JDJ: Tell us a little bit about Progress Software, and then move into the Java Internet products if you would.
Kassabgi: Progress Software is a large software company. We had revenues last year of $280 million as a publicly traded company. Basically, we sell the number one embedded database, the Progress Database. We have consistently been a favorite among the value-added reseller community, people that basically sell packaged applications built on top of our technology, which as an ensemble sold some $1.5 billion worth of software packages last year alone. The Apptivity product comes from the Apptivity Product Unit of Progress Software, which has been in place since early 1997.
Apptivity 3.1, released in July, provides significant movement, continued movement, into the world of open platform application servers, the productive environment for the development and deployment of business applications using the Web and open standards, which include Java, CORBA, EJB, IIOP and so on.
SonicMQ, to be released later this month, provides a Java Messaging Server that allows developers to create distributed applications using the JMS standard. The SonicMQ product provides such valuable features as publish/subscribe, point-to-point communication, message transactions and queuing.
JDJ: You said a magic word there. A lot of people were talking about application servers at JavaOne. A ton of them are out there. Somebody asked how many application servers he had to have running on his server to do everything he wants. What sets Apptivity apart from other application servers?
Kassabgi: Clearly this is a tremendous following for the EJB standard, which is what many of the application servers tend to focus on. So, yes, there are many AP servers. The clear differentiation is performance, number one; number two is the feature functionality, the robustness and productivity with which feature functionality has been put forward; and three - I think a differentiator - is the kinds of customers and reference accounts and applications that have been deployed with a given application server product. A prospect should look at all three of those things. I'd actually add a fourth that is very important: the type of vendor putting the application server forward - is it a start-up company whose future is oftentimes unknown? Is it a platform vendor - for example, a large hardware vendor? That kind of company may have a unique style in putting forward, let's say, a softer product. Or is it a vendor like Progress Software that for the past 15-plus years has been doing nothing but providing productive environments for developers?
JDJ: What sets SonicMQ apart from other messaging servers?
Kassabgi: SonicMQ is the first JMS server available from an established software vendor. We see other vendors shipping JMS implementations over the next 6-9 months and look forward to competing against them along the lines of product features, performance and scalability. In addition to these competitive stances, we also believe we have the best business acumen for working with ISVs and ASPs who seek to embed the JMS technology within their systems.
JDJ: You mentioned performance. What are some of the characteristics of Apptivity and SonicMQ performance?
Kassabgi: I think it's essential because if you have an AP server and it doesn't scale, it doesn't perform, then you don't have a product that has inherent value beyond a demo or an initial review by the developer. I'll let the unbiased third-party DocuLabs benchmark speak for itself. We were far and away the best-performing AP server in the list of AP servers at JavaOne - you know, the AP servers that used the Java open platform standard.ÉThe next best AP server behind us was less than half the transactions per minute.
With SonicMQ we intend to outperform all other JMS implementations as they appear on the market. Of great importance is the benchmark of messages per second, particularly under heavy load and with transactional or guaranteed messaging requirements.
JDJ: What kind of developers are out there using Apptivity and in what way?
Kassabgi: Developers, both IT teams and people, ISVs, that are building applications, and then people in general who have standardized on the Java platform and want to build NT or business applications with significant business logic on the server with Enterprise JavaBeans as the business logic components. You have the flexibility of both HTML client type as well as Java client type, the use of XML as the data exchange between functions and between servers. You have developers that have made those kinds of choices and have standardized on Java and want to build an application for internal use or for resale and want to be able to rely on a vendor like Progress Software to provide that kind of infrastructure over time. Clearly, those developers are looking for something that's proven to perform and scale because the application is going to have to handle a large number of users and a large level of throughput once it's deployed.
The secret is understanding what makes the application successful at deployment. While what a developer wants at development time may be evident, what's far more important is what the vendor can actually provide in facilitating the deployment and making it successful. And I think the benchmarks show a very real glimpse of what happens at deployment and what kind of performance one can expect to have.
JDJ: Can you be a little more specific about who some of those customers are, and something that our [readers] might be able to go check out?
