Of OpenEdge, Toasters and Vacuum Cleaners

Of OpenEdge, Toasters and Vacuum Cleaners

Posted on April 14, 2008 0 Comments

Are toasters and vacuum cleaners ultimate examples of commodities? Of course!, right? Well, think again.

A few months back I read ‘The Myth of Commoditization’ by Michael Schrage, an article in the ‘MIT Sloan Management Review’ magazine and ever since I find myself getting back to the facts and the concepts masterfully described by Mr. Schrage in his two-page article.

By know, I hope that you’re a little intrigued and you will want to read on this, my first, OpenEdge Perspectives blog. There are many aspects of what Progress Software has done with OpenEdge over the years that in my opinion share parallelisms with Toasters and Vacuum Cleaners not being commodities: Quite the contrary, retaining and extending our, as their intrinsic and perceived value. Progress (the product and the company shared the name back then) was first released in the early 1980s and throughout 25 years of innovation cycles driven by our customers (Thank you!), the market and the IT industry we have kept our mission: “Simplify the job of building the world’s best business applications”.

How many evolutions and revolutions!: From the minis, hosts, personal computers, client-server, application servers, to the Internet. From character, GUI, one-tier, two-tier to global all-tier. From procedural, event-driven, object-oriented to SOA and software-as-services. How many opportunities to become commodity! And nevertheless Progress is not.

As information technologies evolved, the more the unfulfilled promises from many for simple, easy to use offerings to build long-lasting and ever-changing business applications. Simplify is  difficult! First you need to make something possible. Many products stop there. Then you can simplify. Very few actually do.

Let me tell you a story: Long ago, when I was a programmer using Progress and working on-site, one of the company’s line of business manager said to me: ‘You see, I’ve been looking for a while at what you do and no matter what I ask you to do, or how complex my request may be, you always, always do the same thing: You start a tool that I noticed is called Procedure Editor. Then you type a few lines of code which for the most I can actually understand and voilà you have the information I needed. Quite often in a format that is not pretty I have to say, but boy you are fast!’

That company had Progress-based applications, and a bunch of other ones they had purchased, acquired or developed over the years. All in all a hodge-podge of C-ISAM and an early Oracle database, COBOL, BASIC and some C, and an IBM mainframe with RPG of course. We had installed Progress and the Oracle and C-ISAM DataServers (back then Progress called them Gateways). Many of the ad-hoc requests I was getting from LOB managers meant to cross-reference and join information from many of theses systems, and yes, I always started with the Procedure Editor, connecting to the data sources, looking at their schemas (never mind some were not even relational), and writing a few lines of ABL. Such was the power of Progress.

Many customers tell me that today they are doing similar things with OpenEdge Architect with IntelliSense, auto-completion, dragging-and-dropping from database schemas to the code editor and the works compared to my character-based Procedure Editor. Perhaps some of them even have to gather information from web services. What’s the drill? Get and look at the WSDL, connect, and RUN, where I used to connect to Progress, Oracle and C-ISAM, check the schemas and RUN.

So what’s the moral? Our customers tell me that Progress OpenEdge’s unique, intrinsic and sustained value to them is its business focus. If we managed to simplify building complex business applications including reading, writing, and managing data from disparate data sources, now we are simplifying to build, extend and integrate heterogeneous business applications using messaging, Enterprise Service Bus, Web services, and SOA-principles with OpenEdge, .NET, Java and standard interfaces.

Progress cannot just make things Simple, because businesses are not.  We make things Simpler! As for Toasters and Vacuum Cleaners, commoditization is a misleading guide to innovation, a race to the bottom. At Progress Software we prefer races to the top. In the long run, everything is not a toaster. Not even toasters. 

Salvador Vinals

View all posts from Salvador Vinals on the Progress blog. Connect with us about all things application development and deployment, data integration and digital business.


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