per year, but compared to buying 16-processor servers, it's a huge price advantage, according to Ulery.
Mark Brazeau, principal at Blue Thread, an Ann Arbor, Mich., enterprise content management specialist, cited K2 workflow as key to his business. Blue Thread trades on the ECM expertise of its principals, who came out of FileNet and Documentum. "We understand that [content management world]. Where most Microsoft partners do rapid development or work with Dynamics ERP or are systems integrators, we do other stuff.
"We look at the stack and figure out what it needs [for ECM]. And what it needs is workflow and data capture, and we need to tie that all together with the UI. We present the content and the work to the user in a way that makes sense."
He agreed that Microsoft provides basic workflow in Windows SharePoint Services, but not much more. "Windows workflow is not an engine. Iit really isn't. It's a DLL. It'll give you the constructs, but it needs to plug into something else."
Even the higher-level workflow in MOSS is limited. "If you want to route a Word document from Point A to Point B and do maybe 10 of those a day, then Windows workflow is fine for you. But if you want more robust capabilities, it is not enough. You could build all that from scratch, but that would be maybe a million lines of code. At that point, it's a buy vs. build decision," he noted. Clearly, he thinks buying is the smart option.
It is Brazeau's view that Microsoft will remain a platform company and thus will continue to leave white space for third-party ISVs. "Look, everyone worries about the gorilla eating them. I'm just not sure Microsoft wants to be in the solutions business as a mainstay. I see them as an infrastructure provider. There are so many solutions out there, Microsoft can build 80 percent of the stack and get the last 20 percent supplied by partners. They support partners and partners support them. If they went higher than that, it would be like eating their own."
He acknowledges that Microsoft has to go into some markets long held by partners—antivirus is an example where it had no choice, since people were attacking its OS.
The Exit Strategy/Risk
There are lots of creative, nimble ISVs scurrying around the Microsoft stack, plugging holes, filling gaps and finding creative ways to make money off the mighty M's infrastructure.
But virtually all of these players realize that they have to keep ahead of Microsoft's own development plans and be prepared to climb the stack ahead of the software giant or perhaps be buyout fodder for it.
Microsoft continues to show its propensity for acquiring companies that fill a need. Several VARs long lauded ProClarity, citing its ability to offer better dashboards for SQL Server than Microsoft itself. So what happened? Microsoft bought ProClarity. So much for that particular ISV. A few months ago, Microsoft likewise snapped up Office Writer from SoftArtisans to bolster its Office BI arsenal. It also bought Softgrid to help in its virtualization efforts.
There is no doubt that Microsoft will keep filling in gaps to its stack either by internal development or acquisition. And it will build up more functionality in Office and Dynamics applications. That could mean that these ISVs get acquired for their expertise or are forced up the stack as Microsoft bolsters its own offerings.