I have worked in the software industry for a number of years, and for a number of different software vendors. Many of these vendors offered on-premise installed solutions. One of the things that consistently caught my attention was the large number of customers at each software vendor that were back-leveled on their current release, and some were back leveled more than one. Getting the back-leveled customers to upgrade was like pulling teeth, and in many cases we would end up having to do it for them remotely or onsite.
This problem continues today. Why is this happening? The reason is due to several different factors. First, the upgrade process for many enterprise software applications is a grueling and tedious process that can involve many intricate and complicated steps. The upgrades can involve many changes that can affect every element of the solution. The complexity of the upgrade process can easily surpass the technical and resource capabilities of many customers. And when an organization is back leveled more than one version, the process can be even more complex. Many organizations simply do not have the time, technical talent or resources to devote to it. So they put it off, and put it off, until they are forced to address it.
Second, there is always the fear on the part of the customer that once the upgrade process is complete, something will break or not function correctly resulting in a prolonged outage, financial exposure, and additional expense. For many organizations, a prolonged outage of a critical application can be financially devastating.
Third, there is the concern that the product functionality and/or the interface will change so dramatically and there will be a huge learning curve for the new release, which will require training, and result in a slowdown of business processes. Along with this concern is that the training will not be free, and they will be caught in a catch-22 and be forced to pay for it.
Finally, many software vendors use the upgrade event as an opportunity to raise licensing costs, or charge professional services for the upgrade services if needed. Many small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) have tight budgets and do not have the additional financial resources to devote to a software upgrade event.
So what is the cause of this situation? The majority of software vendors continue to utilize a central server design for their software applications, where all of the functionality of their solution is centrally housed in a server installation. Vendors put out release after release of their solutions, adding more functionality and capabilities with each release, and rarely is any removed. Some of the release changes can be dramatic, and can include not only new functionality, but also interface changes, new internal data structures, changes to API structures, and changes to backend databases. The problem is that much of the new functionality is not wanted or used by all customers, and it can get in the way of them using the existing functionality that they do use.
As the functionality piles up release after release, the solutions naturally become more and more complex, and the interfaces become cluttered and hard to use. The maintenance and upgrade processes follow suit and also become increasingly complex. Then there is the inevitable software bugs that begin to appear in greater numbers as vendors find it increasingly difficult to Q/A the complex solutions and their code. The process is a never ending complexity highway that the vendors and their customers cannot exit off of.
The central server design approach used by many vendors is old and outdated, and they need to move on from it. A very good example of this is in the network monitoring and management space, which Vallum Software is in. Most if not all of the vendors in this space utilize a central server design for their solutions, and yes, many of these solutions are complex and expensive.
Vallum Software’s solution, the Halo Manager, has a NextGen decentralized architecture that does not have a central server install. There is not one. Functionality is introduced to the solution in a modular manner through the installation of specialized applications called Halo Apps. Halo Apps are installed or uninstalled at the discretion of the end-user. The ability for the end-user to select only the functionality they need simplifies the interface, and eliminates interface clutter and bloat. The absence of release upgrades and maintenance processes results in a significant reduction in complexity and cost.
The Halo Manager solution can be downloaded from the Vallum website. It is a fully functional 30 day trial. Please check it out, and we welcome your comments and any new ideas for Halo Apps.
About the Author:
Lance Edelman is a technology professional with 25+ years of experience in enterprise software, security, document management and network management. He is co-founder and CEO at Vallum Software and currently lives in Atlanta, GA.