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Market Alert: NetApp Agrees to Acquire CloudCheckr to Improve Cloud Cost Environments

On October 4th, 2021, NetApp announced a definitive agreement to acquire CloudCheckr, a market leader in cloud financial and operational optimization. NetApp positions this acquisition as accretive to its agreement to acquire Spot (now called Spot by NetApp post-acquistion) in June 2020 to support hybrid cloud optimization and usage management. This Market Alert explains why NetApp agreed to purchase CloudCheckr and provides recommendations for cloud professionals seeking to make a decision on purchasing or evaluating a cloud cost, cloud optimization, or Cloud FinOps (Financial Operations) solution.

About CloudCheckr

CloudCheckr was founded in 2011 in Rochester, New York in the United States as a solution to support the cost management, operational automation, compliance, and security of cloud Infrastructure as a Service. CloudCheckr was founded by Aaron Klein and Aaron Newman, who currently serves as Chairman. Over the past decade, CloudCheckr has gained over $4 billion dollars in spend under management to support over 600 clients and 10,000 employee users.

CloudCheckr raised its first significant round of funding in 2017, when it announced a massive $50 million Series A round from Level Equity. (Note: This acquisition occurred a couple of months before Amalgam Insights was founded, but I covered this announcement at my previous firm.)

This unusually large round of funding was justified by CloudCheckr’s status as a profitable bootstrapped organization with the opportunity to scale in a high growth area. At the time, CloudCheckr had over 150 clients and $1 billion in spend under management, meaning that the organization has grown roughly four times as large over the last four years after this initial round of funding. CloudCheckr also raised a second round of $15 million in 2019 from Level Equity to support product and engineering capabilities around the same time that the firm appointed Tim McKinnon as CEO.

Contextualizing the CloudCheckr Acquisition

Cloud optimization has been a rapidly growing market for several reasons: the IT Rule of 30, the growth of the IaaS market, and the nascent and emerging nature of best practices for managing cloud computing.

First, Amalgam Insights’ IT Rule of 30, which states that every unmanaged IT subcategory averages 30% waste, is definitely true in for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), where cloud spend is poorly governed and where end users, procurement, accounting, and finance are rarely working together as a team to manage these costs in a coordinated fashion. From a cloud perspective, this percentage roughly equates to moving from about 50% utilization to 80%+ utilization of provisioned services based on active monitoring of services.

Second, the IaaS market as a whole continues to grow roughly 25% per year as roughly 60% of institutional or enterprise-grade storage and compute is in the cloud rather than an asset-intensive data center investment.

Third, cloud IaaS billing and product deployment are still fairly immature or agile (depending on your point of view) with rapid launches, updates, changes, and obsolescence based on adoption trends and customer requests. From a functional perspective, this rapid change can often provide great value, but it also means that the financial expectations associated with instances can often change without any formal change management, billing review, or contractual review. All of these trends lead to a volatile billing, usage management, and compliance environment that is difficult to manage without a combination of proactive analysis, alerts, and holistic visualization.

How CloudCheckr Augments Spot by NetApp

NetApp’s acquisition of CloudCheckr fits well into the trends of this space and can be seen as part of a trend of acquisitions that includes Apptio’s 2019 acquisition announcement of Cloudability or Flexera’s 2018 acquisition of Rightscale or VMware’s 2018 acquisition of CloudHealth Technologies. All of these acquisitions filled the needs of IT management providers to support multi-cloud management for enterprises and managed service providers seeking to manage large pools of cloud spend and resources. From Amalgam Insights’ perspective, these are still early days for cloud computing as a whole as cloud currently makes up roughly a third of enterprise data infrastructure spend. From a market perspective, AI believes that we are in a period where cloud infrastructure cost management vendors represent growth assets now that multi-cloud best practices are starting to emerge and cloud service providers are treated more along the lines of telecom carriers for services that provide utility pricing and capacity.

At a time when cloud computing is obviously the highest growth area for IT spend, with IaaS spend expected to double every three years for the rest of this decade, IT systems management firms see the complexity of cloud as a fundamental challenge to the ongoing management of cloud services.

This acquisition builds onto existing Spot by Netapp’s capabilities in supporting usage and resource tracking as well as NetApp’s recent acquisition of Data Mechanics to support big data analytics. Although initial press releases and interviews position CloudCheckr as an acquisition to help support Spot by NetApp, Amalgam Insights notes that these two technology solutions are different in nature.

Spot by NetApp excels in providing a software-driven capability for monitoring and optimizing storage and compute infrastructure. This optimization provides a lot of value and can often seen as a be-all and end-all for infrastructure cost management to identify the portfolio of on-demand, reserve, and spot instances used to support infrastructure.

However, experiencted IT expense managers have seen that IT cost management requires a holistic lifecycle approach that involves a combination of usage optimization, service order automation, resource governance, inventory management, multi-cloud sourcing, invoice and payment management, and effective alignment of services with business-driven demand. This level of analysis requires a view into the products, cost centers, projects, and comparative cloud usage patterns that may require changing services and providers or using alternative billing approaches such as setting up reserved instances or savings plans for ongoing operationalization.

At the same time, cost management in the cloud is also often related to managing access and governance associated with existing resources. A basic example of this issue is Amazon S3 bucket governance, which can both be a security issue as well as a potential cost issue based on what is placed within the bucket.

Recommendations for the Cloud, FinOps, and NetApp Communities

As we consider this acquisition, it is important for us to not simply recommend a purchase, but to provide a course of action that will help IT departments to optimize their cloud environments. Based on this acquisition, Amalgam Insights provides the following recommendations based on our experience in tracking cloud cost and Kubernetes cost management over the past four years.

