This week I've been out in the thigh-slapping, foot-tapping world of Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music that is playing host to OpenText Enterprise World 2016.
Most company conferences like this are awash with product releases, but OpenText has done things slightly differently. There may only have been two real product announcements, but what the Canadian-born company has done is signal its intent to take on one of the elder statesmen of the technology world.
That's right, OpenText has IBM in its sights.
During the opening keynote on Tuesday morning, OpenText CTO and CEO Mark Barrenechea announced Magellan, a "next generation analytics platform" designed to provide enterprises with deep business insights.
Described by Mark as "one of the most exciting things that we’re working on" - Magellan will be built on x86 hardware and will leverage the Spark Apache framework to provide an open framework and open algorithms, incorporating a variety of engines including "voice recognition, facial recognition, natural language processing and semantic analysis."
But even more interesting than the product itself, is the bullish way in which OpenText is calling out IBM Watson. "We are going to position it directly against Watson. We’re not going to shy away from that at all," Mark said. "We think there’s a whole class of problems that enterprises want to solve themselves and what they need is an affordable platform, one that’s open and programmable to them and accessible to them and that’s going to be Magellan. So we’re going to position ourselves and stay focused directly against Watson."
During the keynote Mark produced a slide illustrating the differences between the two platforms, which is shown below. The key differences are the general openness of Magellan compared to Watson, the IP ownership (which IBM owns in Watson, but the developer owns in Magellan) and the price - "Magellan will be highly affordable, where Watson is astronomically expensive."
There are some very obvious differences there and in our media Q&A Mark was keen to point out that this was no accident, Magellan was born out of multiple conversations with customers: "Over the last year Watson has been on the mind of a lot of CIOs and CEOs. And I’m not here to bash Watson, it has a place in the market and will fill that upper 10 per cent of the marketplace but it is a sledgehammer to crack many of the walnuts that exist."
"It’s a big, big machine that is overkill for most of the world’s problems. I hear a lot of frustration, almost unequivocal frustration with Watson of its expense, its closed-ness and that it’s a sledgehammer when I’m trying to crack a walnut."
So, there you have it. OpenText has IBM in its sights and is ready to go tow-to-toe in a marketplace that has huge financial potential. Now we'll have to wait and see if OpenText's plan to "democratise cognitive" bears fruit.