Cloud Marketing, a parable

Prospect: “Guy Fieri said I should get a tuna sandwich with swiss cheese melted on it and sirachi, can I get that?”

Cloud vendor: “What? That guy’s a moron and a pan-man! That’s not what you want!”

Prospect: “But, but, I have the money…?”

Cloud vendor: “Listen, you don’t want a tuna sandwich, you want a locally, sourced, artisanal mid-day nourishment experience. It will change how you live your life. Read this white paper!”

Prospect: “Uh…I just want a tuna sandwich. Thanks…?”

The sad thing is, both sides are 110% right.

Coté Memo #047: Selling a “platform” is one of the more difficult tech marketing tasks you’ll ever do


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Selling a “platform” is one of the more difficult tech marketing tasks you’ll ever do

I was discussing platform marketing recently in email. Here’s an except.

I think the market challenge [in selling a platform or “all inclusive middleware”] is forcing yourself to take on the perceptive of a blind man describing an elephant. You want so badly to be the man with two eyes describing everything; you want to go all Plato. That doesn’t work well early on, it’s too much for “the market” to consume, and they move on to simpler pitches.

Something like Apcera gets attention because it has fame behind it and they categorize themselves as a “PaaS,” a well know category (on the other hand, “PaaS” is a very confusing term once you look at more closely!). They enter into the conversation with these two things and then can helpfully deflect to being “policy driven” (a “fabric”), which a difficult concept to understand.

Sidebar: do you remember when Microsoft and VMware were going on and on about “fabrics” about 3-4 years ago? There was even vFabric! I never really understood what they meant (from their slides, not having dug into it) and I suspect the market didn’t either.

You use a good word below [in the email I’m responding to]: “orchestration.” And taking on that servicing the blind man and his elephant mentality, that might be a good way to describe these new types of platforms and middleware: we orchestrate the execution of enterprise applications. The thing to do is to pretty much stop there and just go out with that message. Describe what the problem is, what “orchestration” means, and then slowly trickle in your actual technology and how you’re different.

What’s frustrating to me is the conversation around things like Mesosphere and CoreOS. Both seem cool, but there’s very little talk about the business use of those technologies. Are we just talking about running “stateless” web and mobile apps (read: NOT enterprise software), or something else?

To go even more abstract, one of the problems I see in the developer world at the moment is that there’s very little “business analyst” think: that role that used to sit between the customer and the developers that understood the processes and needs of business and could tell the developers what that meant for code.

I don’t expect developers to map out business processes, but I think most platforms out there do. Developers need help understanding those processes. And once developers understand that their job (largely) is to write the code (or build the system) to automate and “computerize” those business processes, I think platforms slot in well. Instead, the developer world is so focused on consumer tech that the idea of a complex decision tree of events, workflows, etc. always seems foggy and foreign.

Thus, I think many “enterprise” platforms get a frustrating reception in the wilds of the web. If you remember the old Crossing the Chasm advice, the first thing you need to 5-10 good reference customers who can explain to their peers what the problem is and how it gets solved. Early on, selling the technology for the technology sake is difficult. This is also why so many “platforms” seemingly start as open source: they build up momentum and “reference customers” by giving themselves away for free for awhile.

Fun & IRL