With Service Catalog, Ensim's Automation Suite takes aim at service providers, enterprises

Analyst: Rachel Chalmers
9 Nov, 2012

Built on the underlying technology of its Synergy business support system, Ensim's Service Catalog Manager offers unified provisioning for private and hybrid cloud computing. It's designed to work with all of the services typically offered by enterprise IT shops and their partners. The software lets users request application and infrastructure services from IT while relieving IT from the burden of treating each request as a separate, manual project with custom approvals and exceptions.

The 451 Take
Ensim is one of the companies we seldom see showing up in competitive landscapes against the other enterprise ISVs we cover, but that's not necessarily to its detriment. The company has identified large telcos as strategically key to seeding its software throughout the hybrid cloud food chain, and by its own standards it's doing very well there – Belgacom and France Telecom are notable reference accounts. Ensim's new Service Catalog Manager could help enterprise IT look more like a service provider and service providers look more like consumer Web apps – both imperatives that are increasingly important as IT end users make ever more demands.

Founded in 1998 by two academics from Cornell University, Ensim is based in Santa Clara,California. The company made its reputation in server virtualization and automation software for Web hosting administration, on the strength of which it raised $85m in VC, including a single $64m round in 2001. Then came the crash. By 2007 it had sold its Ensim Pro control panel to SWsoft, now part of Parallels.

Ensim itself refocused on its Unify software, a .NET-based application for hosted, shared and dedicated Exchange management. In 2011, it added the Synergy business support system, a J2EE-based platform on which the new Ensim Service Catalog Manager is based. Now together called the Ensim Automation Suite, the software has done well selling both direct and through VARs, and the company boasts 90 service-provider customers, including Belgacom, Dell, Easynet Global Services, France Telecom, HP, KDDI, Microsoft, NTT Communications, Siemens, Tata Group and Wipro.

As a result, Ensim claims it has been profitable for three and a half years straight. A reverse merger recapitalization in 2010 has left the company majority employee-owned, shedding a lot of baggage from the old board and investors. Ensim says it has no debt whatsoever. It employs 75 people, 60 of them offshore in two teams of 30, one each in Kolkata and Pune, India.

The Service Catalog Manager was designed to give these customers a turnkey package for ordering, pricing, rating, billing, invoicing, charging, reconciliation, payment, notification and approval of services. It's fully integrated both with Ensim Service Operations Manager (Unify's new name) and with the library of Service Connectors that Ensim has built up over the years. Taken together, the Automation Suite should now give customers everything they need to onboard, provision, orchestrate and bill for business applications in private, public and hybrid clouds.

Ensim's service catalog product and others like it embody the contradiction that enterprises and service providers face as their respective customers get savvier and more demanding. Enterprise end users want to be able to open a portal and order services from IT as easily as they can from consumer Web companies. Hosters and managed service providers must offer similarly flexible access to their enterprise customers. At the top of the food chain, in Ensim's view, are the telcos, and this is why the company has tried to focus on that vertical.

One difficulty it must contend with, though, is that its existing footprint for the Ensim Automation Suite is in the messaging and security group. It's often an entirely different group that makes the buying decisions for products like service catalogs, especially within the enterprise.

Parallels is obviously a big name in automation platforms for service providers. Ensim claims a couple of advantages over Parallels. Executives say the Parallels software was conceived with small-scale Linux environments in mind. While it can do invoicing, Ensim believes it can't compete in integration with Ensim's architecture, which is all RESTful APIs.

CA Technologies and Cisco, thanks to its newScale acquisition, play in the service catalog space, but Ensim's real target is the venerable Amdocs. The company's most successful pitch, especially in its strategic large telco accounts, seems to be: 'We can do what Amdocs does, for a tenth of the price.'

SWOT Analysis
Strengths Weaknesses
Ensim has a simplified financial structure, a large and geographically dispersed customer base and, now, a product that addresses a key pain point for service providers and enterprises. To reach service catalog buyers, the company must identify and make contact with new groups, especially in its enterprise customers.
Opportunities Threats
The consumerization of IT forces IT shops to behave more like service providers, and service providers to behave more like consumer Web apps. To do so, both constituencies will need something like Ensim Service Catalog Manager. Amdocs may not be able to move quickly against younger rivals, but CA, Cisco and Parallels can.