Choose your TAM wisely and remember to charge a high price, RethinkDB


[O]ur users clearly thought of us as an open-source developer tools company, because that’s what we really were. Which turned out to be very unfortunate, because the open-source developer tools market is one of the worst markets one could possibly end up in. Thousands of people used RethinkDB, often in business contexts, but most were willing to pay less for the lifetime of usage than the price of a single Starbucks coffee (which is to say, they weren’t willing to pay anything at all). Link

How big is the pie?

Any company selling developers tools needs to figure out the overall market size for what they’re selling. Developers, eager to work tools for themselves (typically, in their mid to late 20s developers work on at least one “framework” project) often fall prey to picking a market that has little to no money and, then, are dismayed when “there’s no money in it.”

What we’re looking for here is a market category and a way of finding how much money is being spent in it. As a business, you want grab as much as the money as possible. The first thing you want to do is make sure there’s enough money for you to care. If you’re operating in a market that has only $25m of total, global spend, it’s probably not worth your while, for example.

Defining your market category, too, is important to find out who your users and buyers are. But, let’s look at TAM-think: finding what the big pie of cash looks like, your Total Addressable Market.

The TAMs on the buffett

If you’re working on developer oriented tech, there are a few key TAMs:

Another interesting TAM for startups in the developer space is a combo one Gartner put out recently put together that shows public and private PaaS, along with “traditional” application platforms: $7.8bn in 2015. 451 has a similar TAM that combines public and private cloud at around $10bn in 2020.

I tried to come up with a public and private PaaS TAM – a very, very loose one – last year and sauntered up to something like $20 to $25bn over the next 5-10 years.

There are other TAMs, to be sure, but those are good ones to start with.

Bending a TAM to your will, and future price changes

In each case, you have to be very, very careful because of open source and public cloud. Open source means there’s less to sell upfront and, that, likely, you’ll have a hard time suddenly going from charging $0 to $1,000’s per unit (a unit is whatever a “seat” or “server” is: you need something to count by!). If you’re delivering your stuff over the public cloud, similar pricing problems arise: people expect it to be really cheap an are, in fact, shocked when it adds up to a high monthly bill.

But briefly: people expect infrastructure software to be free now-a-days. (Not so much applications, which have held onto the notion that they should be paid for: buy the low prices in the app store depress their unit prices too.)

In both cases (open source and public cloud delivery), you’re likely talking a drastically lower unit price. If you don’t increase the overall volume of sales, you’ll whack down your TAM right quick.

So, you have to be really, really careful when using backward looking TAMs to judge what your TAM is. Part of the innovation you’re expected to be doing is in pricing, likely making it cheaper.

The effect is that your marketshare, based on “yesterday’s TAMs,” will look shocking. For example, Gartner pegged the collective revenue of NoSQL vendors (Basho, Couchbase, Datastax, MarkLogic, and MongoDB) at $364M in 2015: 1% of the overall TAM of $35.9bn! Meanwhile, the top three Hadoop vendors clocked in at $323.2M and AWS’s DB estimate was $833.6M.

Pair legacy TAMs with your own bottoms-up TAM

In my experience, the most helpful way for figuring out (really, recomputing TAMs in “real time) is to look at the revenue that vendors in that space are having and then to understand what software they’re replacing. That is, in addition to taking analyst TAMs into perspective, you should come up with your own, bottoms-up model and explain how it works.

If you’re doing IT-lead innovation, using existing (if not “legacy”!) TAMs is a bad idea. You’ll likely end up over-estimating your growth and, worse, which category of software you are and who the buyers are. Study your users and your buyers and start modeling from there, not pivot tables from the north east.

The other angle here is that if you’re “revolutionizing” a market category, it means you’re redefining it. This means there will be no TAM for many years. For example, there was no “IaaS” TAM for a long time, at some point, there was no “Java app server TAM.” In such cases, creating your own TAMs are much more useful.

Finally, once you’ve figured out how big (or small!) your pie of money is, adjust your prices accordingly. More than likely you’ll find that you’ll need to charge a higher price than you think is polite…if you want to build a sustainable, revenue-driven business rather than just a good aggregation startup to be acquired by a larger company…who’ll be left to sort out how to make money.

“the obsolescence of Java EE” – Notebook

Bottom line: Java EE is not an appropriate framework for building cloud-native applications.

