“Yrtsudni erawtfos” is “software industry” spelled backwards. This ridiculous word is the image that popped into my head when I reviewed Red Hat's exchange concept. According to what I have read, Red Hat intends to sell and support third party, open source business applications. In my mind, this is akin to Emerson Electric announcing that they intend to sell and service Whirlpool washing machines, dryers, and refrigerators. Why would a consumer buy a Whirlpool appliance from a manufacturer of appliance motors?
I understand the importance of the motor to the appliance function, and it is my impression that Emerson engineers motors that are quiet, energy efficient, and reliable. The only reason I can fathom for someone wanting to purchase the Whirlpool appliance from Emerson is because their prior experience with appliances leads them to believe the motor is going to be noisy, inefficient, and prone to breakdowns. And by God they want Emerson on the hook to be responsive when the inevitable breakdown occurs.
If Red Hat is truthful when they say that RHX is what their customers have asked them to deliver, it is a sad indictment of the software industry in general and of the operating system category in particular. Have customers been so conditioned to expect technical breakdowns in system software that they now want the OS vendor to be the primary point of contact for application support? I think it is likely that this is the software buyer condition, but I believe Red Hat's proposal of “more, better technical support” is the wrong answer.
I believe it is time to set the software industry straight. The operating system and related system software should not be the center of attention for software customers. Customers should have higher expectations for things to work correctly WITHOUT “more, better technical support.” I doubt Marc Benioff is sitting around today asking himself:
“Gee, I wonder if I got it right? Maybe what customers really want is for Red Hat and Oracle to sell and support my application products. After all, they do provide me with two very important pieces of the salesforce.com infrastructure? When things go wrong, the customer can call them instead of calling me. Maybe I should try that model.”
No. Marc is right when he says customers should not be exposed to the hassles of software infrastructure. SaaS and software appliances are both better answers to the software dilemma than Red Hat's proposal for “more, better technical support.” Customers don't want more support. They want software that provides application value without hassles. The perfect software product is one that requires an absolute minimum of technical support, and now is the time for application vendors to step up to that challenge.