A Serena Collage customers' mailing lit up this morning with news that the software vendor (who focuses mostly on configuration management and mash-up tools) was going to discontinue development of its (somewhat hidden) Web CMS tool.
Evidently the news got leaked inadvertently, and Serena wasn't fully prepared to clarify. According to one customer, their account rep laid out a schedule whereby Serena would continue to sell new seat licenses for the next year, and then continue to offer paid support for another year. Serena will issue no new releases, just patches for issues of "the highest severity level."
In some ways, the tool was already suffering a long decline. As Web CMS Report readers know, Serena has not really invested much in Collage over the past few years, so at some level, this news was really a kind of a formality. Still, as you can imagine, some customers are angry and anxious, and a few have already received calls from competing vendors (bad news travels fast!).
Just remember though that products with a decent customer base don't go away easily. In all likelihood, Serena will sell its assets, among which the customer base may earn more than the code base. On the phone with a longtime Collage customer today, we reviewed potential scenarios:
- Serena lets the product wither after two years and customers slowly migrate to competing technologies
- Serena sells the product/customers to another Web CMS vendor -- not very comfortable for existing licensees unless the new owner commits to a second product rather than push them to migrate in a consolidation play
- Serena sells the product/customers to a systems integration partner, who continues to support (and ideally extend) the tool -- a very nice outcome for customers if they know and trust the firm, and if the integrator can actually gear up to develop and support packaged software (not a simple undertaking)
- Serena sells the product/customers to another software vendor that doesn't presently sell a Web CMS tool (like a document management vendor) -- very nice in theory, except when you remember that this is precisely how Collage ended up (and ended up unloved) at Serena in the first place
- Serena puts the code base into open source and tells customers and partners to work it all out -- not a bad outcome, but probably perceived as high-risk among existing customers.
Customers facing a 1- to 2-year support window may find some comfort in Collage's relative ease of maintenance. Said that customer today, "I spent $10k a year to Serena for support and never needed it once."
And moreover, as a decoupled, HTML "baking" system that sits behind your website or web applications, licensees' visitor-facing services are not at risk here. As Web 2.0-style coupled architectures come back in vogue, it's worth reconsidering the value of good old fashioned separation of concerns.