  1. To manage cloud costs, resource optimization is just the starting point. To fully tackle the IT Rule of 30 and regain all of the misplaced IT costs created in less governed times, it is important to make sure that all orders are governed with business logic. The goal here is not to prevent developers from quickly building but to make sure that every service is accounted for, effectively governed, and disconnected in a timely and appropriate manner. From a practical perspective, this monitoring requires some level of centralization that allows all developers and architects to have a shared version of the truth and a consistent inventory that brings together all accounts and services used by IT.
  2. For CloudCheckr customers, this acquisition provides an opportunity to take advantage of the Spot by NetApp cost optimization capability, especially in selecting spot instances that can greatly reduce the cost of managing standard cloud workloads. This spot management capability requires a combination of process modeling and price monitoring that is typically outside the core skills of cloud architects or IT expense professionals that are looking at cloud costs.
  3. For Spot by NetApp customers, consider both the value of presenting cloud costs for accounting and finance audiences as well as the power of governing resources to drive additional cost savings and increase the maturity of treating cloud as a strategic business resource. These are capabilities that CloudCheckr provides for enterprise cloud environments. From a practical perspective, IT departments should check and see if they have already covered these important aspects of cloud management either with homegrown or other third-party solutions. Amalgam Insights recommends that organizations that have not filled these gaps should consider adopting CloudCheckr capabilities.
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Zoom, Five9 Call Off the Wedding: What’s Next?

Reluctant shareholders have put the kibosh on Zoom’s intention to buy contact-center-as-a-service provider Five9. The deal would have amounted to almost $15 billion. 

But it was an all-stock deal. As it turns out, Five9 shareholders weren’t such fans of that structure. Zoom’s stock has declined 25% since the video conferencing behemoth announced in July it would buy Five9. Those share prices were not shaping up in Five9 investors’ favor. So, on Sept. 30, they voted against Zoom’s proposed, $14.7 billion purchase. As a result, Zoom and Five9 announced they had mutually terminated the acquisition.

Zoom had sought out Five9 for its cloud contact center expertise. Throughout the pandemic, organizations worldwide have relied on Zoom to keep their teams intact through video conferencing. To help users through uncertain times, Zoom has understood that it needs to deliver even more functional and appealing features, and it made good at Zoomtopia 2021. Part of its new platform announcements included the Video Engagement Center, which contains important contact center capabilities. Notably, though, Zoom debuted that component separate from any Five9 announcements. Did the company see Five9 shareholder rejection coming two weeks later or was it already planning to incorporate Five9 into its VEC portfolio? Either way, the answer might not matter much. Zoom and Five9 say they will still work together.

“We will continue to partner with Zoom like we did before, and just as we partner with other UC providers like Microsoft Teams, Nextiva, Mitel, and others,” Five9 told analysts in an Oct. 1 statement. “This allows us to offer customers the choice they often crave when looking at building out their [customer experience] ecosystem.”

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said his company will “maintain our valued existing contact center partnerships with companies like Five9, Genesys, NICE inContact, Talkdesk, and Twilio.” 

Amalgam Insights believes Five9 did indeed present Zoom with an attractive acquisition target. The 20-year-old Five9 stands out as a pioneer in cloud contact center. It was among the first contact center developers to understand the need for multimodal chat — not just phone conversations, which often frustrate users enduring iffy interactive voice response, but giving agents and customers the ability to communicate over email, social media, chat function, and text. It also homed in on the importance of easy-to-access analytics to help improve the customer experience in real-time. Combining Zoom and Five9 would have added more heft to Zoom’s offerings. Nonetheless, for its part, Five9 is doing just fine on its own as a standalone public company (fluctuating stock prices notwithstanding); it boasts a $10.6 billion market capitalization. While a union between it and Zoom would have created a global giant, both companies can fuel success by partnering with one another — again, as they say they will do. 

Even so, Zoom needs to diversify. The company tripled its value over the past two years, thanks in no small part to COVID-19. Demand for its services led to an extra $50 billion (and counting) in its market cap and spending power. Now is the time for Zoom to prove it can hold onto, and keep powering, its dominant position. For sure, the company made waves at its Zoomtopia 2021 event in mid-September, giving Amalgam Insights analysts reason to predict the video conferencing provider is aware of the mandate in front of it. Zoom debuted much-needed enhancements — from live translation and transcription and Smart Gallery improvements to hot desking and events hosting — that promise to make video conferencing far more than a pandemic-related enabler. Zoom appears to be hyperfocused on innovation.

Still, if it decided to renegotiate a Five9 purchase with cash replacing some stock, the pairing would make a natural fit despite a first failed attempt. If that doesn’t happen, Zoom should keep an eye out for other unified communications and contact center players that would beef up its platform in unique ways. Five9, meanwhile, may be courted by the likes of Salesforce or Adobe as the contact center becomes an even more ferocious battleground for supporting customer centricity. Both of those companies are high on the list of vendors needing to augment their video conferencing platforms with differentiated integrations, and both have deep pockets.

Overall, even if Zoom does not retool its bid, or if Five9 moves on to greener pastures, both Zoom and Five9 must stay trained on the future. Hybrid work represents the next major paradigm for organizations, and it’s a challenging one for them to navigate. They have to accommodate in-office and remote workers, and many of those people will flow between the two modes. This calls for stringent attention to concerns including data protection, yet requires easy-to-use tools and omnipresent support for the shifts between in-person and at-home working. The vendors that make hybrid work simple and smooth are the ones that will prevail. As Zoom continues its mission to “make video communications frictionless and secure,” it must continue to lead both with the innovation and flexibility that made it a surprise hit in 2020. And regardless of whether Five9 is acquired or remains an independent vendor, the demand for omnichannel and preferred channel support will stick. As such, Five9 will keep evolving cutting-edge technologies to improve the state of customer interaction.

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Now Available: The CIO’s Guide for Managing Wireless Expenses in 2021

Amalgam Insights has just published the definitive guide to managing the financial aspects of enterprise mobility in our new report “CIO’s Guide for Managing Wireless Expenses for 2021.” This report, co-authored by Chief Analyst Hyoun Park and Senior Research Analyst Kelly Teal focuses on

  • managing mobility in the New Normal of the hybrid workplace
  • identifying what is differentiated and what is not in the wireless expense world
  • why your mobility costs have risen faster than expected, especially if you took the advice of certain research firms that misread COVID
  • and the 15 vendors that Amalgam Insights recommends that mid-sized and large businesses consider based on their cost management and mobility management needs.

