U2 Targets Growth Opportunities with Rocket Software

Rocket Software recently completed the purchase of the UniData and UniVerse Servers and Tools assets from IBM. Susie Siegesmund, now vice president and general manager for the U2 brand under Rocket, talks with Database Trends and Applications about why the timing was right for this move and what U2 customers and partners can expect under the new ownership.

DBTA: What will be the initial focus for U2 under Rocket Software?

Siegesmund: First of all, we don't want to interrupt the development of the things we had underway. We want to get the products out the door. In addition to that, our focus is on several things. One is looking at the platform services that Rocket provides and finding out how we can be even more agile and quick to get products to market for our customers by leveraging that platform. They have development labs in China and Russia, they have development labs in other places around the globe. The ones in China and Russia are resources that are shared out by the other core product development labs, and one of the things we will look at, for instance, is whether we can leverage some of the QA resources in Russia, in order to do overnight testing so that you can march forward more quickly in the morning. It is a leveraging of having things happening around the world and around the clock.

DBTA: Do you expect the U2 product line to also leverage products from Rocket Software?

Siegesmund: Specifically, out of their CorVu line, they have a product called Shuttle. We are looking at that to see whether that might be a good analytics tool to build an interface to the U2 product line and offer that out to our customers and partners. There may also be situations where we find a piece of something, such as a user interface, that we can leverage. Rocket has broad spectrum of products. They have a history of acquiring products and achieving 80% more releases of those products with about a 10% greater increase in the development for same. We are looking at how we can leverage that, what products we can bring to our customers that might make sense for extending their applications. The nice thing about Rocket is that we are their only data servers; they didn't have a data server; they went out looking and they found us, so they want to make it work with our U2 data servers.

DBTA: For partners who want to know why they haven't heard of Rocket Software before, what would you tell them?

Siegesmund: Rocket started as an OEM partner. They build, other people use the technology. It is either a deep embed or it is rebranded by the entity using the product and it wasn't until they started acquiring other companies that they felt any need at all for anybody to really know who Rocket Software was because all of their customers know them well and know that they are a quality company.  They had no need for external name recognition. Even today, Rocket as a company thinks of itself as the foundation or platform for the success of the various brands that it owns and promotes, more than it thinks that people need to know what Rocket Software is. I will be running the U2 business as the U2 brand of Rocket Software. Rocket because of the U2 products will probably become better known in the marketplace because that is definitely the company that we are part of now. But you are not going to have them try to compete with Oracle to become a household name. That is just not going to happen.

DBTA: Why was Rocket interested in U2?

Siegesmund: Their initial expertise is in the database arena. They started off building products that ran on the mainframe for IMS and DB2. They have been an IBM partner for 15 years, building tools that run on other data servers.  In the last decade, they have started growing the business by acquiring other technologies and they have technologies in different spectrums. They have products in the database tools space, BI space, SOA and application modernization space, security, and telecom. They have got products in a variety of areas, but I think what they saw is that the ability to have some synergy by having a database - to have the reach that it gives you into a customer base, to find new uses, and  to be able to sell more of some of the other products that they have today - greatly expands both their partner base and their customer base, and adds a whole new area of go-to-market.

DBTA: There is synergy between Rocket's CorVu business intelligence product line and the U2 group?

Siegesmund: Definitely. That is what we are planning on. As a matter of fact we just had a partner summit in Newton, Mass., and had representatives from 14 entities of our U.S. partner base and we had short demonstrations of some of the other products that Rocket sells that might play in our space. The partners who were there were very interested in this Rocket CorVu product that is called Shuttle. We have already provided a data set and version of one of the data servers to the people who do the engineering for that product so that they can look at how well it performs today against our products and then we be will looking to whether we need to build an XQuery integration path for them in order to make it perform better.

DBTA: What should customers know about Rocket?

Siegesmund: We are obviously explaining to the customer base that Rocket is a solid company, and they have been profitable for the 20 years they have been in business. They have a reputation for quality. I have often talked about the fact that that our customers give us a 96% to 97% rating for satisfaction with support and Rocket has a 98% rating. You can tell that there is a focus on the customer and there is also a real focus on the quality of the products. They do an integrated product development process that is similar to the one that IBM uses but scaled down and more lightweight to fit the size of the company. And at the end of that process when you think a product is ready to release, there is something called a quality certification and all quality certifications are done by Andy Youniss, who is the president and CEO of Rocket. He has always taken quality very seriously and that is something that we have always been focused on.  That focus will continue for us at Rocket. We are looking forward to being the data servers of a company that is focused on our growth.

DBTA: Why was this a good time for this move?

Siegesmund: We see some factors out there that we feel will help us grow this business. We think the time is right for this move - the economy number one; companies are beginning to look for other solutions that aren't as expensive as some of the ones they have on those big-name data servers. They are looking for a history of low total cost of ownership, which we can provide. Our products scale extremely well. They are very stable you can put many more users and higher volume of business on a smaller machine. We see the opportunity to go into the emerging markets because not only do we have that low total cost of ownership, but you don't have to have a DBA.

DBTA: Are you looking at the BRIC countries?

Siegesmund: Yes, the BRIC countries in particular. When you look at the U2 products, what you get for your maintenance dollars - and our maintenance dollars tend to be lower than some of the other products out there - for that fixed maintenance, you not only get to call in in-person with support, and get patch releases, but also get all of the future enhancements and developments of our new releases associated with that. And, in those countries they don't have the wealth of people who want to be hired as database administrators. They don't have as many technical, trained people, so have the ability to put in the solution and have it just sit in the corner and run and not have to worry about resizing files and rebuilding databases - because all of that happens automatically because of the data model - is a real plus for us in those countries.

