Coherence: Customer References and Organizational Scalability

One of things I think we really could have done better at Tangosol was to tell more people how successful we and Coherence really was (and continues to be).  It’s something we always wanted to do, but to be brutally honest, we either a). didn’t have the time – our first priority was and continues to be ensuring success rather than promoting it, and/or b). customers didn’t want to disclose their architectural internals, including their use of Coherence – which I think is completely reasonable as their use of Coherence often yielded significant competitive advantage (especially in trading systems). Don’t get me wrong.  We had and continue to collect some amazing customer references, but at the time we just didn’t promote them or ourselves as well as I believe we could have – Cameron Purdy (one of the founders of Tangosol) would probably agree.  

Of course, this is now starting to change as being part of an organization the size of Oracle, people are confident we’re going to be around tomorrow – there is simply no doubt!  Better still, Oracle has global teams that explicitly focus on working with partners and customers to both promote their use of technology and their adoption of solutions like Oracle Coherence.

While I can’t comment on the number of customers or projects that currently use Oracle Coherence (or about it’s growth rates), figures available at the time of the Tangosol acquisition by Oracle suggested that the closest (in terms of supported deployments) of a commercial / open source product in the same market place (say in-memory clustered caching etc) was less than 10% of the number of deployments of what was then Tangosol Coherence.  In other words, from what we could gather, the number of Tangosol Coherence deployments was close to 5x of all of the combined solutions in the same space.  Cameron has always said Coherence was the market leader, and due-diligence at the time clearly demonstrated that (and it continues to be by a long way).

At first I simply didn’t believe this.  I couldn’t.  How could such a small organization deliver so much to so many corporations?  How could such a small organization even support such a large number of deployments?  How could an organization support the types of mission-critical applications running on Coherence.  This should not be possible.  

But after some thought the recipe for success became clear.

1. We don’t build products and then try to find a customer.  
All features in Coherence, in fact Coherence itself, originally came from customers. Coherence is probably one of the only solutions in the Data Grid space that started like this.  We started with a paying customer.  We didn’t think up a cool technology or take an existing technology and try to build a company/new market around that.  Tangosol was 100% employee owned and 100% profitable, with compounding growth every year in operation.

2. We ensure customer success by working with customers.  
We know if customers fail, we fail.  Apart from producing a solution this means quality, precision, stability and consistency must be ridiculously high.

3. Customers needed to value what they did.  
If customers could not financially value what they did, it was likely they couldn’t financially value our help or Coherence.

4. Customer failure was not a option.

This does not mean we’d do or do anything for anyone.  Nor does it mean we’ve always been successful.  Quite contrary.  If we felt something like Coherence was (or is) a bad fit, either strategically, architecturally or organizationally, we’ll happily suggest to use another approach or solution, including recommending a competitor product (which of course annoys the hell out of our sales people!).  Our goal, and certainly mine personally, was (and continues to be) to ensure customer success.  Hopefully Coherence could or will play a part in that success, but if it didn’t then we/I weren’t offended – still aren’t.

So where are we now?  Well contrary to the usual competitor propaganda and FUD (probably the most annoying thing about this market place), Coherence global adoption is simply amazing.  No it’s not being killed off (as was suggested when the acquisition was announced).  No we’re not forcing customers to purchase other products (as was also suggested).  It’s not being shelved as a “cash generator”, and we’ve not stopped developing and all retired (as was also suggested).  It’s powering ahead.  The original engineering team still continues to rock and churn out amazing stuff – though the team now is much bigger!

No this is not marketing or self-promotion bullshit.  

Think of it this way;  Tangosol in April 2007 had around 10 sales people – globally.  I think Oracle had closer to 15,000 (even before BEA joined). Oracle also had in excess of 300,000 existing customers (according to the Open World banners).  So in terms of scaling the Tangosol organization, we’ve essentially had a 1000x+ increase sales force alone – in just one year.

Even with a completely pessimistic view of Coherence, the potential adoption, even just internally, would dwarf the size of the business prior to the acquisition.  My guess is that no other product in the same space as been given the exposure or level of investment.  

To say we’ve been busy is an understatement.  We’ve had to invest a lot in training a huge sales organization, a global support team, consultants, the training organization, pre-sales and engineering (yes, the Coherence engineering team has also grown significantly).  I personally was simply amazed at the size, scale and agility of operations at Oracle (more about this in a later post).

It’s been a massive 18 months and I’m certainly looking forward to the next, especially the forth coming release of Coherence 3.5, that of which Cameron talked a bit about this week in London.

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2 responses to “Coherence: Customer References and Organizational Scalability

  1. Can’t you post some sneak preview material for Coherence 3.5 – would be super to hear what is planed for it!

    • Hi Magnus,

      I hear it’s now available on OTN for download.

      You may want to check out the partition-aware-backing-map… apparently it increases cache capacity massively (on the same number of servers).

      There will be more at the next London Coherence SIG. It’s on the 14th of May. Announcements go out tomorrow.

      Cheers

      — Brian

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