Software AG CTO looks ahead to new mainframe software

Software AG's CTO for its mainframe business talks about the products' future directions and some general expansion for the company as a whole.

In recent months, the acquisition of SOA (service-oriented architecture) player webMethods has been the dominant news coming out of Software AG, but the middleware company also continues to hone its mainframe software and strategy.

Software AG now has a chief technology officer heading up its mainframe enterprise transaction systems (ETS) business. Joe Gentry, previously ETS senior vice president, has recently taken on the additional responsibility of steering development of new versions of the vendor's Adabas database and Natural programming language.

Historically, Software AG CEO Karl-Heinz Streibich had overseen mainframe software development, but he has plenty on his plate particularly now that the vendor has closed its US$546 million purchase of webMethods. Software AG closed the acquisition on June 1 and is now working on integrating its SOA tools with those of webMethods.

The company feels that having a CTO will have send an important message to customers and the market that Software AG is looking at ways to innovate and take technology leadership with its software. Gentry divides his time equally between the U.S. and Europe. Software AG has its main headquarters in Germany. Last month, enterprise applications vendor SAP AG announced the appointment of its first CTO as a way to lay out a clear road map for the company's products and speak to particular areas of new development alongside ongoing software rollouts.

In February of last year, Software AG announced new releases of its mainframe products -- Adabas 2006 and Natural 2006 -- centered around support for SOA development and Web services.

The next versions of the products could appear within 18 months to two years, Gentry said, since Software AG operates on a release cycle for new software every two to three years. The next version of Adabas is likely to focus on ways to handle unstructured data such as online information as well as provide better Google-like search optimization, he added. Data archiving is also becoming more critical with Software AG anticipating that the amount of information stored in mainframe archives will double over the next few years.

Another key goal for a new release of Adabas will be meeting the needs of so-called extreme transaction processing applications, which place heavy demands on databases and include credit-card processing and gaming applications.

Software AG intends to continue its push around support for open-source technology, planning to add Ajax capability to the Natural application development platform, with the first implementation out by the end of the third quarter. The vendor already provides an Eclipse interface for Natural and is a member both of the Eclipse Foundation and of the OpenAjax Alliance consortia.

Software AG will also do more to integrate its newly acquired webMethods technology with both Adabas and Natural so users can generate Web services using the mainframe software, which then can be called by the webMethods products.

IBM is Software AG's main mainframe software competitor. At the same time, the vendor enjoys a strong relationship with IBM's mainframe hardware division.

Gentry doesn't see a need for Software AG to acquire additional mainframe technology, but the vendor is taking a look at several companies where an acquisition would yield an additional customer base. Those users would then potentially end up moving over to Adabas and Natural.

Software AG is also keen to continue to grow on a geographic basis, having recently established its own operations in both Israel and Japan. "Next year, we move into Brazil and Latin America," Gentry said. One method of expanding is by acquiring the existing distributor for the vendor's software in a given location, which was the case in Israel, he added.

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