Kassabgi: Some of these are prominent on our Web site with some success stories. The number one Web portal in the world, Yahoo!, uses Apptivity. They use an Apptivity application to manage all their Web advertising on the portal. That is a success story that the listeners can look at on the Web site Apptivity.com. Also, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which is basically a who's-who in commodities trading, uses Apptivity to do commodity trading among its member firms. Futures Online in Chicago has created a similar kind of system with Apptivity. AT&T Calling Card Division in Jacksonville, Florida, uses Apptivity to process calling card transactions. That's a short list of very notable customers. [People], again, can go to the Web site and find out more about these. Keep in mind that to have a reference account means it must be deployed and it must be successful.
JDJ: What is the vision for the products moving forward?
Kassabgi: That's an important part. The vendor needs to provide the best possible product today, and then the vision, moving forward, so that its customers can be carried along and get the benefits from that. The vision of the product is to move further into the capabilities of the Enterprise JavaBean specification and to do so in a manner that allows us to continue having the scalability and performance that can lead the market. It's one thing to say that you'd support an element of the EJB specification for the sake of supporting it. It's another to say that you'd support it in a manner that allows you to basically perform and scale to the highest degree possible. It's our desire therefore to continue going further in the implementation of the Enterprise JavaBean specification along those lines.
In addition to that, we regard Java messaging service, JMS, as extremely important for distributor applications and for applications where data is being dealt with in an intercompany or intracompany fashion, messages basically being the lingua franca of many of tomorrow's Web applications. So we're adding full JMS capabilities to the product in the not too distant future as well as continuing to enhance the ability to use XML as the actual language for the data exchange that would happen via messaging and then, in addition to all that, continuing to work to make the product not only very productive in its current state - namely, an integrated application environment state - but also make it very productive for developers that would be using other IDEs or tools with Java. And so, continued emphasis on productivity as well.
We see the vision as being something that tackles the demanding requirements of the developer that has chosen open platforms and the Java platform, demands working scalable performance implementations of EJB and JMS, demands that XML be threaded throughout the product in a cohesive manner, be able to use XML as the data exchange throughout and wants all of that in a concise package where there are few restrictions, few limitations, and where deployment results in a successful deployed business application with potentially hundreds - thousands - of end users and tens of thousands of transactions per second.
JDJ: If I want my company to have their Web site perform with transactions at a speed and consistency that a Yahoo would but I can't afford it, then I'm out of the picture. Can you tell us how the software is bundled and what the price correlation is?
Kassabgi: We've had the same pricing model for quite some time. It's not changing as a result of 3.1. The pricing model is very straightforward, and I think you'll find most if not all AP servers are very similar, taking a similar stance, which is the developer copies are $995 per developer seat. That allows the developer to develop an application and also to test-deploy it on his or her system.
Then there's a deployment pricing - when you deploy a business application built with Apptivity there's a deployment license. The prices start at $10,000 per CPU utilized in the deployment. That, again, is kind of the value-to-cost proposition there. The ratio is consistent with most or all other AP servers or better than other AP servers, but it's basically a deployment CPU-based licensing model. SonicMQ, our JMS product, is priced at $3,000 per CPU utilized in deployment and the developer copy is made available for free over the Web on www.SonicMQ.com.
JDJ: You mentioned the Web site before. Can you tell us what we can find there?
Kassabgi: What you'll find at www.Apptivity.com and www.SonicMQ.com is an exposé and a number of the reference accounts - success stories, as we call them - with a fair amount of detail. There's even an extensive look at some applications that have been built and how they were built, and examples of the kind of thought process behind it. I believe the example that's on there is an application used by Scholastic Inc., the number one distributor of children's books in New York City. That application is an example of where Apptivity was used to integrate data from Legacy application on PeopleSoft human resource. You'll also find a detailed explanation and white papers on what the product is all about and what it does, and the ability to download the product, the developer license. Developers can download that and---evaluate it, and there's no better way to learn about a product than to use it. I think there's also a link of all the press releases and notable mentions, the so-called "In the News" section.