04:22 AM

The time when Sabrina Horn almost table danced… PeopleSoft vows to innovate, and Sun says its software will be free

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

The Horn Group PR company held a dinner Tuesday evening featuring a panel on “Does Innovation Matter: The Silicon Valley Outlook” a topic dear to my heart.

The event was at Roe—a Burmese fusion restaurant next to Hawthorne Lane. I arrived late for cocktails and looked around and didn’t see any of the Silicon Valley Hack Pack, except for J. Bonasia, reporter at Investor’s Business Daily. The poor guy has been covering the software enterprise beat and if it weren’t for Oracle-PeopleSoft he’d have little to write about. I was asked how did I think the PeopleSoft/Oracle thing would turn out? I said I do not know, I have not even considered it, it just doesn’t feature on my radar screen.

That whole enterprise software sector seems like a bygone era, like some kind of Jurassic period. Yet that whole sector can continue living off the maintenance revenues for years—it isn’t going away. But there is nothing to write home about either.

Fortunately, I was seated next to some Silicon Valley grayhairs—my favorite kind of people, the ones that have been around the block many times, and either come back for more or can’t find an exit strategy! On my right was the dapper Paul Wiefels of the Chasm Group, the very successful Geoffrey Moore consulting group franchise. I’ve met Paul before and he is always good company. On my left was Barry Goss, chief product officer at PKWare, the enterprise data compression and security company, another great dinner companion with Silicon Valley stories that go back to 1980.

Sabrina Horn, the head of the Horn Group stood up to commemorate 13 years of the Horn Group, and to thank her first client, PeopleSoft, represented at the dinner by Rick Bergquist, CTO and PeopleSoft Fellow.

“I almost danced on the table,” Sabrina recalled, when she landed her first client. I cannot recount how many wonderful dinners have been ruined by a panel (in this case it was also the curry sauce on the filet mignon)—but, we dutifully sat through what seemed hours of chatter about innovation from representatives of companies such as PeopleSoft, and Sun who had seen their best years of innovation when President Reagan was in power.

Mr Bergquist announced that PeopleSoft was going to take on SAP with “innovation.” I can’t wait to see that battle of triceratops versus stegosauraus.

Also on the panel: Mark Gorenberg, partner at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, Josh James CEO of Omniture, David Martin, CEO of Qlusters and Prem Uppaluru, CEO of Transera. MR Rangaswami co-founder of Sand Hill Group and organizer of Software 2005, moderated the panel, and he did an excellent job demonstrating knowledge of trends within the software sector that many of the panelists lacked.

There was a lot of open source bashing by the panel, same old arguments, total cost of ownership, blah, blah, blah. All I’d like to say on this subject is: open-source is way more than just Linux, and if the open-source steamroller doesn’t get you, “good enough” will. You have to keep climbing the stack.

Offshoring also was discussed and everyone agreed that it was good for innovation. By the time the panel was done, many of the diners had slipped away but I did have an interesting chat with Mark Feldman, senior vp of marketing at Virsa Systems, which offers “real-time continuous compliance” software for Sarbanes-Oxley.

Mark has got a killer marketing message aimed at CEOs “use our software and stay out of jail.” He says that business is booming. Earlier this year Virsa picked up $15m from Kleiner but hasn’t had to touch the money because sales have taken off like a rocket.

An interesting aspect of Virsa’s business is the large amount of internal fraud that its systems can uncover within customer companies. “It more than pays for itself in revealing internal fraud of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in some cases, much more than that,” Mr Feldman says.