From Computer Business Review, a sister publication.
When Pierre Haren met with Marvin Minsky at the MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology he had a great idea. Haren wanted to establish a company in Europe which would deliver complex customer solutions but make them as easy to fit together as Lego blocks. Marvin told me that a European company could never play a role in the information technology market, period, because ?it belonged to the US players, Haren recalls. He was extremely bright but extremely wrong. Deregulation, privatization and the need for the world’s businesses to save money and delegate work, these are the factors boosting Ilog SA’s bottom-line and proving Minsky wrong, says Haren. While the idea of building custom applications by assembling off-the-shelf objects has been around for a long time, development of such applications is now taking place at an accelerated pace because programmers have discovered they can build applications more quickly using libraries of generic software objects, written in the portable C++ language. There is always room for companies which focus on developing truly user-friendly graphic user interfaces, Haren says. Ilog, a maker of a line of C++-based software components, is such a company. Since it was established in 1987, Ilog has seen steady growth.
Getting more exposure
In January, after receiving funding from venture capitalists including Oak Investment Partners, Atlas Ventures and Banque Paribas, the company decided to go public on Nasdaq. We are getting more exposure and our US business is growing rapidly, Haren says. Ilog’s focus on the US is also allowing it to attract more partners and high-caliber staff. Ilog is no stranger to the US. The company began selling its products there in 1991 from its headquarters in Mountain View, California. Its partners include Carnegie Group, Unisys Corp, Andersen Consulting and Comsat Corp, while its customers include Chrysler Corp, Cisco Systems Inc, British Aerospace Plc, and General Electric Co. Sun Microsystems Inc has even chosen to base its next generation of CASE tools on ILOG technology. Ilog claims its tools are now in use in over 1,000 development sites worldwide. Moreover, the evolution of the internet calls for more application logic at the server level, a development Haren says plays to Ilog’s strengths, helping it to fend off competition from its chief rivals – Visix Software Inc and Rogue Wave Software Inc. A future focus will be on serving the telecoms market, one reason why the company’s partnership with UK cellular provider Orange Plc is so key. Orange is using Ilog technology to build an application to monitor network performance. The graphic data visualization allows the customer to detect ‘holes’ in the network, measure variations in demand and provide planning data. Another key contract is Motorola Corp, which has chosen Ilog software as the network resource allocation and scheduling engine for its Iridium communications system. To date sales to customers in the telecoms industry account for 36% of Ilog’s sales. Network management is another major market. It’s a segment of the market rich in opportunity, says Haren. To help seize such opportunities, Ilog is partnering with companies with specialist market skills, a strategy which Haren hopes will help the company to grow at an annual rate of around 30%.