I asked Craig for an example of how a developer might work with Ariba web inside a company. He gave me a simple but valuable example about how a manufacturer could create a quick tool to solve a sourcing need -- bridging the design/engineering and sourcing gap. For this example, imagine the case of this company that in the past developed a manual or hand-coded solution to the following problem: "the organization has a third party system for design which contains the bill of material (BOM) data that they would source. They need a bridge between the application that maintained the BOM and cost structures that would build this. The current process is a manual or hard-coded bridge between the sourcing environment and the engineering application but you could build this in AribaWeb today and automate the process." Ultimately, third-party developed Open Source applications such as this may "open the door for Ariba to follow-up with a library that builds on top of the open source application and integration framework". But that's down the road.
Regardless, Ariba has no intention of developing a SalesForce.com platform business model. This is consistent with Craig's historic view that Open Source platforms "make a lot of sense in horizontal infrastructure but not from an application standpoint." Need further proof? Coupa, a vendor that started out entirely positioning itself as the Open Source eProcurement product, has all but moved away from this strategy commercially. Interesting thought, but as an aside, perhaps if Coupa had it to do over, they might even skip the Ruby on Rails development path they took opting for AribaWeb. Why? If Craig's and Bhaskar's claims are even remotely accurate -- I've not used the platform myself or interviewed anyone outside Ariba who has -- then AribaWeb would be an invaluable wrench to have in just about any Java developer's toolbox, speeding the development process and creating streamlined, better code.
- Jason Busch