During a recent visit to the region, Raj Sabhlok, President of Zoho Corporation, took time off to talk to Jeevan Thankappan, Group Editor, about the local market and trends shaping the IT management market.
How strategic is this market for you?
The Middle East is our fastest growing market in the world; we grew about 40% last year. What’s interesting about the Middle East also is that, in most markets we’ve had to really work at it for a number of years to break through – to get the awareness, to get the recognition. Here, ManageEngine is considered as a leading brand in IT Management. We have the brand recall; customers look to us as thought leaders with leading edge technology. So, it’s a nice feeling.
What is so ‘un-enterprise’ about what you do?
In theory, we are solving enterprise problems, technology is so entrenched in most of our businesses that it’s absolutely vital. Historically, selling technology has been about solving enterprise problems. But I also describe us a as being anti-enterprise because there are things you associate with enterprise software, which we’ve purposely tried to avoid. I mean from the whole sales process, the selling, the supporting process, consulting; we’ve kind of done away with all that. We’ve made a very disruptive model where we wanted to make enterprise software very transparent, very accessible. So if you go on our website, you can download all our products, you can use them, and evaluate them.
Is that free or trial software?
We’ve got both.
There are many companies that offer free software, but in reality it is just trial version.
Yes it’s interesting. So, I will give you a bit of our strategy as well. It’s not completely altruistic but we have got very robust free software. In fact, we took one of our more popular products last year, our service desk offering – Service Desk Plus – what we call standard edition which is a fully-blown help desk offering and made it free. We said, OK, we will make money on the higher editions. But the fact was we were going to give up a lot of revenue on the standard edition. Our theory on that was twofold. One, we saw it as an opportunity to help customers to embrace enterprise help desks and enterprise service desks. We thought if we got them started, get them going down the best practices road, there would be opportunities for us to sell them other products or even more features later. And that’s been incredibly popular, and we have gained some 25,000 customers by making that product fre
We’ve been talking about real time IT management for a while now. That has not become a reality yet. So is that going to be a Holy Grail?
I think we are always trying to shorten or increase our service levels and network delivery services faster and that means getting more towards real time. And so, yes, it’s a Holy Grail, but we are making progress on that front and certainly these root cause analysis scenarios that I am talking about that helps getting us closer to that real time response.
Now we are talking Cloud and everything as a service. So does it help you being part of Zoho?
I think it does. We manage Zoho with ManageEngine products and our Zoho team is not going to use our ManageEngine products if it’s not solving the problem. So a lot of times they will send us back to the drawing board, and say, Hey! You are not doing this or that, or this is what I really need. And so that’s helpful in itself. But probably the other thing that comes top of mind is the fact that they have a world class Cloud infrastructure and we are moving, at ManageEngine, several of our products to the Cloud. So our help desk is already there. So we have Service Desk Plus on demand and we are able to immediately put it on to a world class Cloud, that’s high performance, secure, all those kinds of things that most of our competitors that are not Cloud companies have to go figure out. So that’s a big benefit for us. And, there is some name recognition there with Zoho. So when we tell our customers, Yup, we got a Cloud-based application and they say, Ok, first thing, how do I secure it? What are you going to do about data privacy? We can talk about a 10 year history of being able to do that with Zoho.
Do you see Network Management moving to the Cloud eventually as a service?
There are going to be offerings that purport to do the network as well. So I will tell you, we in fact could cannibalize our own on-premise network management software. We’ve got a very popular Cloud-based solution today for APM, called Site 24×7 and really that does everything except the network right now – it does the server, and then it does all the components up through the application. The only piece that is missing is the network. And we have the know-how to do that. We in fact will go in that direction where we will offer everything in the Cloud and so now that we have this integrated monitoring environment that’s in the Cloud, that covers not only your applications, your website, the end-user experience monitoring but your network as well.
I’m seeing a lot of Open Source alternatives coming into the market. Do you see them as viable alternatives or do you see them as threat? How do you see them Open Source alternatives?
You always have to think about it as a threat. But I think what happens in order to go mainstream, somebody has to embrace it and stand behind it such that it’s really a viable, commercial product. I always look at the example of Red Hat. Linux went mainstream when Red Hat stepped in, product-ised it, commercialised it, and offered support around it. So, you know, we see a lot of initiatives such as Openstack, which is still kind of boiling and bubbling up. But until some companies really embrace it, take it on, do the Red Hat model to it, its still going to struggle a little bit. Another thing is emerging is Docker. So Docker is very interesting technology, it could in fact replace virtualization.