Coghead, one of the handful of fledgling software makers letting programmers write and deploy business applications via the Internet, is taking a cue from rivals and customers in offering users the option to use computing power by the drink.
The PAAS (platform as a service) startup, which attracted attention in January for switching to Amazon’s EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) computing infrastructure service as the host platform for its software, also introduced a widget tool and APIs to boost its footprint among its target small- and medium-size business customer base.
PAAS, or running applications in the cloud that we call the Internet, has become an increasingly popular method of deploying applications among customers tired of buying, updating and maintaining servers and storage arrays.
Coghead CEO Paul McNamara said Coghead, to date, has charged per user-$49 per month for five users as a base plan-regardless of how much users were using its applications.
This worked well for applications where users were constantly active but not so well for infrequent users who come into a CRM application to look at inventory, check shipment status or schedule an appointment, he said.
So, following similar models from Salesforce.com and Bungee Labs, today, July 22, the company introduced the Limited User pricing model, a flat-rate price point of $50 per month for two application “slices,” or access points, into an application that can be added to any Coghead account. Additional access points are available for $15 per month each.
Coghead will continue to offer per-user pricing plans for full access to Coghead applications.
To support the Limited User model, businesses can now add widgets to their Coghead applications using a new version of Coghead’s Coglet Builder, a Web-based lightweight application builder that steps users through the process of adding a “slice” of a Coghead application to any Web page.
One manufacturer, for example, currently uses the Coglet Builder beta to display product and inventory data into an external Web site view that is accessible by its suppliers.
Also, Coghead released an open API that allows developers to integrate their Coghead applications with a Web site or business application.
A freight company, for instance, uses the Coghead API to integrate its Coghead CRM application with its Business Objects business intelligence application to extract customer and warehouse data for global business tracking reports.
Taken together, the Limited User pricing option, Coglet Builder and API are designed to help Coghead keep its current customers from jumping ship to Salesforce.com, Bungee Labs or Google App Engine, while luring new users with the flexibility options. This is important for a young company struggling to expand its footprint.
Even before the new offerings, McNamara liked his advantages. The Coghead platform is different from other PAAS offerings because it doesn’t require programmers to learn a new programming language or even program in the cloud.
If you want to write to Google’s App Engine, for example, you have to know Python. Salesforce.com, meanwhile, has created its own Apex language for its application platform.
Instead, using Coghead’s Adobe Flex-based platform, developers construct applications by dragging widgets onto a canvas. Coghead then automatically generates the data structure behind them.
Coghead Targets Programmers
The company supports these structures with a business process engine in the platform, which lets users drag and drop business logic based on their business needs into their applications.
McNamara made the case that this approach lends Coghead’s PAAS to a broader programming base.
“There are about four to six million professional developers in the world writing programs for C++ or Java. We target 20 to 40 million people who are technology savvy, but they’re looking for ways to create applications more rapidly but don’t want to learn something new.”
It would be dismissive to say, then, that Coghead caters to lazy developers. Rather, it targets programmers who may not have the bandwidth to learn a new language. To wit, 40,000 people have set up accounts with Coghead.
I’m not sure where this space is going to go. I expect there will be some acquisitions by larger, more traditional vendors wanting to look like they’re forward looking.
IBM might buy one of these vendors and make it the hub of its cloud computing strategies, or perhaps SAP or Oracle might join the fray.
I like that Coghead keeps a lower overhead (and gives customers a greater comfort level) by leveraging Amazon’s EC2 technology.
Still, outages like the latest S3 snafu will continue to dampen cloud computing a bit. Business managers just need to accept for now that uptime is not a guaranteed value proposition.