Progress Software acquires development tools

Progress Software acquisitions return company to its legacy by supporting developers and development tools.

Karen Tegan Padir is the president of Progress Software's application development and deployment business unit. A 20-year software industry veteran, she is responsible for the strategy and growth of the company's application development assets including Telerik, Modulus, Rollbase and the Pacific Platform. Earlier in her career, Padir was senior vice president of software infrastructure and MySQL at Sun Microsystems, where she was one of the founding members of the J2EE team. During a recent conference in Boston, she sat for an exclusive interview with TechTarget.

TechTarget: Progress is a database company with history of strong development tools. Is it fair to say that focus was lost and is now being regained?

Karen Tegan Padir: You know the history of Progress being around and starting on the Open Edge database with extensive runtime development tools. ISV's loved that because, 30 years ago, when you wrote an application, you had to choose the operating environment and the hardware, too. About three years ago, the prior administration went on a strategy of acquiring different companies in adjacent areas. It didn't work out. We had an activist investor, and the good news is we created a strategic plan to get back to our roots -- developers.

How does Progress support developers?

Padir: We make it easy to write applications quickly. We divested about 11 assets and focused on our core, OpenEdge (database) and DataDirect (database connectors). What's key today is the ability to create powerful, attractive mobile applications that connect to all the world's data.

It's still about growing revenue.

Padir: For us to grow, we had to give our OpenEdge customers what they wanted. At that time, the OpenEdge group would deliver fixes, but was not worried about things like 'the cloud's coming' or mobile. We changed that to focus on app developers. The two big strategic things were mobile and cloud. Not just cloud washing where you take your app and throw it in the cloud and forget about it, but really having an application that can be offered as a service, that can take advantage of the cloud and what it provides -- infinite scalability.

Karen Tegan Padir, Progress Software, Inc.

That's a balancing act. Progress had to embrace cloud and mobile without alienating its large legacy base.

Padir: I was the CTO at the time, we asked, 'How do we augment what we have and create a next-generation platform that brings our OpenEdge customers with us?' We didn't want to do anything to alienate that base or give them any reason to migrate. We wanted to help them modernize and go to mobility with us and our tools. That base is big; it's most of the revenue of the company (prior to the 2014 acquisition of Telerik).

When I came in, I thought that our base of OpenEdge customers would be screaming and yelling at me. Progress had backed off next-generation core development with OpenEdge and there was a danger developers would go somewhere else to find the tools they needed. That didn't happen. They said, 'We're glad you're here, but we need THIS and you guys have got to give it to me.' They were waiting for Progress to give them mobility and access to the cloud.

What did it take to embrace cloud and mobile?

Padir: We went on this journey to say 'What do we need to do to deliver mobility to our customers?' We acquired Rollbase (in June 2013), which is rapid application development. That became the foundation of our cloud strategy with the OpenEdge database as the core. We had connectivity with DataDirect (acquired in 2003). We have a universal app server within it so you can preserve the business logic. That means you can deploy an application written in ABL (OpenEdge Advanced Business Language) on-premises into our platform as a service with cloud. We acquired Modulus in June 2014. This gave us a rapid development environment, drag-and-drop, point-and-click. You don't write code; most of the code is pre-written and you're just assembling and making relationships with objects. You're not defining the data model.

The challenge is that developers are comfortable with the tools they know.

Padir: Developers are religious; they want to bring their own tooling. We acquired Modulus in June 2013, which is a platform as a service for Node.js and Mongo DB databases. This way, they could bring their tooling. Now we've announced support for multiple languages, so Modulus is no longer just for the Node.js app. We're certainly not standing still.

None of this addressed user experience.

Padir: That's right. We looked at what we needed to fill out our offerings, Telerik (acquired in Dec. 2014) made perfect sense. We had nothing for creating front-end, beautiful apps and that provided a great user experience. Mobility apps with the Telerik platform is a huge part of where we believe the strategic vision needs to be. We are investing in that.

Developers are religious; they want to bring their own tooling.
Karen Tegan Padir, president, application development and deployment business unit, Progress Software, Inc.

What's ahead?

Padir: The big thing is this digital experience cloud. Everybody wants to manage the journey of the customer. If you're a developer, you're creating applications that have to fit into this digital consumer world. We have an asset in [Telerik's] SiteFinity being a content management system that dynamically allows you to present material and customize the user experience. Everything comes together in one place so the developer, the IT people and the marketing people can each focus on what they do best.

Unfortunately, marketing often sees IT as an impediment and does an end run to create its own solutions, leading to the dreaded "shadow IT."

Padir: We believe IT has to be part of the solution. If IT deploys internally or in the cloud, it's a platform you'll build your apps on to ensure that developers are involved. You'll have content management and the digital experience cloud. If IT owns that bundle and that experience, they'll be engaged and work with the different departments as opposed to against them.

The problem comes later. Marketing signs up for some software as a service (SaaS), gets it going, then comes back to IT, saying "We built this thing, it's running and we want IT to take it over."

Padir: It is more than that. Sometimes they say ''We built this marketing automation system, and I need to cross-reference it with my customer database from our ERP system and Salesforce." Now you have three distinct things: The on-premises ERP system with data in some relational database. You have SQL reports and applications that have been running for years. Second, you have your customer information in Salesforce. Third, you have contact lead- and demand-generation in Eloqua, and those are all different back-end data stores. How do you get access to them? Those SaaS applications don't want you to go right to the database. They want you to come through the user interface of the application. But, the IT department has all the SQL reports. So, after marketing implements some Eloqua SaaS, they'll go to IT and say, 'That report you've always run for me, I need you to run it.' And IT replies, 'The data is now somewhere else, I can't run it." That's the value in data connectivity and data-direct cloud. They allow you to bring all things together with a single user interface so that all those old reports can still be used with Salesforce data.

You've seen lots of changes in app development over the years.

Padir: Back in the late '90s, people wanted Java and J2EE. But, when you got past 2000, the Web browser became the deployment platform. You had whatever operating system you were on, and then it became Java. You would write to the Java platform, then to the Web. The browser became the platform and it was all about JavaScript. Today, it doesn't really matter what language you use. Everything's in the cloud and there are new languages that are coming around all the time. JavaScript certainly won the hearts and minds of Web developers, because the browser was the app. But now, as we go to mobile, it doesn't matter. Everything is SaaS. If you're a company that's acquiring technology to help run your business, you don't ask 'What is it made of?' You're more likely to ask what cloud it's on. Maybe you'll ask about security, or where the data is stored and performance. And those are very important questions to ask.

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