Boole & Babbage is hoping to modernise its product line for new markets via a project codenamed Galaxy, as a prelude to entering the Intranet systems management space, which it claims will be twice the size of the client/server world.
The supplier, which has traditionally specialised in mainframe based event management software, generated 30 per cent of its $220 million revenues last year from its client/server offerings, the Unix based Command Post software it developed internally and the OS/2 and Unix based Max/Enterprise it acquired with Maxim 18 months ago.
But, while its mainframe business is growing at 17 per cent a year as a result of sales into the burgeoning parallel sysplex sector, client/server revenues are increasing at a rate of 70 per cent, and the firm is hoping to become a $500 million company by 2000-2001. At this stage, it expects to boost client/server sales to 50 per cent of total turnover.
Saverio Merlo, Boole?s senior vice president of marketing, explained: ?We need to be a $500 million company to maintain the critical mass to survive in this market. There is some tailwind helping the market take off - Computer Associates and Tivoli are spending $300 million on marketing, which is creating a dream. They?re making revenues, but are also increasing the size of the market, which is currently in the early adopter phase, so growth is rapid.?
He continued: ?But, we?ve also got $200 million in cash and short term securities, which is a resource for acquisitions and we?re looking at the spectrum of service level management companies.?
According to Paul Newton, Boole?s president, the company has looked at several candidates recently, but decided against one of them. However, a purchase is likely over the next year in such areas as Intranet and Internet performance level management and the management of middleware and applications.
?It?s a question of getting critical mass to gain mindshare. But, we?ll be looking at adjacent markets, where we can sell to people reporting to the same boss as they are now. We?re looking at people with a top position in their areas and acquisitions are likely to be between $100-500 million in size,? he said.
The company has no intention of broadening out of its core ?service level? niche markets of automation, event and performance management, however, to try to take on CA or Tivoli, which also play in the production, operations and administration space.
This, according to Newton, could lead to a suicidal defocusing, particularly as most of Boole?s customers already have a framework based systems management offering in place, which its products complement.
His aim rather is to move into the Intranet event management market, which he sees as the next lucrative sector for the early 2000s. He expects Global 2000 organisations to deploy many of their mission critical applications on Intranets in future, after hooking them together with such middleware as IBM?s MQseries message queuing software, which will enable users to work from their own customised desktop on the network.
But there is a dire need for systems management in this space, he explained, because for example, an Intranet has no idea of user priorities and generally cannot guarantee subsecond response times.
?This market is huge. There will be more dollar spin here than there is in client/server today. In five years, there will be Intranet players like there are client/server players now, so we want to ensure we can do service level on the Intranet like we do on the mainframe and client/server today. The Intranet will grow and in 10 years will be twice the size of the client/server market,? he said.
But, in the interim, the company is trying to boost its client/server strategy by coming out with its desired state management project, codenamed Galaxy.
While, according to Jim Black, Boole?s senior vice president of product development, the firm?s current software deals with the measurement of such criteria as performance, users need to write their own scripts to automate the system, and the system is very reactive, waiting for a problem or exception to occur.
With Galaxy, the aim is to anticipate potential problems before they occur, however, by means of early warning alerts, so preventative action can be taken.
?We?re trying to get to the middle part of the market, which isn?t concerned about twiddly bits and the gee-whizz factor, but in saving millions of dollars per quarter. We have to stop the technical arrogance if we?re to go for the higher-level buyer,? he said.
He continued: ?We used to sell to the systems programmer, then to those making financial decisions rather than IT decisions, so they need to make cost justifications. Now, between 30-40 per cent of our sales decisions are made by CIOs. These are corporate decisions and they?ll typically spend more money, but we need to find a simple way for them to describe their business objectives so the product can respond.?
As a result, the company is developing a Windows NT based server that will run all its existing products as modules. These will share common services, a common architecture, the same scripting language and will include an object repository at the back end to store metadata from the different systems being monitored.
The repository will also connect the different modules together, enable state monitoring, data correlation and automation, so users do not have to undertake as much scripting to interface new systems to Boole software.
The offering is based on Sybase?s Adaptive Server database because ?it gave us the best deal?, but will connect to other databases via Open Database Connection (ODBC). Boole is adding a middle layer to the product to enable it to define properties and store objects, but will also provide customers with interfaces, so they can build and store their own objects, which are not supported by the supplier.
While 80 per cent of the necessary plumbing has already been done on the modules, Boole is still in the process of defining a semantic layer to enable users to describe their objectives in business rather than IT terms such as accounts receivable needs to have optimum processing power at the end of each quarter even if this means other systems have to wait.
Users will be able to define their parameters by means of type commands or possibly speech recognition technology into the future, and Galaxy is expected to appear in its first iteration this autumn. Roll-out of the entire Galaxy compliant product line will take between nine and 18 months, but will be sold as an upgrade to existing users.
Existing Unix and mainframe products will continue to be supported, but the desired state management add-on will remain an NT only product. Boole says 60 per cent of its US customers and 80 per cent of UK ones have said NT will become a strategic platform for them over the next couple of years, while it is also easier to support than multiple flavours of Unix.
The first Galaxy compliant offering will be a new storage management module for client/server systems, Spaceview DS (distributed systems), which is still in beta, but is due to ship on 1 July. The first iteration will support AIX, HP/UX, Solaris, NT and OS/390, but AS/400 support is scheduled to follow in nine months.
The product will be sold into Boole?s installed mainframe base initially, but will be targeted at new markets within about a year. It sits on top of existing back-up products and can detect media failures, automatically fix common problems in predefined areas, capture historical data and undertake trend analysis to help with budgeting and planning.
Spaceview DS currently focuses on the amount of disk that has been used, but will look after storage performance and databases in the next release. It costs $5,000 per server based console license for five users and $500 per agent, which manages one storage device.
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