DBTA: Does Rocket already have a foothold in those countries?

Siegesmund: They have a foothold not so much in Brazil, but in the other countries - Russia, India, and China. One of the things that we will obviously look to is finding the right route to market in some of those areas. So we may be going into South America leading more with the U2 product line, but if they [Rocket] already have a good presence established in India or a promising market like Japan, if they already have a partner that they work with, particularly a development shop that could look at our technology and build new solutions and applications, then that is good.

We also have talked a little bit to some of our partners about assisting them in going international.  Some of them don't have the expertise to internationalize their application even though it can be done. And they also don't want to get into supporting people in other countries with other languages so I have suggested that if we find the right software house, say, in India, and they need some application that one of my partners has, that software house could work with the partner to localize the product including whatever customization needed to be done for localized business rules, or revenue reporting, and be the selling arm for that partner in a foreign country.

DBTA: With the functional advantages MultiValue database technology provides and the low cost of maintenance-and with Rocket's strength in SOA-do you see synergy in that area with the U2 products?

Siegesmund: One of the things about becoming a Rocket brand is that we can leverage the different things they have to offer. I mentioned the business intelligence up front, but from an SOA standpoint, we have added a lot of functionality to the U2 servers over the last several years-web services capabilities, and things to move us into that SOA space, and Rocket can probably help get the products adopted more readily by people looking to build that type of application.

DBTA: Does MultiValue technology particularly bring advantages to SOA?

Siegesmund: Really, I think more than just SOA - because SOA is really a methodology and an architecture more than it is a delivery mechanism. When you talk about cloud computing, or ASP, or software as a service, rather than SOA, people don't see the data server.  And indeed the rapid time to market and the ability to very quickly build an application with our technology is one of the things we will also be leading with when we go to the software houses in other countries now.

One of our recent successes is with a Japanese company. They found UniVerse and our U2 Web Development Environment on their own. What they were looking for was an XML data store, but when they did their investigation they found that the ones that are pure XML data stores don't do high transaction volumes, and so we turned out to be the perfect hybrid because we have very high transaction volumes and we do three layers of nesting naturally and we also provide interfaces that allow you to read something that is XML and write out to XML without doing all the mapping yourself. You do the mapping once at the dictionary level and we do it for you on the fly. So they built an application and went to market for an opportunity they saw and captured that market because they delivered their application in 3 months. That is the type of place that I see a real opportunity for us to grow. And that particular application is being run as an ASP or software as a service type of model.  That is the situation when you log on and use some of the different online services that are available today - you don't know what they are doing for a data store but when you think about it they must have something out there.

DBTA: What are the products that U2 group is planning to release?

Siegesmund: Following the release of SystemBuilder Extensible Architecture version 1.1 [in 2009], the other one  that a lot of our partners are looking forward to is UniVerse 11.1 which is coming out in July 2010, and that has the external database access for UniVerse which already exists in UniData - the ability to write directly to external data stores. It is an important component for a lot of them to be able to say that they interoperate seamlessly with whatever you need written over to Oracle, or SQL Server or DB2 or someplace else, with live real-time interaction. We also have a new release of the U2 Web Development Environment coming out in Q1 2010.

DBTA: What else is U2 working on now?

Siegesmund: People are looking for the commitment to growth from Rocket and we feel if we can quickly deliver with this CorVu product, the Rocket Shuttle, for U2 and take and take and leverage some of the other Rocket facilities from around the world to get work done in our off-hours, we have a really good story to tell people. This is definitely a growth play - this about growing Rocket by growing U2.

DBTA: U2 has very  a strong partner ecosystem.

Siegesmund: We have a data server with a tightly coupled application development environment. Historically, what we've done is find someone who wants to build an application - and that can be a person who knows a business very well so they know the business rules, and it is easier for them to build an application using our data store because things like an inventory can be single record; it doesn't split out to become 10 or 20 tables. It can be all in a single inventory file. The same with orders, or customers, or anything else - so it is much easier for people to conceptualize that the order comes in and the product goes out than it is that the order comes in and maps to 20 tables. Historically, we have had people who really knew different businesses build applications that solve business problems and then they deliver those to the marketplace using our data server and our application development environment as the underpinnings of that application. When they sell their product, they sell ours for us. It is sort of a everaged sales model through partners.

We have also had people who wanted to build something just for themselves or people who have started off with a partner's application and then wanted to do customization on their own, and they have bought the source code for the application and then taken it completely down the path to customization for their commercial advantage. We actually have in the United States about 2,000 direct end users as well as our partners. But our major route to market in today's world is through our partners and will be through the selling and recruiting of new partners to build new solutions.

DBTA: Will that change? Will it continue?

Siegesmund: That will continue. It is a very good model. There are no pricing changes planned. All of the contracts that partners had with IBM were simply assigned to Rocket. Every partner that was an IBM partner for U2 is now a Rocket partner.

DBTA: A year from now, in December 2010, when you look back at the year, what would you like to have accomplished? Where would you like to be?

Siegesmund: First of all, I would like to have the UniData and UniVerse product brands better known around the world because of adoption not because of marketing, and I would like to be able to look back and say we did more for our customers, partners, and the products in 2010 than we'd done in any other year in their history.

Interview conducted and edited  by Joyce Wells. A version of this article also appeared in the December 2009 print edition of DBTA.