Recently, Wayne Warren took a short sabbatical from his job as chief technical officer at embedded database software provider Raima to start a bakery. He came back convinced there was a new way to sell software.
The trick: providing samples of how the company’s embedded RDM works so that potential customers can “taste” the software.
“In the bakery, like many others, a common practice is to keep the customers and casual passers-by liberally supplied with small, tasty tidbits and samples of all of the baked goods – breads, cakes, cookies, crackers – sweet and sour, salty and with all sorts of flavors,” said Warren. “It was enormously popular with our customers and whatever tidbits were available for free sampling drove the sales through the roof.”
A similar strategy, he said, is used in some movie theater popcorn stands and in malls and department stores with popcorn vendors. “Admittedly just the smell of fresh-cooked popcorn is overwhelming,” he said. “But a taste of the samples provided is what hooks you.”
When he looked at the way Raima – and indeed most software providers – sell their software products, it was usually a matter of too little or too much. Video or on line demonstrations of how the software works or is used, he said, is like looking in the window at pizzeria watching the cook make a pizza. “Interesting, dramatic but minimal in terms of information,” said Warren. “Software downloads with limited functionality are also not very satisfying. It’s like popcorn without butter or salt.”
He believes software sampling (called “popcorn samples” by Raima ) is destined to become a requirement by any provider of sophisticated system software. “Software sampling creates a ‘tasting room,’ for software evaluators that need to make serious decisions based on their unique needs,” he said.
Rather than downloading a complete product, reading manuals and building example programs (a process requiring several hours or days), an evaluator is able to download a sample (normally less than 1MB), unzip it, build it in his/her development system, step through the code, “get it,” then delete the sample. “A software sample is a taste,” said Warren, “where a software evaluation is a meal. Samples are instant (normally less than 5 minutes) and do not require preparation.”
Raima’s new Popcorn Samples; cover the two major areas that he believes evaluators of database management systems are concerned about: functionality and performance .
Functional database popcorn sample s begin with “Hello World” and build in complexity from there, where each sample shows a major functional feature of Raima’s RDM DBMS. “Hello World” is written for Raima’s supported APIs (Core, native SQL, ADO.NET, ODBC, JDBC, and Object Oriented), development systems (Windows, Linux) and languages (C, C++, C#, Java, VB and Objective-C). After sampling “Hello World,” which demonstrates how a simple program is written, compiled and linked into an executable program, an evaluator will see a complete series of samples with increasing complexity, each using the API and language of choice.
Performance database popcorn samples begin with an in-memory database being filled with 50,000 simple records, updating the records, then deleting the records. Each phase is timed so that evaluators can see the times on their own computer. Again, said Warren, this basic sample is available for multiple operating systems, APIs and languages. Additional performance samples become more complex, to the point where multiple transaction processes and multiple query processes using MVCC read-only transactions are running concurrently.
“Software sampling allows an evaluator to become familiar with the functionality and performance of a complex software system without the typical investment,” said Warren. “Successive ‘tastes’ of software can provide a sufficient basis for deciding to move forward with the evaluation or move on.”
Try it out. I think you will like it. I did. I learned a lot about specific features of the DBMS and I learned much more about how embedded DBMSes work in a variety of circumstances. Frankly, I think it’s a simple yet innovative way to optimize the time of those looking for solutions to their needs in software system development.
I have not seen anything quite like this approach to evaluating software. Selfishly, I hope software sample “tasting” becomes a common way of evaluating software. Because so much of my professional activity involves making such evaluations, it would remove a major source of frustration in my life.
Embedded.com Site Editor Bernard Cole is also editor of the twice-a-week Embedded.com newsletters as well as a partner in the TechRite Associates editorial services consultancy. He welcomes your feedback. Send an email to , or call 928-525-9087.