Once they were kings

Software AG, with a Middle East customer base of about 25 - albeit very large organisations - is looking to regain the market leading status it enjoyed before the so-called death of the mainframe in the 1990s. Colin Edwards asks how it is going to do it.

  • E-Mail
By  Colin Edwards Published  May 1, 2006

|~|oncewerekings200.jpg|~|Streibich: No Arabic development of IT architecture and
infrastructure without SOA.|~|Once Software AG was king of the mainframe software world with 10, 000 very large customers worldwide running mission critical applications built around its Adabas/Natural environment. Then the 1990s ushered in the era of client server distributed computing and packaged applications from the likes of SAP.

The mainframe's death knell had been sounded and Software AG (SAG) was looking at a very shaky future. It was a future many companies did not live to see, despite the fact that the mainframe's demise did not materialise.

As Christian Barrios, senior VP and member of the SAG board says: "Software AG was the IBM of the software industry then, especially in mainframe environments and large transactional solutions. But then in the 1990s this company, like many others, was bound for disaster."

What changed was the company's focus. Rather than be the 'mainframe database company' it transformed itself into the 'XML company'. Whether through vision or good luck, that transformation put it in the right place at the right time. The mainframe market might not have died, but neither did it stand still. While large organisations might have wanted to maximise their massive investments in mainframe developments, they also needed to update their solutions for a web-based and integrated IT world. XML was the enabler.

"Fortunately for us, the mainframe did not disappear. Also, through these years, via XML, we started moving into different areas," says Barrios, who was in Dubai recently along with Karl Heinz Streibich, SAG's CEO, to launch the company's latest Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) enabling software suite and announce its expansion plans in the region.

"Karl Heinz and myself joined the company some four years ago to modernise it and to take it to a new stage. Luckily for us, the company had done something very good two years prior to this. They bet on, and invested in, developing XML technology - XML tools and XML databases. Through that decision, the company was able to survive the wave of the application and client server environments. It was the right strategy for modernising this company. It really was the perfect thing to do."

While SAG will probably not be tagged the 'XML company' for too much longer as it has now gone beyond XML, it is still the technology underlying everything it does today. XML has also put the company, says Streibich, into a position whereby it is now ready to ride what is being described as the 'fourth software wave' - SOA. It is a ride he reckons will help the company resume a leading role in the software sector.

"We are looking to become a global leader again. Software AG was the leader in the mainframe database arena. We are going to become the global leader in SOA environments where modernisation, automation, business process management are key issues that we're well positioned to address," he says.||**|||~||~||~|While the company's focus is still very much on its traditional large enterprise markets, today it is able to address a far wider range of environments. Its recently launched 'crossvision' SOA suite addresses the modernisation needs of companies that also run on Unix and AS400 systems, enabling customers in the region to leverage existing assets and create new business processes.

"As Linux is going to be the most popular operating system in the future, a lot of Unix systems are now legacy systems and we can also modernise those, there's no question about that," says Barrios.

"Crossvision is aimed at driving the shift to SOA solutions that address a process-centric approach. Its core strengths include: SOA management and governance, composite applications, legacy modernisation and unification of BPM and SOA," he adds.

It is a solution suite that Streibich says will help the company widen its customer base of 25 in the region currently supported by SAG's Bahrain-based Middle Eastern headquarters and its Saudi offices.
Although he believes the Middle East's mainstream adoption of SOA will be three to five years behind global adoption, the larger companies are already making moves to SOA.

"The regional market will follow the global market to SOA. There will be no Arabic development of IT architecture and infrastructure in the future without it. SOA is not just hype. SOA is a paradigm change in the IT industry. This paradigm change requires tools, consulting skills, and a product portfolio to enable an IT architecture to migrate to SOA," he says.

"It is crystal clear that SOA is a major development worldwide. Every large company has started to deploy components of SOA. The most prominent is mainframe modernisation - the modernisation of mainframe applications. Process automation is another one. In three years’ time it will be a major trend in the Arabic world, but some customers have already started. Here in the Middle East, we see it starting with the top banks and very large companies and then moving down to others as the technology takes off," says Streibich.

In addition to driving new business opportunities among its existing user base which comprises government, police and defence forces and the airline sector, projected new business growth will necessitate the establishment of new offices throughout the region, and the expansion of its channel partner network on a more formal basis than has previously been the case.

"The Middle East is one of the fastest-growing markets and holds out high potential for Software AG as well. To optimally harness this growth we at Software AG have taken a strategic decision to substantially enhance our focus in the region. Though we are currently in the process of finalising our Middle East expansion strategy, key components would include the opening of new offices and a region-specific dedicated software development centre," he says.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code