This report is available at

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Analyst Insight: Raindrop Systems

Executive Summary

Key Stakeholders: Chief Procurement Officer, Procurement Directors and Managers, Controllers, Vice Presidents of Accounting, Accounting Directors and Managers, Legal Directors, Finance Directors and Managers, Sales Operations Directors and Managers, Marketing Operations Directors and Managers

Why Raindrop Matters: Mid-market organizations between $100 million and $1 billion in annual revenue are in a tricky situation where they have the advantage of being relatively small and nimble, but must also face enterprise-grade operational challenges to support global supply chains, customer bases, and vendor ecosystems. Raindrop provides organizations at this size and above with a freemium SaaS product to support organizations starting to support mature enterprise spend practices while maintaining the governance, compliance, and security issues that come up for enterprises

Top Takeaway: Amalgam Insights recommends Raindrop as a business spend management solution to be considered for organizations with over $20 million in revenue that currently have fragmented or non-existent sourcing management, supplier management, and payment management capabilities.

Introduction to Raindrop Systems

Amalgam Insights recently briefed with Raindrop Systems, an emerging startup focused on Enterprise Spend Management. This vendor got our attention because it has come up in inquiries as a potential solution for managing contracts and spend in mid-market organizations between 100 million and 5 billion dollars in annual revenue, though Raindrop does support enterprise-sized clients exceeding 10 billion dollars in annual revenue.

Founded in 2019 and based in Santa Clara, California in the United States, Raindrop is part of the SaaS trend of “Built by X, for X” companies that was built by procurement professionals to solve enterprise procurement lifecycle demands from sourcing to payment. Amalgam Insights notes that this is a trend in the finance, accounting, and sourcing markets where subject matter experts have come in to build SaaS solutions that have quickly become competitive with legacy solutions that were developed by programmers or technicians lacking deep enterprise practitioner experience. Raindrop was founded by Vijay Caveripakkam and Ward Karson, who bring both provisioning practitioner and consulting backgrounds to the company.

Contextualizing Raindrop in the Enterprise Spend Market

In exploring the Raindrop solution, Amalgam Insights notes that Raindrop’s key differentiation points were associated with providing a modern user experience to support collaboration, workflow automation capabilities, analytic tracking of savings, and clear calls to action to support cost savings, and supplier risk management. The last of these is of particular note, as Amalgam Insights has traditionally seen spend management solutions focus on being systems of record, which led to a practical outcome of creating a data repository that was both complete and overwhelming to analyze on a regular basis. In the 2020s, as Big Data has become regular data and every large data source will overwhelm the human ability to manually audit and query data effectively, people need to use a combination of workflow automation, machine learning, natural language parsing and processing, and rapid contextualization of data to effectively keep up with the constant increases in contract text, transactions, and payments in place.

Raindrop has two key current focus areas. The first is with organizations with less than 50 million dollars in business spend, based on the product’s ease of implementation and a freemium approach that allows clients to sign up for a production-ready instance of the service at no cost to see how contractual obligations can be administrated through a formalized solution. Its second key focus is on larger mid-market to enterprise organizations with 100 to 500 million dollars in business spend to support that customer base. 

Raindrop is designed to be a general spend solution to support planning, supplier management, sourcing, contract management, and payables within a single solution. This integrated lifecycle approach is intended to ensure that data capture associated with contract, vendor, and stakeholder management occurs during transactional execution of payments, contract execution and renewal, and supplier evaluation. As part of this process, Raindrop includes a semi-automated contract loading process that currently automates about half of the contract term entry. From a data privacy perspective, Raindrop has placed a focus on GDPR and on not keeping payment information to support privacy and governance issues such as PCI DSS and FedRAMP compliance.

This solution comes to market at a time when the mid-market procurement market faces a bit of a vacuum. When Scout RFP was purchased by Workday for $540 million, it had made inroads into the mid-market to support cloud-based sourcing and supplier management. However, post-acquisition, Scout RFP development has been more focused on the enterprise customers that Workday focuses on. This development is similar to the work that planning and budgeting solution Adaptive Insights saw post-Workday acquisition.

At the same time, mid-market organizations face greater complexity in their sourcing environments as competitive markets, lowered barriers to purchase, and the proliferation of suppliers in a variety of markets has led to the need to manage spend more closely. As just one example, Amalgam Insights estimates that the average 500 employee company with approximately $100 million in revenue is supporting 250 SaaS vendors, but estimates that less than 100 of them are being formally sourced or managed through procurement. This haphazard approach will lead to spend leakage, missed renewal opportunities, and the inability to aggregate and negotiate licenses over time. And although mid-market companies have typically started to invest in spend management, it is typically in a piecemeal fashion where contract management, purchasing, invoices, payments, and budgeting can each be in a separate application or spreadsheet and there is no direct coordination between each silo other than manual employee changes made on an ad-hoc basis.

Because of both the increasingly complexity of mid-market procurement management and the potential for cost savings through competitive and bulk purchasing exercises, Amalgam Insights believes that the need for mature sourcing and spend management capabilities is now necessary for mid-market organizations that are responsible for good stewardship. Amalgam Insights estimates that the total cost of ownership savings for sourcing management typically matches the expense of an employee or full-time-equivalent at about 100 employees or $20 million in annual revenue and that this cost crossover can occur even earlier in a company’s progression if it is tech-heavy in its operations.

Amalgam Insights’ Recommendations

Amalgam Insights believes that Raindrop’s offering provides a low barrier to entry for business spend as a solution that is as-a-Service, free to start, and provides a modern user interface on par with current web-based applications while providing the breadth of services needed to support business spend management and a standard set of security and compliance requirements needed to support data privacy. In light of the increasing importance of managing the source-to-pay lifecycle for mid-sized organizations, Amalgam Insights recommends Raindrop as a business spend management solution to be considered for organizations with over $20 million in revenue that currently have fragmented or non-existent sourcing management, supplier management, and payment management capabilities.

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Market Alert – Zoho Launches its Business Intelligence Platform

On July 13, 2021, Zoho announced its Business Intelligence Platform which combines data preparation, machine learning, analytics, presentation, and application development into a single suite of services. This platform brings Zoho’s new DataPrep capability and combines is with the existing Zoho Analytics product. The combined platform provides a single solution the clean, augment, analyze, and present data as a visual presentation, application, or as an answer to a question asked in standard English. This analysis is based both on briefings and discussions with Zoho customers.

