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July 13, 2010updated 19 Aug 2016 10:05am

Mystery partnership of no interest to anyone belatedly revealed

The un-named partner in a news story back in 1999 can at last be named, but does anyone actually care?

By

I wouldn’t read this blog if I were you: it involves a partnership that is no longer relevant and a company that no longer exists.

Still reading? OK: while browsing CBR’s archive the other day, I came across an article I wrote in which I had discovered workflow vendor Staffware was about to announce a new partnership, but I didn’t yet know who the partner was. It may have taken me a little while to get around to it, but since it’s the tenth anniversary of that story I thought it would be fun — you have to get your kicks somehow — to find out who the partner turned out to be.

The world was a rather different place in 1999. The dot-com bubble was yet to burst, and companies were spending nearly all their budgets on fixing Y2K bugs, or at least looking for them. For journalists, times were good. We didn’t know what search engine optimisation was, and we didn’t care. So while my headline back then, ‘High Availability on Staffware’s Workflow Horizon’ may not have won any awards, I think it stands the test of time reasonably well.

Since Staffware was acquired by Tibco many moons ago, I decided the best way to solve this little mystery was to contact the original source of the story, Staffware’s then CTO Jon Pyke. Today being 2010, I turned to Twitter, and within hours had my reply from Pyke: the mystery TP monitor partner was Unisys.

"The group that wrote a new operating system called os/hit," Pyke tweeted me. "Mkting not strong suit."

Os/hit is indeed a terrible name for an operating system. It reminds me of the decision by Groupe Bull to call its software division Bullsoft for a time:

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In fact I just noticed there is a web hosting company trading as Bullsoft Hosting to this day — no relation to Groupe Bull; but I digress.

Here’s my original article from 1999:

High Availability on Staffware’s Workflow Horizon

By Jason Stamper, 8th September, 1999

At Staffware Plc’s [we used to use the full official company names in those days, like SAP AG, but now we don’t bother] International Staffware Conference in London yesterday, the workflow software company outlined details of a new eworkflow client, enterprise server, and Staffware STP/Process Engine for the vertical investment banking sector [I don’t know why I needed the word ‘vertical’ in that line]. But ComputerWire [which was CBR’s sister news operation at the time] also unravelled details of a new high availability workflow system being built through a partnership with an as yet unknown transaction processing (TP) monitor vendor.

The Maidenhead, UK-based company was more than a little coy about the new version, apparently code-named Staffware HA. But the company’s CTO Jon Pyke told us that, "The new version will add the likes of dynamic load balancing and higher availability and reliability, by partnering with a company with TP technology." He explained that [I should probably have used ‘claimed’ rather than ‘explained’ here] by using both the service and resource management of a TP monitor, Staffware will be able to deliver recoverable transaction queuing where a problem during the transmission of a queue of forms, for example, does not mean the queue or the forms are lost.

Based on that description, our money is on that mystery vendor being BEA Systems Inc [wrong!]. BEA’s Top End TP monitor, which it acquired from NCR [BEA having since been bought by Oracle, naturally], enables the creation of services and applications that connect to legacy systems, multiple hardware platforms, databases, and operating systems for distributed transaction management, reliable file transfer, dynamic workload balancing, message sensitive routing, and recoverable transaction queuing.

In the meantime, the company [I mean Staffware here, not BEA, obviously] also announced eworkflow, an HTML client for its workflow system. It has added a forms generator to eworkflow, which will generate HTML without any additional scripting or writing of code. Enterprise server, meanwhile, is really just the renaming of what was the server piece of the company’s client/server workflow system. The only substantial addition is the concept of a virtual client where the server treats a process from another application, like SAP or Oracle Financials, as if it were an ordinary user. This has the benefit of tighter integration with those applications, whilst avoiding the need for coding that was required previously [Staffware claims].

Eworkflow should reach general availability by October, enterprise server is available now. Staffware HA probably won’t see the light of day until late this, or early next year. Earlier this week the company announced first half revenues had risen 16.4% to 11.2m pounds ($17.9m) on the same period a year ago. [ends]

So there you have it: the riddle is finally solved. And if you were on the Unisys team that worked on the TP monitor or os/hit, I’d love to hear from you. And speaking of twitter, please follow me at www.twitter.com/jasonstamper

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