The Two-Second Advantage: Talking with TIBCO’s Vivek Ranadivé

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interface. That’s on the consumer side. On the business side, the amount of information has grown explosively, and the amount of time you have to react to it has gone down dramatically. If your passport gets stolen and three days later somebody shows up at a border crossing with our passport, there’s a good chance it’s a bad guy, but you have less than 9 seconds to determine that. If you have to sort through mountains of data in a database, it’s not going to cut it.

X: I bet the casino industry loves this idea.

VR: The casinos all use TIBCO. They used to use a data warehousing model. You would go to the casino, you would lose $500, and you’d leave. Six months later, the data warehouse would kick in, and it would send a letter saying, “You usually come every four months and it’s been six months and you haven’t been here.” How did we move this into the 21st century? We put in the nervous system. So now every hotel reservation system, every restaurant, every theater, every slot machine knows who you are. Every pull on the slot machine is an event. So it looks and says, ‘”You just lost $300, $400.” It goes to the brain, and the brain says, “If this guy loses $500, he’s not going to be happy.” Since everything is in the nervous system, it knows that there is some food at the restaurant that will go to waste in two hours, and it knows that there is a magic show coming up with a seat empty in the front row. That activates the muscle, the business processes. So a young lady, the casino ambassador, taps you on the shoulder, and says “Good news sir, we have your table set at your favorite restaurant and some show tickets compliments of the house.” And it’s all stuff that would have gone to waste anyway.

X: What comes after The Power of Now and your second book, The Power to Predict? Do you have another book in the works?

VR: Yes, the title of the next book is The Two-Second Advantage. The concept is very simple—that whether it’s people or corporations, it turns out that if you have just a little bit of the right information, just a little bit beforehand—just a couple of seconds or hours, but not weeks or months—it’s more valuable than all the information in the world six months after the fact. If you know where the ball is going to, as Roger Federer knows, you have an advantage. The message of the book is that corporations that have the two-second advantage will outperform their competitors.

X: What’s your take on cloud computing? Larry Ellison has called it “gibberish,” and argued that it’s just a rebranding of existing ways of doing computing.

VR: The way he’s doing it, it is. If you just take Enterprise 2.0 and put it in the cloud, you have just paved the cowpath. You haven’t done anything new. You are still using the buggy and whip. So not all clouds are equal, and he’s right about that part. What Oracle does, he calls “Cloud in a Box,” which sounds to me a bit like an oxymoron, further demonstrating their lack of understanding of the cloud.

What we do is help companies create what we call enterprise clouds. It’s in memory, it’s event driven, it’s real-time. It’s not just taking what you have and making it so that everyone can use it. TIBCO’s role is that we are the largest independent provider of cloud middleware—the software that allows you to create a cloud. The average enterprise will create clouds, but they will be combinations of the public cloud and private clouds, and there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of scaling and security and usability and access. Just as we are the infrastructure for the enterprise, we are the infrastructure for the cloud.

X: Can’t putting your company’s information in the cloud actually slow things down, given that the data is more distributed and has to travel over the Internet?

VR: That’s where our technology comes into play. Those things are all non-trivial technologies, and we have a great deal of experience building these kinds of facilities, like public-private clouds that don’t suffer from latency.

X: TIBCO bought a Massachusetts company called Spotfire in 2007, for $195 million. What was the significance of that acquisition for you?

VR: What Spotfire does is the next generation of visual analytics based on in-memory computing. It’s really a 21st-century spreadsheet. The appeal of it is very wide. On the one hand you have scientists trying to find a cure for cancer using it to look at massive datasets, and on the other hand you have sports fans using it to run their fantasy football leagues. The kinds of insights that pop out when … Next Page »

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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