To provide some background on Zoho, Zoho is a private company founded in 1996 to provide business applications in the cloud. As of now, Zoho supports a business suite of 45 applications available as an integrated suite called Zoho One. Zoho’s Analytics offering, called Zoho Analytics, was first launched as Zoho Reports in 2009 to help users understand their data. Zoho Analytics supports over 10,000 customers across both cloud and on-premises environments. Zoho also supports over 300 white-labelled embedded BI customers across telco, supply chain, and other enterprise environments.

Since 2009, Zoho Analytics has evolved to build in-house capabilities to support data management, a data warehouse, data discovery, collaboration, and a breadth of APIs all used to help support a combination of self-service users and embedded analytics use cases.  Zoho’s analytic platform is based on four key components:

  1. Data Preparation through Zoho DataPrep, which is Zoho’s self-service data preparation application to support data quality, enrichment, transformation, and data modeling capabilities. DataPrep uses machine learning to provide guidance on data enrichment and modeling
  2. Visualization: Zoho enhances traditional dashboarding, reporting, and charting capabilities by providing both access and integration to Zoho Sites, Zoho’s website and portal building product, and Zoho Show, which focuses on presentations. By providing the tools to present and publicly share data outputs, Zoho Analytics extends beyond the dashboard to provide standard access to the digital tools that are typically used to share information: presentations, meetings, intranets, and the internet.
  3. Augmented Analytics, where Zoho’s presentation of descriptive and predictive analytics is enhanced both by the Ask Zia conversational AI (which will be described later in this report) as well as by Zia Insights, which provides a conversational or natural language processing interface for asking questions about the data.
  4. Applications, where Zoho provides a low-code platform called Zoho Creator to build analytic applications that can then be shared through Zoho Marketplace to share either with internal or external customers.

As can be seen from this description, Zoho provides a number of applications in its business suite (including a recently released Zoho Contracts product focused on sourcing) that expand beyond analytics in providing a full business suite of applications for small and medium sized businesses.

Zoho Analytics includes native data management capabilities including data preparation, cleansing, integration, transformation, enrichment, and modeling. This combination of capabilities allows Zoho to keep data relevant over time and to ensure that data is aligned to business terminologies and taxonomies.

Zoho also has its own data warehouse used to model data for analytics. This data warehouse is native to Zoho and includes both in-memory and columnar services to accelerate access to data. Although Zoho typically targets the SMB market, this warehouse has been proven to scale to terabyte-sized data with billions of rows for clients that have needed to grow their analytic environments. This warehouse is currently only available as a part of Zoho Analytics and can be mapped to other cloud data warehouses such as Snowflake or Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) through metadata mapping.

Zoho Analytics works with Zoho’s applications, but also includes over 250 native integrations to other vendors used by its clients including HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics, Quickbooks, Salesforce, ServiceNow, Shopify, and Xero with the understanding that some Zoho clients may use other applications as well. In creating these integrations, With these integrations, Zoho Analytics rivals many of its standalone providers, which is demonstrated by 60% of Zoho Analytics’ usage being associated with data outside of the Zoho One suite.

Zoho Analytics provides all of these services on its own cloud, Zoho Cloud, which has both GDPR and CCPA compliance. Based on customer demand, Zoho has also made Zoho Analytics available on-premises for specific geographies, markets, and use cases, which is an interesting departure from Zoho’s typical focus on cloud apps. Based on this combination of data management capabilities, Amalgam Insights considers Zoho Analytics to take a full-stack approach that allows companies to build an analytic environment solely within the Zoho ecosystem.

The pricing for a paid Zoho Analytics account starts at $24 per month as an entry point and can increase up to $455 per month to support up to 50 users, 50 million rows of data, and unlimited workspaces. Zoho Analytics can also be purchased as part of the Zoho One Suite, which brings almost all of Zoho’s applications into a single subscription which ranges from $37 to $105 per user per month depending on whether a company chooses to enroll every employee or seeks a more flexible model for bringing a portion of employees onto Zoho.

Zoho Analytics’ Support for modern analytic capabilites

All of Zoho Analytics’ capabilities across data management, integration, and analytic distribution help to scale the core capability of visualization and analysis. Amalgam Insights views these visualization and analytic capabilities to provide reports and dashboards to be on par with the current analytic market, but today’s market requires analytic companies to push forward to support natural language queries, collaboration, and machine learning. In this light, Amalgam Insights looked at Zoho Analytics’ capabilities across six areas: natural language processing, statistical and advanced analytics, collaboration, mobility, APIs, and future-facing roadmap.

Zoho has taken steps towards this next generation of analytic delivery through its Ask Zia capability. Zia serves as Zoho’s AI assistant. Initially launched in February 2017, Zia was originally designed to be a sales assistant for the Zoho CRM product to help provide reminders for contacting prospects and taking relevant actions at the right time. Since then, Zia has evolved into an assistant that understands natural language questions across multiple applications including the Analytics product. The word “questions” is used here rather than “query” because the inputs for Zoho’s Ask Zia are plain language questions and requests such as “show me the sales for last year” rather than a query-based text string such as “Search sum of sales amount where Year equals 2020.” Although the two phrases are semantically similar, the prior phrase is based on a standard use of language while the latter requires an understanding of querying logic that is not natural. With Ask Zia, Zoho Analytics is a conversational analytics solution that is capable of providing insights and results to any employee based on the language they use in their everyday workplace.

Business analytics solutions are also increasingly asked to support more statistical and advanced analytics capabilities to help more advanced data users understand probabilities, forecasting, data relationships, trending and regression analysis, seasonality and time-series relationships, and model choices to support optimal forecasting and root-cause analysis. Zoho Analytics first announced forecasting capabilities in November of 2018 and continues to increase support for relevant models to improve results for regression, exponential smoothing, and seasonality trend Loess decomposition.

