Take email for example. I remember the trauma of having to buy and build a server, install Linux on it, find a location for it, install Sendmail, figure out how to manage that, eventually hire someone to manage it, buy email client software for everyone (in our case, Microsoft Outlook), eventually decide that we wanted to use Microsoft Exchange instead of Sendmail, and then keep on top of hardware and software maintenance for everything we had bought, all in an environment where prices and technology and requirements were continuously variable. It took nearly a whole full-time person just to figure out which options we should be thinking about.
Jeff Holt did most of this work for us in my first start-up almost ten years ago. Now, when you think of how many people in the world there are who can set up email, and compare that to how few people in the world there are who can do what Jeff can do with an Oracle database, you realize that the opportunity cost of having Jeff fiddle with email is ludicrously high. But in 1999, the only other option I knew about was to spend a bunch of cash to hire a separate person to do it instead of Jeff.
Today, you pay $50 to Google for a whole year's worth of Gmail service for each employee you have, and that's it. Ok, there's a half hour or so of configuration work you have to do to get your own domain name in your email addresses. But for way less than one month's rent, you've got email for your company for a whole year that works every time, all the time, from anywhere. All you need is a browser to access it, and even that is free these days.
I can tell you the same kind of story for web hosting, bug tracking, backup and recovery, HR and payroll, accounting, even for sales. The common thread here is that there are a lot of things you have to do as a business that have nothing whatsoever to do with what your business really does, which is that content that your people are really passionate about providing to the market. Today, it's economically efficient to let specialty firms do things for you that ten years ago, you wouldn't have considered letting someone else do.
...Which brings me to what we do. My company, Method R Corporation, does performance for a living. Specifically, Oracle software performance. We know how to make just about any Oracle-based software go faster, and we can do it quicker than you probably think. And we can teach people how to do it just like we do. We even sell the tools we use, which make it a lot easier to do what we do. It works. Read the testimonials at our Profiler page for some evidence of what I mean.
So here's a really important question for our company: Why would a telco or a manufacturer or a transportation company or a financial services company—or even a computer software manufacturer—want to learn as much about Oracle performance as the people in Method R have invested into learning? The answer is that a lot of companies just don't.
I love the field of software performance. I love it; it's my life's work. But most people don't. There are a lot of business owners and even software developers out there who just don't love thinking about software performance. I get that. Hey, I happen not to love thinking about software security. I know it's necessary, and I want it; I just don't want to have to think about it. I think most people regard software performance the same way: want it, need it even, don't want to think about it.
What if software performance were something, like Gmail, that just worked, and the only time you had to think about it was when you wrote a little check to make sure you could continue not having to think about it? I think there's a real business model there.
So here's what we're doing.
The people here at Method R have created a software package that we call our SLA Manager. "SLA" stands for "Service Level Agreement." It is software that tracks the response times (the durations that your end-users care about) of the business tasks that you mark as the most important things you want to watch. For example, if your application's "Book Order" function is something that's important to you, we can measure all 10,436 of your "Book Order" button clicks that happened yesterday. Our SLA Manager could tell you how long every single one of those clicks took. We can report information like, "Only 92.7% of those clicks were fulfilled in 3 seconds or less (not 99% like you wanted)." Of course, we can see trends in the data (that is, we can see your performance problems before your users can), and so on.
So, our value proposition is this: We'll install some data collection software at your site. We'll instrument some of the business tasks that you want to make sure never have performance problems. We'll show you exactly what we're doing so there's no need to fear whether we're messing anything up for you. For example, we'll show you how to turn all our stuff off with the flick of a switch in case you ever get into a debate with one of your software vendors over the impact our measurements might have upon your system.
We'll periodically transfer data from your site to ours, where we'll look at your performance data. We'll charge a small fee for that. The people looking at your data will be Cary Millsap, Jeff Holt, Karen Morton, ...people like that.
Remember: we're not looking at your actual transactions; all we're going to see is how many you do and how long they take.We'll report regularly to you on what we see, and we'll make recommendations when we see opportunities for improvement. How much or how little help you want will be your decision. If you ever do want us to help you fix a performance problem with one of the tasks that we've helped you instrument, we'll be able to provide quick answers because we have the tools that work with the instrumentation we installed.
Another part of our service will be regularly scheduled knowledge transfer sessions, where the same people I've mentioned already will be available to you. Whether the events are public or private, remote or on-site, ...that will depend on the level of service you want to purchase. We'll tailor these sessions to your needs. We'll be in tune with those needs because of the data we'll be collecting.
If this business model sounds attractive to you, then I hope you'll drop us a note at info at method-r dot com. If it doesn't sound attractive, then we're eager to know how we could make the idea more appealing.