At this year’s user conference, it was clear that change is afoot at MarkLogic, whose technology platform enables users to access information more easily accessible within applications and devices.
Last month the board of directors appointed a new CEO, Ken Bado, created the new position of chief marketing officer (CMO) and named a head of global services and alliances, all within three weeks. The Silicon Valley software company has been growing in the last several years but appears not fast enough for its board members. There have been a lot of advancements since my in-depth analysis in 2010 and at last year’s conference.
I had a chance to meet with MarkLogic’s new executives, who have extensive experience in operating large-scale technology organizations; they said they will reset some priorities to ensure it can meet its goal of being a half-billion-dollar company in five years. In our conversation they emphasized building a better and larger community for developers and launching more viral communications about their technology.
I agree that MarkLogic needs to expand and be more consistent in use of its own technology for providing information to the industry; it also needs to make it easier for customers to onboard and try the technology, which provides the ability to assemble and deploy what we call information applications. Moving in this direction, already MarkLogic has started to supply more information and examples to its developer community and announced support for deployments to Amazon EC2, which it didn’t from my opinion communicate well over the last year.
To its user conference the company brought customers in publishing and government who have been using its products to meet a growing demand for access to and searching of information within both the enterprise and the Internet. Numerous customer presentations discussed applications built on MarkLogic Server 4.2, which was announced last fall. Our benchmark research on information applications and underlying platforms for them found that only 11 percent of organizations are very satisfied with their existing efforts in this area.
The conference sessions suggest users are making progress using the MarkLogic technology to handle huge volumes of data and large-scale information management deployments; some are integrating MarkLogic Server with Hadoop to take advantage of that open source community. The interfacing to Hadoop is something my colleague has been researching in great detail. In fact, MarkLogic is accessing petabytes of content that is indexed and accessible through its search methods to its XML information store.
Early information about its next major release indicates it will be able to store more binaries and content. The use of XML and Xquery, along with interfacing to SQL, is adding versatility to the platform’s ability to integrate semistructured information across the enterprise. Our research confirms that SQL and XML are the top two standards that more than 55 percent of organizations must interface to in providing an information platform for assembling applications.
I think MarkLogic has been too secretive about the upcoming major release and not specific enough on its roadmap even to its customers. But its conference keynotes did offer some information.
Jason Monberg, VP of product management, discussed three types of usage of its technology, which he called enterprise intelligence, situational awareness and information applications. They cover the bulk of how customers are using or integrating its technology. His discussion outlined a range of what is possible but was short on what capabilities are new or are being improved. It appears that the company is struggling with what to call these customer accomplishments, but the key point is that the applications are information-centric.
Ron Avnur, VP of engineering, discussed what will be the three technological pillars of its next major release: a shared-nothing architecture, concurrency and indexing, along with clustering and integration with Hadoop. My conclusion is that this is an information infrastructure that can adapt to existing architectures in the enterprise for the purpose of building information applications.
One of the big challenges for MarkLogic in regard to technology and integration is how to support mobility in smartphones and tablet computers. Many potential customers and partners are adopting such products, and MarkLogic needs to define a clear product roadmap across the disparate Apple, Google Android, HP webOS, Microsoft Mobile and RIM platforms. The buzz at the user conference showed that customers and partners are demanding more from MarkLogic in this area, and the new executives seem to understand that they need to respond. Our research in information applications confirms the importance of supporting the gamut of mobile devices for access to information.
For the future, the company has to make its server easier to manage in terms of the information life cycle and storage and able to manage the large-scale distributed demands for data. Our research into information applications found little confidence among business people that their organization’s current skills and resources can meet the demands for information internally and even less confidence in providing it to customers and consumers.
MarkLogic and other technology providers in this area should realize that for potential customers inclined to consider others than IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and SAP, the drivers are to increase workforce productivity, improve operational efficiency and gain a competitive advantage. Making it simpler to assemble and use information applications can support these goals, and thus they should make this a priority.
MarkLogic has enlisted consulting firms to help reach more users, but according to our research not many organizations want to hand off this responsibility: 42 percent want business analysts to work with IT to build new systems, and only 7 percent want to work with consultants, while 36 percent prefer building in IT and 15 percent would purchase packages. MarkLogic will have to be careful not to slow the time to value in getting applications deployed by pushing lengthy consulting engagements, but rather deliver them in an iterative approach based on revision.
Despite the challenges, MarkLogic has a large opportunity for growth, as competing larger vendors like IBM, Oracle and SAP are focused on middleware and IT’s agenda, paying less attention to helping lines of business get the information-centric applications they desire. The point of information applications is to get the information you need, both inside and outside of the enterprise, to be better informed; they can provide direct access to the value chain of consumers, customers and suppliers, and that’s what business people want.