From a consumption perspective, Zoho Analytics supports embedded analytics, web-based apps, as well as the ability to share linked data through collaboration platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Zoho’s own Zoho Cliq. Zoho Analytics results can be embedded in webpages, shared as a permalink, placed into slideshows, and provided as public resources. Zoho Analytics also supports analytic storytelling through its slideshows, which work similarly to storyboards that exist in other analytics solutions and are used to present Zoho Analytics workspaces.

All of these analytic outputs are available through the Zoho Analytics mobile app, which is designed to emphasize the workspaces, dashboards, and reports created within Zoho Analytics. The app also supports exporting and commenting on analytic views as well.

From a programmatic perspective, Zoho Analytics functionalities are also available through an API which is accessed by a variety of other Zoho applications, such as Zoho CRM, Zoho Creator (a low-code application platform), Zoho Projects (project management), and Zoho Books (accounting) and can also be used to build add-on capabilities for third-party and custom-built applications. The API can be used with a variety of commonly used programming languages including Java, C#, Python, PHP, Go, and Google Applications through prebuilt “Client Libraries” created to support each language and includes a variety of interfaces to access data, modelling, metadata, collaboration, embedded analytics, and Single Sign-On integration. This API includes SQL access to Zoho Services data for those seeking query-based access to data, through what Zoho calls CloudSQL, which supports ANSI, Oracle, Microsoft SQL, IBM DB2, MySQL, PostgreSQL, and Informix-flavored SQL queries.

Amalgam Insights notes that Zoho Analytics has stated that future roadmap items for Zoho Analytics include further improvements in self-service analytics, data catalog, and the analytic formula engine to increase access to computational tools needed for advanced analytics. Self-service analytics has been a key goal for business intelligence over the past decade, driven by solutions such as Tableau and Qlik. Amalgam Insights considers self-service analytics to be an intermediate stage of analytics between the analyst-controlled reports and dashboards that defined the initial generation of analytic solutions and the current era of contextualized insight where analytic outputs are guided by natural language, pre-contextualized for users through role definitions and machine learning and augmented by a combination of human judgment and third-party data sources to guide business-relevant actions.

The data catalog is increasingly important as companies seek to contextualize data for machine learning and data science. By creating a catalog that effectively categorizes and indexes the relationships within relevant business data, businesses can be more prepared for the near-future where they use advanced algorithms and neural nets to support better decision-making and automate high-volume transactional judgment calls.

And Amalgam Insights believes that access to statistical tools, machine learning algorithms, and production-ready machine learning models will provide strategic advantages to the quantitatively savvy organizations that realize that behind the math are opportunities to improve organizational processes, increase business transaction volume and size, and proactively support customer issues.

Amalgam Insights’ Recommendations

Based on the pricing and new functionality of Zoho Analytics, Amalgam Insights recommends Zoho Analytics both as a starting point for using business intelligence and as a tool to bring together data across small and medium businesses that are starting to bring together a variety of applications and have outgrown their initial data organization strategies.

The variety of capabilities Zoho provides across prep, presentation, and application development also makes Zoho a useful and cost-effective augmentation for organizations have already invested in visualization, self-service analytics, and data discovery. In large organizations, where it is not uncommon to invest in multiple analytics and business intelligence products as long as they drive productivity, Amalgam Insights believes Zoho Analytics should also be considered as an end-to-end analytics solution that can quickly bring new data sources from prep to scalable, cloud-based app.

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The Emerging Age of Decision Intelligence

Amalgam Insights recently caught up with diwo, a decision intelligence solution that provides companies with a consistent approach for contextualizing recommendations and developing portfolios of strategies, scenarios, and actions. We first spoke with diwo in 2017 at its launch at the Strata Conference.

Based on discussions with the vendor and with enterprises facing challenges with their analytics, machine learning, Big Data, and data management environments, Amalgam Insights believes that decision intelligence will be a foundational evolutionary stage for enterprise analytics environments in the 2020s and that diwo has an opportunity to be a leading player in this market.

To explain why, consider how the value chain from data recognition and contextualization all the way to recommendation has been largely ignored in the enterprise analytics world as analytics products have been overly focused on the process of “self-service” analytics that drives employees into constant and unending cycles of discovery used to identify data that might be of value.

There are four core issues in enterprise data and analytics that decision intelligence solves:

  1. Decision Intelligence makes analytic recommendations more human.
  2. “Analysis paralysis,” where the search for results and self-driven discovery can lead to a never-ending set of analysis.
  3. A third challenge that exists in the analytic market at large is that the solutions that support natural language and search-based interfaces to ask data questions typically lack “memory.”
  4. A fourth challenge is that even if end-users ask the correct questions, it is hard for analytics solutions to provide semantic or contextual sense of whether those fields are relevant. “Correlation is not Causation” is a standard Statistics 101 truism. But in traditional analytics solutions, correlation is often conflated and is presented as causation.

To read the rest of this piece, read our new report diwo and the Emerging Age of Decision Intelligence available at no cost until July 2nd. This report covers key aspects of this emerging era and how Amalgam Insights believes diwo can play a role in this new era.

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Market Alert – Zylo Delivers on a Platform for SaaS-Centric Business Management

Key Stakeholders: Chief Information Officers, Chief Technology Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Finance and Accounts Payable Directors and Managers, Human Resources Officers, Procurement Directors, Software Asset Managers, IT Architects, Vice President/Director/Manager of IT Operations, DevOps Managers, System Architects, Product Managers, IT Sourcing Directors and Managers, IT Procurement Directors and Managers

Why It Matters: SaaS management requires an integrated set of applications to coordinate the business activites driven by SaaS costs, inventory, and usage. With this RESTful API combined with Zylo’s existing application, SaaS optimization capabilities, and integrations, Zylo delivers not only a strong toolkit for companies to support SaaS management, but a platform for businesses to gain a SaaS-centric view of business activities, projects, and goals.

Top Takeaway: With the Zylo API in place, organizations now have a starting point to gain a SaaS-centric view of the business that maps SaaS to the people, processes, projects, technology, and financial drivers of the business.

