June 1, 2011

Keynote: Four Initiatives Around Features, Cloud, Collaboration and Customers

MERGE User Conference

The joke about the duck can’t be described – you had to be there. But the rest of CEO Christopher Seiwald’s keynote was packed with news you’ll want to know. Addressing a record 330-plus attendees at the 2011 Perforce User Conference, Seiwald explained four key initiatives that came out of two years of introspection and on the heels of 15 years of steady growth.

There’s no question Perforce has arrived. In 1998, SAP bought a single Perforce license and Qualcomm bought 4 seats. In 1999, Google started out with 25 licenses and EMC started with 9. Today they total some 34,000 active users at those companies alone.

Christopher Siewald
Seiwald addresses a record number of attendees at 2011 Perforce User Conference.

The bigger concept is not Perforce’s popularity but how much it can keep track of: The vision is “version everything,” as Seiwald put it. Pixar, for example, stores all its movie assets in Perforce. The New York Stock Exchange uses Perforce to deploy to the 9,000 servers that run the exchange. AMD uses tools built by IC Manage, a Perforce integration partner, to store all its chip designs in Perforce. Further, the fact that there are visible trends in version management is itself an indicator of the field’s maturity. The company is watching the market evolve to offering three main types of SCM: distributed version control, “super-easy online,” and corporate version management -- where Perforce dominates.

Meanwhile, the social media takeover has led to a feeling we all share about, well, sharing: content and collaboration should be open. Meanwhile, the cloud offers on-demand IT infrastructure. It may be early for big corporations to trustingly throw all their intellectual property into the cloud, Seiwald acknowledged, but it’s increasingly popular for small and medium customers – and he predicts this will be an accelerating trend.

Finally, the volume and variety of content that’s going online is an important trend, along with the feeling that “it not only can be online, it should be kept there. People are believing that content lives better online.”

“This cultural shift provides a phenomenal opportunity for version management. Because we know what makes us feel that digital content is more convenient, more safe, and more reliable is that we version it. The rest of the world doesn’t yet know that version management is so important to them, just as software developers didn’t know 30 years ago about the importance of configuration management.”

The SCM Foundation

When it comes to new features for the existing Perforce product, “The long-awaited P4rename is here,” he announced to applause. Other improvements include P4Sandbox, and adding JavaScript and HTML to P4V and P4Admin. “This will make it possible for anyone to turn P4V enhancement ideas into working features.” The new Perforce Web Services will also make those ideas easy to implement.

On the game-changing side, there are streams: containers for branching and merging -- or “branches with brains. We didn’t invent streams, of course, but we are taking them to a new level,” he said. You’ll also want to stay tuned for Perforce Chronicle, a web content management system.

Seeding Cloud and Community

It may be amorphous, but Seiwald noted that now was an excellent time to test the company’s cloud offerings – to be revealed in greater detail throughout the conference. “Running Perforce in the cloud does require a shift in user expectations, not the least of which is that someone else is going to be holding your company jewels. Originally we thought this was anathema to software developers,” said Seiwald. But, he noted, generations weaned on MySpace and Facebook, not to mention open source, think differently.

Along with utility computing offered by the cloud, Perforce is looking at how social media lessons can be applied to its existing community, Seiwald said. Announcing the new Ecosystem – also covered in later sessions by former Slashdotter Jeff Bates – he mentioned exciting components such as the App Junction, “where you can share tools, scripts or other services you’ve built, but also where the larger community can find and work together on larger, wholesale solutions.”

Also touching on how the company had grown from its early days of disdaining a salesforce to now actually needing one, Seiwald described "popping the cork" on a larger consultative sales force. In addition, he noted an expansion of overseas partnerships to join longtime partner Toyo in Japan, such as MOU and SDS from Korea, Lyra from India, and more in the works.

Seiwald wrapped up with the four initiatives, “building upon our foundation, reaching into the clouds, manning up our customer touch, and really opening the doors to cooperative development via the Ecosystem, you can see that this is not our final destination. We have yet to do everything so that you can version everything.” If the audience of P4 users from Adobe, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, National Instruments, Research in Motion, Pixar, NYSE, NVIDIA and Electronic Arts is any indication, there will be plenty of good company along the way.