Deja Vu

Cordys just released their latest version of the Composite Application Framework, but rather oddly labels part of their offering a master data management framework. Cordys is certainly an interesting company, set up by the founder of Baan with the idea of providing an application-neutral true SOA middleware stack.  What is striking is the sheer scale of the investment, with USD 135 million sunk so far (and counting) and 550 employees. 

Cordys looks to have developed from a ground-up a very scalable middleware platform, but from reading their material quite carefully I cannot really see anything that looks to me like a true master data management application.  There does not appear to be any real semantic integration capability within Cordys, and indeed the otherwise positive Ovum report that their web site points to notes that data integration is the one limited area of their software.  I suspect that they have just hooked onto the MDM bandwagon as so many other vendors have done, feeling they need to appear to have an offering in a trendy space.  Certainly master data is important to how composite applications are going to work, and the enterprise service bus that Cordys provides will need to fed with consistent master data from somewhere in order to be effective, yet their software does not appear to have a lot to offer in this area so far.

The major challenge to Cordys is the sheer ambition of what they have produced.  A complete middleware stack is not something which enterprises will lightly contemplate introducing, especially as it would seem that Cordys’ productivity message relies on using their stack wholesale.  Yet large companies already have huge investments in middleware from IBM, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft, as well as with independents like Tibco and the like, and are going to be very reluctant indeed to swap these out, however appealing a new framework is.  It is noticeable that Cordys’ customers so far are virtually all in the Netherlands, and are generally quite small companies.  I couldn’t see a really large enterprise in the customer list on their web site.  This does not surprise me since the sheer scale of the prospect swapping out infrastructure is going to be a daunting one to any large company.  Mr Baan’s pockets are presumably very deep, but I can’t believe that 550 employees can be fed and watered on a diet of Dutch SMEs, so it will be critical for Cordys to break out of the local market and start landing some major enterprises at some point, just as Baan originally did with Boeing.

There is a worrying parallel here with Asera, a start-up of the internet boom set up in 1998 by ex Oracle staff with massive (USD 175 million0 venture capital backing, whose aims were rather similar to Cordys in ambition.  This company similarly hit the brick wall of entrenched middleware in large companies, and duly died an unpleasant death in 2003. This is one investment that you will not hear Kleiner Perkins boasting about.  It is to be hoped that Cordys fares better, but it has an uphill battle, in my view.