Serena CEO: Vail Is a Tool for the Non-techie

Q&A: Serena CEO Jeremy Burton says the company is looking to change the way applications are developed.

Serena Software is moving in a new direction. The companys leaders who are taking it there, President and CEO Jeremy Burton and Rene Bonvanie, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, partner programs and online services, sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft at Serenas San Mateo, Calif., headquarters to discuss the plans.

You discussed your mashup tool, Vail. Whats the online service? Whos doing that and where is it going to play?

Burton: The data center is down the road at a company called OpSource. What we do is we have our Vail runtime environment down at their data center and they have all the things around that runtime to turn it into an online service. The great thing about the Internet is where the app resides is not that important because weve got this global network.

Bonvanie: Think of it as a subscription model that runs on a very big data center that we dont run ourselves, but that we work with OpSource on where you can subscribe to deploy these applications on a per-user, per-month basis—very much in the same vein as [] and so forth. Then youll see a deployment facility for the mashups that people develop. And then a big ecosystem around it of companies that mash up a lot of these business flows that we will expose through a mashup exchange.

Can you give me your explanation of what you mean by "deploy to the cloud?"

Burton: In some respects its not that different than deploying a regular application on an application server. This is a substitute for [Oracle] JDeveloper or any other development environment. The difference is you dont have to be a programmer to use it.

When you come to deploy, you dont have to come to Serena and say, "We want to buy your application server." The application server market is kind of done. Now were saying, "If you want to deploy, you just go to the deploy menu and it will automatically take you to a place in the cloud, to an application server in the sky, and for 30 days you can run it for free." After 30 days, well ask you if youre getting value out of the application. If the answer is yes, well say you owe us x dollars per user per month.


Read more here about Serena Softwares unveiling of Vail.

But it is running on an application server in a data center down in Santa Clara [Calif.] with OpSource managing it.

This kills the business model of the big software companies, because if BEA [Systems] were to turn around and say, were going to put BEAs application server in the sky, instead of paying them a million dollars, [customers would] be paying like $10,000. And then [BEA officials would] have to go to Wall Street and say, we just turned 15 million-dollar deals this month into $10,000 deals. So part of its technology, but a big part of it is business model.

I see a tradeoff between what Salesforce is doing with its Apex language and the limitations in what this Serena solution seems to have.

Burton: Yeah. If you want ultimate control over the Salesforce environment, and you want to create a real custom Salesforce environment, and youve got the expertise to do it, you would go that route.

Our view is if technical expertise is a constraint or if you have real simple process flows that you want business guys to be able to create and mash up, then this is just an alternate way. Arguably you get less control with this kind of environment than you do with a programming language. So, yeah, there are certain things youre not going to be able to do in this environment, because weve hidden a lot of the complexity. But Im cool with that, because I realize the volume of applications over the next decade are going to be simple apps.

If we werent going to do this, somebody else would. Because you see it in the consumer world—I mean, 3,000 apps on Facebook within three months.

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