Some of you may have been following our developments with the analyst community, particularly Gartner and their 2008 Magic Quadrant reports. For those of that haven't, Liferay was recently recognized in two Magic Quadrants:
You can see what the Google-sphere thinks about these results with the links above. For our part, it's an interesting development. On the one hand, as an open source vendor we're not used to getting attention from the traditional analysts (though to be fair Gartner mentioned us in last year's report and Forrester had a research note including Liferay and Jetspeed as early as 2003), who tend to provide research to the kinds of organizations that have been wary of adopting open source software. Technology decisions at these organizations are usually made by higher-level decision makers—CIOs and CTOs or even business side decision makers. For this audience, the traditional software sales model has been the dominant acquisition process, including heavy solicitation from large vendors like IBM and Oracle, research from analysts, and perhaps most importantly, the fear of making a bad decision (and the "nobody gets fired for buying IBM" mentality).
On the other hand, we've recognized for some time that since open source is a fundamental shift in the way software is developed, distributed and maintained, analysts seeking to stay relevant would need to address the phenomenon as a legitimate dimension of their market research sooner or later. And they did: at Gartner's Portals, Content, and Collaboration Summit in Baltimore earlier this year, the keynote recognized five significant technologies that are changing the IT landscape:
- software as a service (SaaS)
- global-class computing
- the consumerization of IT
- Web 2.0
- open source
It's interesting to note that at least four of the five affect, relate to, or are being addressed by Liferay in some way:
- SaaS is a legitimate business model that we'll be implementing in the near future with our Social Office product. A compelling, reliable solution for collaboration (whether intranet or across enterprise boundaries) on a subscription/hosted basis will be a welcome alternative for many companies who don't want to deal with the hassle of maintaining these sites in-house.
- Consumerization of IT: Google, Facebook, and Apple have really pushed the envelope with respect to usability and simplicity, and they constantly inspire us and challenge us to make our software more intuitive.
- Web 2.0: collaboration is at the heart of the traditional portal use case, and we think Liferay is getting it right where the other kludgy and expensive proprietary offerings are limping along
- Open source: Liferay is the most liberal commercial open source vendor out there.
One of the interesting dynamics we encountered while being considered for the Magic Quadrant reports was how to define qualifying criteria. I think it's something that we will continue to wrestle with over time: how do you measure the ability to execute of an open source vendor vs. a proprietary one? We don't have the traditional limitations (huge sales and acquisition costs, lack of a viral distribution model) of a proprietary vendor, and we work with a distributed community for product development and maintenance. So our size (much smaller than IBM) belies our ability to create great software and successfully deploy it to enterprise environments. To add to the complexity, our relationship with Sun Microsystems, through which 40 of their engineers actively contribute features and fixes to our code base, adds a another layer of nuance.
Whatever the outcome, we welcome the coverage. Liferay's installed base includes an incredible roster of the world's most successful enterprises, including Allianz, AutoZone, Benetton, BMW, Bosch, Cisco Systems, Lufthansa Flight Training, and O2, but our advocates at these organizations have often been technology pioneers that understand open source ROI. There are still a lot of Global 2000 companies who take a more cautious approach to technology and who need to be educated about the open choices they have. These companies need to know that the $125,000 per processor they're spending on Oracle WebCenter Suite (list price as of June 2008) is a huge misallocation of IT dollars that can be re-invested instead into building innovative extensions to open source solutions. They need to know open alternatives exist, and if the Magic Quadrant is their tool of choice, more power to them.
Finally, Liferay's placement in the MQ brings added strength to our customer acquisition process. We have always had enthusiastic developers, architects, and technologists in our community, grassroots advocates who vouch for us and evangelize Liferay to their management. Some have been able to convince management to go open source, but others have faced resistance. Now, when those decision makers hear the rave reviews from their teams about Liferay but get cold feet about adopting an unknown technology, they can turn to their trusted sources, such as the MQ, to validate what their developers already knew.