About the Zylo API

On May 26, 2021, Zylo, a SaaS (Software as a Service) management company, announced the launch of its independent API to provide access to application license and usage data. This API provides companies with the ability to export SaaS subscription data to analytics and asset management tools, use subscription data to push service order workflows to disconnect and optimize subscription usage, and bring new applications into the Zylo platform to support SaaS portfolio optimization.  

In going through the API documentation for the Zylo platform, Amalgam Insights notes that the Zylo API includes access to application-specific subscriptions, data imports, and data exports. Data access includes SaaS categories and subcategories, business units and goals, supplier name, cost center, expense report information, and user license information. Once these fields are mapped to their equivalent categories across applications, Zylo customers will be able to fully synchronize data on an ongoing basis through a RESTful API. 

This API is comparable in some ways to the API provided by Zylo competitor Productiv, but Amalgam Insights notes that the Productiv API both rate-limits and time-limits data batches that are not currently limited in the Zylo API. SaaS Management Bettercloud also has an API for its platform, but Bettercloud’s focus on SaaS operations and its GraphQL and graph analysis makes Bettercloud’s API and platform more aligned to the tactical challenges of workflow and app network analysis rather than finance and accounting.

Business Context for Why This API Matters

Amalgam Insights takes the view that technology expense management should be a core capability for the financially responsible CIO and that SaaS, cloud, and network expense management solutions can be used as the hubs of activity to determine the financial and business activities associated with technology and business transformation. However, one of the biggest challenges to this vision has been the inability for these expense-based platforms to provide their granular data and optimization recommendations to all of the systems that require increasingly detailed technology usage to support business model transformation and agile finance and accounting-based forecasting exercises.

In addition, SaaS is one of the fastest-growing spend categories in the business world. As a market, SaaS is expected to grow over 20% annually over the next five years leading to a $275 billion market in 2025. SaaS currently makes up half of all new software spend and roughly 10% of all new technology spend that will occur in 2021. From a practical perspective, Amalgam Insights estimates that SaaS will save approximately 25 billion employee-hours or 12.5 million employee years of manual work this year. And Amalgam Insights also notes that businesses start supporting 250 SaaS apps on their network as soon as they get to 500 employees, on average. After that point, the SaaS count grows incrementally as employee count increases. These are all different ways of pointing out the importance of SaaS, whether it be in context of software spend, IT spend, or employee productivity.

So, SaaS matters as a business spend category and it can potentially be used to support a variety of business management and analysis tasks. But the technological access to this data has often been limited in the past to flat files that required an intermediate level of data translation or summary data that lacked the granularity to help support individual employees, assets, plans, projects, and products dependent on the optimal usage of SaaS.

This is why the Zylo API fundamentally matters from Amalgam Insights’ perspective. In today’s technology world, every application wants to call itself a “platform” upon inception, which makes the word almost meaningless. But from a practical perspective, a technology platform is one that can help manage multiple applications and to bring together the data, workflows, and outputs of multiple applications in an integrated fashion to improve business outcomes. This is the promise of Zylo’s API in providing a SaaS-centric way of looking at the business usage of SaaS for a variety of applications. 

From Amalgam Insights’ perspective, this was the missing link in seeking an app-based vision for tracking, planning, budgeting, and forecasting business activity from a SaaS-based perspective. If apps and the cloud are as important as everyone in the technology and business worlds claims and if digital transformation is truly important to justify the billions being spent on it, businesses need to find a way to track work not only by department and employee, but by application as well. This next level of visualizing work, employee enablement, project resource dependencies, and digital workflow supply chains is what Amalgam Insights ultimately finds most interesting about the emergence of this API.

Recommendations for the Technology Expense Community

Our key recommendation is this: Work to gain a SaaS-centric view of the business that maps SaaS to the people, processes, projects, technology, and financial drivers of the business. 

To contexualize this recommendation, consider that the technology expense community largely comes from three areas at the moment: telecom expense management, software asset management, and cloud cost management (also known as FinOps). These three categories of workers typically bring together some understanding of technology, sourcing, and accounting to help the business based on the IT Rule of 30, which states that every unmanaged IT subscription spend category averages 30% in waste.  By optimizing these spend categories, the technology expense community has proven its worth as we have saved large enterprises millions of dollars while providing visibility to opaque and complex spend categories.

But we are facing a moment of reckoning when technology has become increasingly important to the foundational operations of a company. The COVID pandemic proved the need to both manage and support employees quickly and regardless of their physical location. As connectivity, data access, and application access became the biggest bottlenecks to accessing expertise and completing work that required multiple employees, the need to understand the cost basis of SaaS, the SaaS licenses and access that each employee required to be fully productive, and the infrastructure and security requirements associated with SaaS all became mandatory to track and visualize on a regular basis. 

In this light, the key recommendation Amalgam Insights provides to the technology expense community based on this announcement is clear: it is no longer enough to only cut costs and businesses require a SaaS-centric business view to go along with finance-centric and people-centric views. You may not be in the position to fully act on the repercussions of what you find, but you are in a perfect position to empower your CIO, CFO, and CEO on this vital view of apps that run the business. 

Amalgam Insights believes that the Zylo API combined with the existing Zylo application, data schema, and integrations provides a strong foundation for visualizing the SaaS-enabled enterprise. Whether companies choose to work with Zylo, work with another SaaS management provider, or build their own solution, Amalgam Insights believes that the future of IT management is dependent not only on cost visibility and savings, but on providing a business lens to link technologies to core business functions.

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Salto Raises $42 Million to Reduce Technical Debt of Enterprise Infrastructure

Key Stakeholders: Chief Information Officers, Chief Technology Officers, Vice President/Director/Manager of Platform Engineering, Vice President/Director/Manager of Operations, System Architects, Product Managers, Product Marketing Managers, IT Finance, Software Asset Managers, Sales Operations, Marketing Operations

Why It Matters: As Software as a Service continues to balloon into a $275 billion global market by 2025 and the typical Global 5000 enterprise supports over 1,000 apps over its network, the challenge of SaaS configuration increasingly is linked to employee onboarding and productivity. Just as the battle for enterprise mobility security was a core concern for the 2010s, the battle for SaaS app governance will be a core IT concern for the 2020s.

