Yes, seriously. We love when customers replace our software. It might seem counterintuitive at first, but when customers start replacing parts of Visallo it’s because they truly understand the value of the platform and are making the most of it.
And we love that!
You see, we never set out to build the world’s-best Natural Language Processing (NLP) capability, video analytics tool, or facial recognition software. Entire companies exist to solve those individual problems, each of which may be critical to some customers but irrelevant for others. What we built with Visallo is a platform packed with a broad range of open source or low-cost capabilities, developed as plugins, which can be substituted with best-in-class solutions where mission-critical need exists.
Let me give you some examples to illustrate the point.
One of our customers - let’s call them Customer G - deals with large amounts of social media data. Given the unstructured nature of social data, it’s critical for them to have a great NLP capability in order to glean any useful information. Just open up your Twitter account and read a few recent posts and you’ll understand the difficulty.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Now, Customer G wasn’t getting the results on social media data they were hoping for with the default OpenNLP plugin. They had a preference for Stanford’s CoreNLP project and felt it would provide better results for their particular problem. So, armed with the Visallo Developer’s Guide and a Java code editor, they implemented the appropriate interfaces, built a custom plugin based on CoreNLP, removed Visallo’s default OpenNLP version, and dropped in their own. And voila, they instantly started getting better results from their social media text extraction while the rest of Visallo remained unchanged.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “is it really that easy?” Well, in most cases, yes. In fact, we didn’t even know Customer G had done it until weeks later when it came up during a periodic call to check on their progress.
And it’s not limited to open source substitutions. You can swap in your favorite commercial products or home-grown solutions too.
For example, several of our clients require advanced cross-language name matching and entity extraction from languages not commonly supported by open source solutions. In such situations, they can integrate a product like Basis Technology’s Rosette in the same manner as Customer G replaced OpenNLP. In fact, this scenario comes up so often that I even have a slide for it in my standard deck.
While I know we’d all love to find that silver bullet to solve all our problems with legendary ease and despite endless vendor claims to the contrary, it just doesn’t exist. We know that, have come to terms with it, and designed Visallo accordingly - even if that means a customer will replace some parts of our software.
Shouldn’t customers expect that of their vendors?