Progress Software’s Coming Out Party

We all need to revisit our understanding of Progress Software. On March 4, I was introduced to the “new and improved” Progress at the company’s annual briefing for industry and financial analysts. The company is a new enterprise software vendor with 25 years of experience. If you know about Progress, it is likely through an ISV solution based on the OpenEdge database/4GL. Or perhaps through the Sonic enterprise service bus ... or the Actional SOA management product.

How you should think about Progress Software now (see Figure):

First, Progress Software has a new mission, which it calls“operational responsiveness.” To achieve this mission, Progress will primarily seek to help enterprises develop real-time, event-based architectures that extend existing systems. Real-time, event-based systems let companies see what’s going on in their business processes at any given moment, and to act while transactions and interactions are in flight to fix problems, ensure compliance, add revenue opportunities, and/or cut costs. Example scenarios:

  • The UK Financial Services Agency used event technology to monitor financial markets for trader collusion, insider trading, and other illegal activities and halt them before they move markets.
  • Royal Dirkswager, manager of Holland’s ports, used event technology to advise incoming vessels on the most efficient course, speed, and arrival times, based on dock availability, geographic location, weather, and other factors.
  • Panhandle Energy used real-time data integration to replace thousands of interfaces for its real-time status data (SCADA) with a single real-time data model, underlying ESB, and transformations.

Second, Progress is betting for growth on two collections of middleware to achieve its new mission. These are:

  • Enterprise Business Solutions tracks existing transactions and services interactions to discover and verify implicit business processes, defines, senses, and responds to real-time events, automates business process flows, and provides SOA infrastructure. Core to this business unit is a new suite that brings together Progress Actional, Apama, and newly acquired Savvion. Think of the new Responsive Process Management Suite as BPM and transactional systems wrapped in real-time event management.
  • Enterprise Data Services maps primary information sources into a new real-time model managed by DataXtend Semantic Integrator, including integration, aggregation, data delivery, and ultimately, analysis. 

 

Third, Progress will manage its OpenEdge, Orbix, and ObjectStore legacy platforms as annuities, expecting low growth compared to its other two lines of business. These products will get sustaining investment, while the Enterprise Business Solutions and Enterprise Data Solutions lines will get the lion’s share of the company’s investment in organic development and acquisitions.

Fourth, Progress is now being managed as a single company rather than the loosely connected product groups of the past. Progress will need coordinated product development and delivery to sell the new software suites and industry solutions for financial services, telecommunications, and travel/transportation.

Progress’ transformation is a work in process. We see four gaps:

  1. Progress is going to need much stronger professional services than it has today to drive its growth opportunities. The company collects about 8% of its revenue from services today. Progress will also need much stronger systems-integration partnerships than it has today.
  2. There’s a lot of product integration still to be done.  Progress showed a new workplace solution called Control Tower based on Savvion’s portal module, which integrated information and functions from Actional, Apama, and Savvion. The company will also need common development and administrative tools, as well as integration of the three runtimes.
  3. Progress will need partnerships with IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, and others to ensure it continues to fit well. These “coopetition” relationships are new for Progress, which in the past has primarily sold infrastructure to OEMs and ISVs.
  4. Progress will need additional products, primarily in operational management, real-time analysis and reporting, and collaboration. Partnerships may fill some of these needs.

Despite these gaps, Progress’ direction is both interesting and useful. Don’t overlook the company when you are looking for an enterprise partner to help you drive innovation. Progress Software is a new option for real-time, event-based applications and architectures.

Comments

Comments on the gaps....

Hi John -

Good post. As a former exec at Progress and the GM of Apama, I have plenty to say on this topic, and I agree with parts of your post about the gaps in the Progress strategy. I just posted them here on the StreamBase blog:

http://streambase.typepad.com/streambase_stream_process/2010/03/progress...

As for the gaps you identified, I have a few comments:

On professional services.... I agree this is a gap, which should be easy to close. But the issue here isn't so much that Progress 2.0 needs to sell more consulting, it's that even when they do, that only brings them on par with their already well-established competitors. And their competitors already have the key SI relationships in place that will be difficult or impossible to dislodge. So although it is a gap, it's a big one. And even if they cross the gap, they will only be at par with their new competitors.

On "there's a lot of product integration to be done...." That's putting it mildly, no? In my post I go deeper and suggest that Progress hasn't been specific at all about how the resulting "integrated product." They have no pilot customer that illustrates it, and the product isn't generally released. And other than "it's BPM + CEP, stupid" which is very inward-looking characterization of value - what is the value to the CUSTOMER??? I'm NOT saying that I generally agree that BPM + CEP is a good general area for innovation, but my issue is that the exercise is still left to the imagination, not a concrete, proven products. It's a vision. It's as if Porsche said "we're gonna build an SUV" without letting us drive the Cayenne :)

On partnership with IBM et al.... I agree, but why would they want to partner with Progress? Partnership is a two-way street - what's in it for IBM?

On Progress 2.0 needing additional products.... Again I agree but this comes back to your point #2 - which ones and let's get specific! And if they need other stuff when will RPM be complete?

Finally, to your characterization that this new direction is both interesting and useful; I agree with the first part - it's interesting. As for "useful," since there are no details, no product, no customer to illustrate its utility, I'd have to say I respectfully reserve the right to decide if RPM will be useful.

- Mark Palmer, CEO, StreamBase.