Key Takeaway: IT departments must coordinate enterprise architects, security and governance teams, and software asset management personnel to ensure that all major SaaS applications considered mission-critical have well-governed configuration testing and management capabilities.

About the Funding Round

On May 19, 2021, application configuration platform Salto announced a $42 million B round led by Accel with participation by Salesforce Ventures and prior investors Lightspeed Venture Partners and Bessemer Venture Partners. This round comes only seven months after a $27 million A round announced in October 2020.

With this round of funding, Salto is expected to continue developing its solution and rapidly hiring. Salto currently supports Salesforce, NetSuite, HubSpot, Workato, and Zuora. These core SaaS applications are all market leaders, but considering the breadth of additional enterprise applications currently in market, the potential value associated with Salto supporting additional solutions is obvious and massive.

What Does Salto Do and Why Is It Worth So Much?

Salto is a solution for configuring business applications in a repeatable, scalable, and governed fashion at a time when the administration of Software as a Service is becoming increasingly complicated and challenging. Salto uses DevOps-based and software development-based tools and methodologies to help enterprise support SaaS at scale.

This mindset comes from Salto’s founders, Rami Tamir, Benny Shnaider, and Gil Hoffer, who collectively founded Salto in 2019 after previously working at Pentacom, Quumranet, and Ravello. Each company ended up exiting for over $100 million, showing the type of track record that venture capital firms love to see.

Salto’s core technology is maintained as an Open Source project ( and a SaaS toolkit that includes

  • Not Another Configuration Language (NaCl… get it?), a structured language to help support and define software configurations
  • A command-line interface with operations commands including
    Fetch, which connects to each enterprise application and downloads current configurations for users
  • Deploy, which compare your preferred configurations to existing configurations and then creates an execution plan to fix configurations
  • A Salto vs-code extension to the vs-code IDE used to interact with NaCl-based files.

The SaaS offering of Salto also supports

  • Environments that allow for testing a service instance of an application and can be managed through the Fetch and Deploy applications
  • A Git client, which helps users to effectively push or pull changes as needed to support software configuration.

So, why does this matter so much for IT?

Let’s take a step back. We have established that software is one of the greatest force multipliers for human effort in the history of the world. It is nearly impossible to get work done in large enterprises without using at least one or more complex enterprise software solutions, such as an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.

To add to this complexity, the dominant deployment mode for software is now Software as a Service, which is growing over 25% per year and drives the majority of new software purchases. Amalgam Insights estimates that the average company with 1000 employees is running 500 applications on their network and about 10% of those apps are centrally managed through IT as key enterprise data assets and workflow managers. These SaaS applications are being updated constantly, to the point that many vendors have given up on providing formal versions and instead simply provide agile updates. Even vendors with formal versions are releasing new functionalities and fixes on a constant basis.

In this era of immense application environments and constant change, companies can easily end up with inconsistent environments across departments and locations as they customize their software deployments with user interface preferences and specific code to match their business needs. Companies need to support their software suites based on business dependencies and make sure that core software solutions are always working for the sake of employee productivity.

Amalgam Insights believes that Salto’s SaaS configuration solution is an important management solution for end-user computing that has not been fully developed as of yet. At a time when everything from paper to on-premises software to hardware is all being replaced by SaaS, companies have either been offered SaaS operations management solutions to govern and secure licenses, Software asset management to manage the inventory of applications, or SaaS expense management to reduce and optimize spend. However, these three families of SaaS management do not effectively govern and audit the configuration and administration of applications

Salto uses NaCl to extract the metadata associated with a software configuration to provide users with a consistent taxonomy, text search, and references to make sure that companies understand what happens when they change their software configurations. Seemingly minor access or usability changes may end up unwittingly breaking business processes and interdepartmental collaboration.

The Value Chain of Salto for Enterprise Environments

The practical result is that Salto has seen customers claim to accelerate update times by 75%. The resulting productivity can be framed in several ways.

First, the terms of the (value of the new solution) * (the number of employees affected). This value should be based on a value based on the average revenue per employee, as employee output is based on revenue, not compensation.

Second, the avoidance of technical debt and avoiding the conflicts of multiple versions or broken versions in production can be estimated.

Third, the value of having visibility to the full configuration and interrelationships that each software system has can lead to better business process management and accelerated business changes. This value may be more difficult to quantify, but is often noticed at the executive level when businesses are trying to make changes.

Fourth, this level of visibility and auditability can lead to more rapid governance and compliance reporting as well as improved protection to potential security vulnerabilities related both to application configuration and the human aspects associated with working on misconfigured applications.

Altogether, the value of Salto quickly adds up to 1% of an employee’s annual productivity, which Amalgam Insights estimates to be between $3,200 per year.

Hyoun Park, Chief Analyst Amalgam Insights

It is not unreasonable to think that an employee could quickly lose an hour or two each month from NetSuite or Salesforce configuration issues, either from direct work issues or from the lineage, reporting, and security issues that follow. At the enterprise level, this quickly escalates to over $3 million for every 1,000 employees, making the business case for Salto more obvious.

This is ultimately the case that Salto is making in a SaaS-empowered world and that Accel, Bessemer, Lightspeed, and Salesforce Ventures have signed off nearly $70 million to pursue.

Recommendation for Enterprise IT Departments

Amalgam Insights’ key recommendation in light of this announcement is simple: Work with enterprise architects to ensure that all major SaaS applications considered mission-critical have well-governed configuration testing and management capabilities. 

Enterprise SaaS is currently a $110 billion market that will grow to $275 billion in 2025. In light of this growth and the increasing corporate dependence on SaaS to support business processes, companies must have a solution to support effective SaaS configuration management and changes. In this world of ever-changing technical needs, IT must keep up and ensure that SaaS deployments and updates are governed just as more traditional software, hardware, network, data center, and other IT resources are.

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May 14, 2021: From BI to AI: A Weekly Recap of Data and Analytics

Amalgam Insights is relaunching its weekly summary of important announcements in the data and analytics space. If you would like your announcement to be included in these roundups, please email

Product Launches and Updates

DataRobot Delivers New Platform Enhancements

At their AI Experience Worldwide event this week, DataRobot announced a number of enhancements to its enterprise AI platform, with the goal of making it easier for every user to have AI be useful for them.

