Recently I was briefed by WorkXpress about their Platform as a Service that they tout as being “the world’s most functional PaaS”. That’s a pretty lofty claim given the competition in the marketplace so I thought I’d take a look under the hood. I spoke with Treff LaPlante, President and CEO of this seven year old business to get the run down on what they do.
To demonstrate where WorkXpress feel they lie on the PaaS continuum, they have developed a quadrant model that plots different PaaS products along two axes – one to measure the complexity of application that can be built on the platform, the other to measure the ease of use of the application builder. WorkXpress feel they have the magic combination of high need fulfillment, along with ease of use.
WorkXpress breaks applications down into five fundamental types of “building blocks” these are: forms, fields, data sets, relationships and logic. Using these five types of blocks, users can “build” applications in a contextual WYSIWYG environment using drag and drop and cross-linking at will. The video below shows what it’s like to build an app in WorkXpress;
Standard with WorkXpress is integration to a number of popular applications including; Quickbooks, Skype, UPS, Google Maps, currency conversion, Google language translation, FTP services, IMAP email services. Other integrations can be readily built using the WorkXpress API.
Interestingly enough WorkXpress sees themselves purely as the application building entity and is hosting agnostic, they support;
- WorkXpress hosted on their secure servers
- WorkXpress hosted on customer’s own servers for complete control
- WorkXpress hosted on third party’s servers
WorkXpress have built a bunch of applications already – from CRM to accounting, and these can all be manipulated at will within the Application editor screen. The lineup can be seen in the Application Library.
I was interested to get a WorkXpress user’s perspective on the service, in part to get a read on their perception of the ease of use and functionality, but more importantly to asses their perspective on the robustness or otherwise of WorkXpress – this is even more important given the recent demise of Coghead, another PaaS players. I talked with Govind Davis from MCF Technology Solutions. He was very complementary of the functionality and ease of use highlighting the simplicity and logic yet power and flexibility that WorkXpress gives him. In relation to the business longevity issues, their perspective was all the more interesting given that they were a Coghead customer previously;
1. Despite what start-ups might say, big VC funding does not equal security for end users. In fact our experience is the opposite. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that flashy, highly funded technologies tend to live and die quickly, with funders all too willing to pull the plug without concern for customers. We feel that WorkXpress has a long term vision and a true customer commitment.
2. The technology underlying WorkXpress is proprietary but uses well known, low risk components (MySQL, PHP). Coghead was to a degree too cutting edge in using a fairly obscure Berkley XML database and Adobe Flex front end. This left very few options for continuity once Coghead was acquired.
So it’ll be interesting to see. There’s a lot of shaking down to occur in the PaaS space and one thing’s for sure – it’ll look very different in 12-24 months time from what it does today.