Appian Anywhere revisited

I’ve been meaning for a while to to go back and add some detail to Appian‘s software-as-a-service offering, Appian Anywhere. I mentioned the release last month when it was announced, but since then, I’ve had a chance for a conversation with George Barlow, GM of the Appian Anywhere unit, I saw it in action at the Gartner BPM summit a few weeks ago, and Phil Larson discussed it briefly on our BPM and Enterprise 2.0 panel.

Appian has taken their software code base and created simplified sign-on and admin (and presumably some multi-tenancy functionality) to create Appian Anywhere, but will be keeping their enterprise product and the SaaS offering in synch. Since their entire BPM suite is already browser-based, this appears to be more of an issue of adding on some functionality rather than having to rewrite significant portions of the existing product.

Appian - Collaborative Design

In alpha this quarter, in beta in Q2 with a few selected partners and customers, it’s scheduled to be generally available in Q3. There will be a couple of pricing options: an entry level for around $15/user/month, running within a shared instance and with some storage limitations, and a level that runs within a separate instance and has more storage available for $25-30/user/month.

Appian Anywhere is currently hosted on Amazon EC2 (which provides computing capacity) and Amazon S3 (which provides storage), which gives them a lot of flexibility in terms of scaling: as more customers come on, the Amazon services scale up seamlessly, and Appian just pays them on a utility model, like buying electricity. This is smart: Appian recognizes that although they do want to be in the business of running a SaaS operation, they’re not in the business of owning hosting infrastructure, and they can just buy cycles from Amazon (or wherever they end up with their production hosting) instead of buying gear.

They’re working on some ideas similar to Salesforce.com’s AppExchange, where there will be a marketplace of add-on applications (created by Appian or third parties) that can be purchased on a subscription basis as required by Appian Anywhere customers. Customers can also build their own applications from scratch or using a wizard, or modify one of the pre-built applications included as templates. If you want to link any of your in-house applications together with Appian Anywhere, you’re going to do it via web services calls, same as we’re seeing with most other SaaS applications. I’m wondering — although with no data for or against — whether or not this is going to provide adequate performance for user-facing steps within a process.

I did see Appian Anywhere briefly at the Gartner conference, although it was still early days for demos, and we were mostly seeing the latest version of their enterprise product. I was watching their über demo god hold court with a small group when he looked over and saw my eyes riveted on that new little RSS icon on their interface. Oh my god, after all these months of nagging lobbying vendors about adding feeds to their BPM products, someone finally did it, at least for process models. Our eyes met across the crowded booth. He smiled, and said “we wanted to surprise you with it”. I think I’m in love (with process feeds).

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