* Composable ML will allow advanced AutoML users with the requisite coding background to tweak existing DataRobot “blueprints” for their specific use cases.
* Continuous AI extends DataRobot’s MLOps product by letting users schedule relevant retraining sessions for models in production. These events can be scheduled on a regular basis, or when specific events occur such as data drift. In addition, new challenger models can be automatically created with AutoML to ensure the model that best fits the data is the one in production.
* The No Code AI App Builder will allow any user to turn a model into an application without needing to code, letting business users and decision makers leverage their model’s predictions in a more timely manner.
* Bias and Fairness Production Monitoring enables bias testing and monitoring of production models, warning when bias is detected and what factors are responsible.
* Model Grader will score existing models on four vectors: data quality, model robustness, model accuracy, and model fairness. At a glance, customers will be able to understand how their models perform with these criteria in mind.

In addition, DataRobot also partnered with Hivecell to deploy AI in edge computing environments, launched an AI for Health Incubator, and joined a World Economic Forum initiative to address ethics in artificial intelligence.

IBM Announces New Hybrid Cloud and AI Capabilities

During this week’s Think event, IBM announced new capabilities to bring data and AI together.

* IBM debuted AutoSQL, a new capability within IBM Cloud Pak for Data. Customers will be able to automate access to their data, even across hybrid and multi-cloud environments, without having to move or copy said data. This will speed up the use of said data while mitigating the risks of creating further data silos that occur when data is moved.
* IBM launched Watson Orchestrate, an interactive AI that will assist users in performing “tasks” from procuring approvals to preparing proposals more quickly in order to focus on more strategic tasks. Watson Orchestrate is currently available in preview as part of the IBM Automation Cloud Paks.

Altair One Cloud Platform Debuts New Features and Functionality

On Monday, May 10, Altair launched Altair One, a portal for the Altair product suite, including access to Altair’s data analytics and management tools and its high-performance computing (HPC) capabilities. By integrating its AI and analytics tools with its base of computer-aided engineering and design tools into a single suite, Altair One can provide value for organizations whose use cases have combined needs for HPC and AI together.


DataRobot Acquires Zepl to Enhance Enterprise AI Platform Capabilities for Advanced Data Scientists

In addition to the updates to its platform noted above, on Tuesday, May 11, DataRobot announced that it had also acquired Zepl, a cloud data science and analytics platform. Zepl will be incorporated into the DataRobot platform in its notebook form, allowing more advanced data scientists to code their own tasks and models manually within DataRobot, and collaborate with business analysts in one place to extend their initial model-building efforts.

New Hires

Alteryx Appoints Paula Hansen as Chief Revenue Officer

Monday, May 14, Alteryx appointed Paula Hansen as their Chief Revenue Officer. Hansen has held the CRO position before at SAP Customer Experience, and before that served as Vice President of Cisco’s Global Enterprise organization. Hansen brings broad enterprise solutions sales capabilities to this position that are in line with Alteryx’ plans for future growth as a foundational platform for supporting analytics and AI.


U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Approves Technology Research Bill

On Wednesday, May 12, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the Endless Frontier Act (S.1260), a $110 billion bill to promote technology research over the next five years. Among the key technology areas included were artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, and energy. Amalgam Insights believes that this bill will fundamentally affect the product development maps of AI, cybersecurity, and quantum computing vendors and provide standards that will be incorporated into RfPs and other software sourcing exercises.

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vCom Solutions releases Version 13.1 of vManager IT Lifecycle & Spend Management Platform

On May 10, 2021, vCom Solutions announced general availability for their IT Lifecycle Management Solution vManager 13.1. This is the first version of vCom that includes cloud FinOps support for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

This version also includes vManager Marketplace, which allows vCom customers to do comparative purchases of IT services based on real-time pricing across hundreds of network, mobility, and collaboration vendors, “Pay Now” functionality that allows vCom customers’ accounting teams to digitize and pay invoices more easily through the checking account, and mobile analytics to support mobile rate and inventory optimization.

These capabilities reflect several core challenges that Amalgam Insights notes in managing IT. First, cloud Infrastructure as a Service continues to grow extremely rapidly, with all major vendors outpacing industry estimates for revenue growth. Amalgam Insights expects IaaS to continue growing roughly 20% year-over-year, leading to a $275 billion dollar market in 2025. This IaaS trend is part of a bigger trend of public cloud (Software, Platform, and Infrastructure as a Service) where half of all new IT spend in 2021 will come from the public cloud and that the public cloud market will grow to be over $600 billion in 2025.

Second, this spend will come in to face the IT Rule of 30, which states that every unmanaged IT spend category will provide a potential 30% savings opportunity.

The IT Rule of 30 has gone undefeated across network, telecom, mobility, and software and it continues to reign in cloud. As the next $100 billion+ of IaaS spend comes in over the next five years, there will be many billions of dollars in cost savings opportunities.

Third, as IT is increasingly consumerized, companies have more flexibility than ever to choose their providers. However, vendor choice is only useful if companies can effectively manage the sourcing and procurement process. Otherwise, IT departments can fall prey to the analysis paralysis that occurs when the size and detail of data overwhelm the human ability to process data. Vendor choices need to be centralized and provided on an apples-to-apples basis to support effective IT purchases.

Amalgam Insights’ Recommendation

Amalgam Insights believes the combination of platform improvements along with vCom’s current reputation for customer service and managed services should be seen as a valuable combination of capabilities for mid-market organizations seeking both to manage IT costs across all subscription charges and hardware.

With this release, vCom has taken several big steps to quickly make enterprise-grade functionality available to its clients. vCom’s version 13.1 provides several meaningful upgrades for existing customers across cloud, mobility, and payments. Most importantly, this update allows vCom to support cloud costs at a time when mid-market organizations are increasingly either supporting or planning to support million-dollar cloud bills. Amalgam Insights recommends that companies considering a net-new solution for managing IaaS to consider vCom as a solution that will allow holistic visibility across the hybrid cloud (hardware and IaaS) as well as network, telecom, SaaS, collaboration, and mobility.