Intel pulls plug on Enterprise 2.0 suite

An Intel -backed suite of Enterprise 2.0 software announced with much fanfare a bit over two years ago is being put out to pasture.

SuiteTwo, announced in November 2006 at an O’Reilly Media Web 2.0 show, is no longer being sold, and its maintenance period for existing customers will close at the end of this year.

“We’re going through the end-of-life process for SuiteTwo,” said Dominic Sartorio, senior director of product management at SpikeSource, Intel’s lead partner in the effort.

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When it was announced, SuiteTwo was seen as concrete proof that CIOs, IT directors and business managers had begun seriously considering the use of Web 2.0 technology in their workplaces.

In a bundle integrated and maintained by SpikeSource, SuiteTwo included blog publishing software from Six Apart, RSS content syndication software from NewsGator, and SimpleFeed and wiki software from Socialtext.

Backing the project was Intel Capital, Intel’s venture capital arm, while Intel’s Software and Solutions Group would hawk it through its large OEM (original equipment manufacturer) and reseller channels. Tech Data was later brought in to help with fulfillment. SuiteTwo could be bought as packaged software, hosted software or pre-loaded into a hardware appliance.

SpikeSource has notified the about 80 companies that use SuiteTwo regarding the phaseout and will provide migration assistance to them, Sartorio said. “We’re going to be there to help customers, advise them, to do what’s right for their deployments and users,” he said.

One customer that will seek migration assistance from SpikeSource is Clinical Trial Semantics Inc. CTSi uses SuiteTwo as a key part of its project to build a Web-based system to help cancer patients discuss with their doctors appropriate clinical trials they can consider participating in as part of their treatment.

“We probably over-invested in a platform that clearly didn’t have the user base,” said CTSi CEO Etienne Taylor.

So far, SpikeSource has been a very responsive vendor to CTSi during the year or so that the nonprofit has been using SuiteTwo.

“Their professional services department has helped us way above and beyond the economics of having us as a customer,” Taylor said. “They’ve been wonderful.”

However, one thing SpikeSource didn’t do was alert CTSi about its plans to phase out SuiteTwo. “They forgot us. Nothing personal, I’m sure,” Taylor said with a chuckle.

For now, SuiteTwo has served its purpose very well in the project’s first stage of development, and CTSi, which is working with the American Cancer Society, can see viable migration options, Taylor said. “It’s kind of OK. A lot will depend on what we do next with SpikeSource.”

The concept behind SuiteTwo was right, said Forrester Research analyst Oliver Young.

Companies are adopting blogs, wikis, enterprise RSS and other Web 2.0 technologies to improve collaboration and communication among their employees, partners and customers. “The market has moved in that direction pretty aggressively,” he said.

“The problem with SuiteTwo wasn’t the idea. The problem was the execution. They were trying to cobble together products from five or six independent companies, and it never looked like anything more than a bunch of applications that were duck-taped together,” Young said.

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Consequently, after its initial splash, SuiteTwo didn’t get nearly as much attention from potential customers as its capabilities would have otherwise merited, and it became a sideshow for the partner vendors involved as well, Young said.

“SuiteTwo had a lot of great ideas [behind it] but there were shortcomings in the implementation and go-to-market strategies,” said Brian Kellner, NewsGator’s vice president of product management.

SimpleFeed’s CEO Mark Carlson concurs. “All of our involvement pretty much stopped three or four months after the initial SuiteTwo announcement,” he said.

While SuiteTwo failed to gain traction, vendor partners like NewsGator and Socialtext noticed that demand for a suite like that was real and expanded their own offerings beyond their niche areas to offer more comprehensive collaboration and communication functionality.

“We started seeing that the social side of our solutions had a lot of value to offer and we started going down that path,” Kellner said.

For example, in expanding beyond their original niches, SocialText and NewsGator have replicated not only the SuiteTwo components but also newer ones, like workplace social networking, activity notification feeds and Twitter-like microblogging status updates.

“It was difficult for example in the SuiteTwo architecture to get a notification that someone had posted a new blog post, or that someone had updated a wiki page, or to pass information back and forth between the various solutions. It was a lot of work,” Kellner said.

There are no hard feelings between the SuiteTwo partners and SpikeSource, whose migration plans for SuiteTwo include steering customers toward the partners. Since SuiteTwo is a superset of partners’ software products, migration should be straightforward, he said.

Forrester’s Young agrees. “The underlying products in SuiteTwo and their vendors are still here and innovating. It shouldn’t be hard for a SuiteTwo customer to go to these vendors and put the thing back together,” Young said.

Young’s advice is for SuiteTwo customers to identify which component is delivering the most value for them and approach that vendor first.

SpikeSource pulled the plug on SuiteTwo in part because it wasn’t in its best interest to focus on any particular software market segment, such as enterprise 2.0 products, CRM (customer relationship management) or content management, but rather to stick to its strengths: to assist ISVs with services like code testing, software maintenance and development.

As such, SpikeSource is focusing on its new Solutions Factory, launched in April 2008 and described as an automated platform for assembling, testing, packaging, certifying and updating software from ISVs. Along with the Solutions Factory launch,

SpikeSource also announced that it had closed a new round of funding led by Intel Capital. Intel also uses SpikeSource’s Solutions Factory services in its Intel Software Partner Program, Sartorio said.


Web 2.0 and collaboration update

Ironically, Intel still seems interested in Enterprise 2.0, judging by a demo of a workplace social-networking system that its CEO, Paul Otellini, gave in November at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, two years after SuiteTwo’s introduction.

The demoed system included Web-based enterprise collaboration tools for social networking, blogging, wikis, online meetings and syndicated feeds. A company like Intel, with 86,000 employees worldwide, would put such a system to good use to let staffers better collaborate, obtain training and education, and find the data they need to do their jobs, he said.

Such a social-networking system for the workplace, which would require strong security and control features for IT departments, doesn’t exist, he said. “I don’t see any company really addressing this,” Otellini said.

Maybe Otellini never paid close attention to SuiteTwo, which could have very well become such a system. Intel declined to comment about SuiteTwo.

Actually, if he moves quickly, Otellini might still be able to place an order for SuiteTwo: At press time, SpikeSource hadn’t yet updated the SuiteTwo Web site to indicate that the product is being discontinued, and its ordering page remained online as well. Asked for further information about the enterprise social-networking system Otellini had demoed, an Intel spokesman said in an e-mail that it had been “a mock-up done for the sole purpose of his keynote, with no plans to productize.”

At his company’s Web 2.0 Summit show floor booth in November, an amused Ross Mayfield, CEO of Socialtext, remarked: “We’ve had a lot of people rushing to our booth as a result of the Intel presentation.”

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