In preparation for this week’s Pivotal Conversations, I re-read the Gartner write-up on the decline of traditional JEE and the flurry of responses to it. Here’s a “notebook” entry for all that.

From Gartner’s “Market Guide for Application Platforms”

This is the original report from Anne Thomas and Aashish Gupta, Nov 2016. Pivotal has it for free in exchange for leag-gen’ing yourself.
What is an “application platform” vs. aPaaS, etc.?

Application platforms provide runtime environments for application logic. They manage the life cycle of an application or application component, and ensure the availability, reliability, scalability, security and monitoring of application logic. They typically support distributed application deployments across multiple nodes. Some also support cloud-style operations (elasticity, multitenancy and selfservice).

An “aPaaS,” is a public cloud hosted PaaS, of which they say: “By 2021, new aPaaS deployments will exceed new on-premises deployments. By 2023, aPaaS revenue will exceed that of application platform software.”

On the revenue situation:


Commercial Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE) platforms’ revenue declined in 2015, indicating a clear shift in the application platform market…. Application platform as a service (aPaaS) revenue is currently less than half of application platform software revenue, but aPaaS is growing at an annual rate of 18.5%, and aPaaS sales will supersede platform software sales by 2023.


Currently, the lion’s share of application platform software revenue comes from license sales of Java EE application servers. From a revenue perspective, the application platform software market is dominated by just two vendors: Oracle and IBM. Their combined revenues account for more than three-quarters of the market.

Decline in revenue for current market leaders IBM and Oracle over last three years (4.5% and 9.5% respectively), meanwhile uptick from Red Hat, AWS, and Pivotal (33.3%, 50.6% and 22.7% respectively).
Decline/shifting is driven by:

given the high cost of operation, the diminishing skill pool and the very slow pace of adoption of new technologies, a growing number of organizations — especially at the low end of the market — are migrating these workloads to application servers or cloud platforms, or replacing them with packaged or SaaS applications.


Java EE has not kept pace with modern architectural trends. Oracle is leading an effort to produce a new version of Java EE (version 8), which is slated to add a host of long-overdue features; however, Oracle announced at Oracle OpenWorld 2016 that Java EE 8 has been delayed until the end of 2017.3 By the time Java EE catches up with basic features required for today’s applications, it will be at least two or three years behind the times again.

Target for cloud native:

Design all new applications to be cloud-native, irrespective of whether or not you plan to deploy them in the cloud…. If business drivers warrant the investment, rearchitect existing applications to be cloud-native and move them to aPaaS.

Vendor selection:

Give preference to vendors that articulate a platform strategy that supports modern application requirements, such as public, private and hybrid cloud deployment, in-memory computing, multichannel clients, microservices, event processing, continuous delivery, Internet of Things (IoT) support and API management.


Oracle and Java: confusing

Oracle’s stewardship of Java has been weird of late:

It’s all about WebLogic and WebSphere

I think this best sums it all up, the comments from Ryan Cuprak: “What this report is trying to do is attack Oracle/IBM via Java EE.”

I wouldn’t say “attack,” but rather show that their app servers are in decline, as well as TP processing things. The report is trying to call the shift to both a new way of development (cloud native) and the resulting shifts in product marketshare, including new entrants like Pivotal.

I can’t speak to how JEE is changing itself, but given past performance, I’d assume it’ll be a sauntering-follower to adapting technologies; the variable this time is Oracle’s proven ambivalence about Java and JEE, and, thus, funding problems to fuel the change fast enough to keep apace with other things.

The undying death of JEE – Gartner, app servers, and cloud native – Pivotal Conversation

One of your favorite technologies is on the death wagon, again. Gartner recently recommended avoiding JEE for new, cloud native application development. This predictably kicked up all sorts of push-back from the JEE stalwarts. In this episode we discuss the report, the responses, and all the context to figure out what to make of all this. Spoiler: JEE isn’t dead, as ever, it’s just a part of the ongoing gumbo that is a Java application.


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Gartner on JEE for Cloud Native

TheNewStack: Gartner Purchase of Corporate Executive Board Would Address Changes in IT Advisory Market

Lawrence Hecht has some brief commentary on Gartner buying CEB for $2.6bn – Lawrence takes out the $700m in debt from the actual deal value of $3.3bn. I don’t really know CEB too well.

He also covered some recent analysis of the analyst industry, including the post I did on the topic and podcast at KEA on the idea with other analyst-types, both back in 2015.

All seethe official press release.

Here’s some share price performance, snipping out the time around the acquisition announcement (it goes up, of course):


Five years of declining PC sales

For the year, Gartner estimated shipments at 269.717 million, down 6.2 per cent year-on-year, with each of the major manufacturers except Dell reporting falling sales.

Gartner says high-end PCs are doing well, but of course, are a smaller market:

There have been innovative form factors, like 2-in-1s and thin and light notebooks, as well as technology improvements, such as longer battery life. This high end of the market has grown fast, led by engaged PC users who put high priority on PCs. However, the market driven by PC enthusiasts is not big enough to drive overall market growth.

There may less volume, but it’d be nice to know how that effects profits in the notoriously slim margin PC business.

Meanwhile, on overall, global IT spend:

Companies are due to splash $3.5tr (£2.87tr) on IT this year, globally, although that is down from its previous projection of three per cent.

See some more commentary of that forecast.


On-prem still a big thing, Gartner survey

only 10% of organizations surveyed by Gartner are expected to close their on-premises data centers by 2018

Much of Pivotal’s business is on-premises, very much if it. However, most large organizations I talk with really want to get to much more public cloud as soon as possible. They look to Pivotal Cloud Foundry’s multi-cloud compatibility to help them down the line with that. For example, Home Depot is starting to move applications to Google Cloud.

Anyhow, most people outside of enterprise IY are surprised and a bit incredulous at how much “private cloud” there still is: ¯_(ツ)_/¯


Why Big Companies Need Lean Startup Techniques, Gartner

A lead-gen-y blog post, but with some good stuff, e.g.:

  • “Gartner estimates by 2021, more than 50% of established corporations will be leveraging lean startup techniques at the business level to increase the pace and success of business transformation.”
  • Nice MVP/small batch framing: “A critical challenge for many organizations will be adopting radical MVP thinking in the business (not just in IT). Businesses must define what is the least investment needed (in time, budget, resources, etc.) to test the most uncertain assumptions for the new product or service.”
  • And a mini-case study of the Queensland state government which ain’t half bad.

Source: Why Big Companies Need Lean Startup Techniques – Smarter With Gartner

Oracle launches a new IaaS, checks out

Lydia has a great overview of the newest Oracle run at IaaS:

The next-gen cloud currently consists of an SDN (capable of both Layer 2 and Layer 3 networking, which is a differentiator), block storage, object storage, and bare-metal servers (thus the initial moniker, “Oracle Bare Metal Cloud”). Virtual machines (VMs) are coming later this year, with containers to follow early next year. Based on a detailed engineering briefing that Oracle provided to myself and my colleagues, I would say that smart and scalable choices seem to have been made throughout. However, I would characterize this early offering as minimum viable product; it is the foundation of a future competitive offering, rather than a competitive offering today.

She goes on the characterize it as bare-metal and point out that composting of price is not how this market works: you compete on capability. That seems to march Oracle’s core belief system.

Source: Oracle’s next-gen cloud IaaS offering

ROI for IT, good luck

Over the last 40-odd years, something like 40-60% of IT-based (that would be data, or technology – since they can be different!) initiatives are subject to a methodical ROI analysis; the rest of the IT investments tend to be faith-based or shall we say, “part of a broader strategy.”

He goes on with a good example of doing end-to-end ROI for IT spend.

Source: What to do? A little ERP? A little IOT? A little big data? Who Knows….Who Cares?

A brief history of the Gartner Magic Quadrant

The wider adoption of the MQ by Gartner services rapidly shifted its time-orientation. MQ’s became ways to show markets as they were rather than showing future direction. Staff working at Gartner at the time tell me that the MQ allowed new analysts to be brought on board more quickly, and to produce compelling research outputs even before they fully mastered their market knowledge. Over the following decades, the MQ has gone through many methodological shifts, most aggressively in 2005. Now the MQ is much more like Blank’s procedural reviews, with extensive data-gathering placing substantial workflow burdens on vendors and producing analysts who could move more easily from segment to segment.

Source: Is this how the Quadrant lost its Magic?