Since making a public splash last November (CI No 1,546) when it brought its knowledge-based object generator for IBM Corp mainframes to the world’s attention, Sapiens Inc has been quiet but very, very busy. At the top of its agenda at the moment is the task to bring Sapiens more tightly into AD/Cycle – its long-term project is to enable its application development environment to make full use of IBM’s Repository Manager/MVS. A very long-term project, the cynical observer might add. However, it is critically important that Sapiens do this because its nearest competitor – so far as anyone can determine since no-one beyond Amdahl Corp appears to understand the technology involved – is Amdahl’s Huron offering. And so far Huron’s two major weaknesses from a marketing point of view is that it has not committed to supporting OS/2 for co-operative processing and that it has made no commitment to support IBM’s Repository.
Four stage plan
Needless to say, Sapiens is busy strengthening its software in these areas. It already has Sapiens WS available to support co-operative processing – the development work is still carried out on the mainframe but the application that is generated downloads what is necessary to the PS/2 for execution, such as, say, some validation rules. Sapiens’ plan for fitting in with the Repository has four stages. The first will be the provision of a static read interface between the Sapiens Knowledge Base and the Repository. When this is in place, developers will be able to populate the Repository with an enterprise model from a design workbench and the entity, relationship and process data can then be put into the Sapiens Knowledge Base and rules can be added to it. However, those rules will not be able to return to the Repository, but once the version of the data is changed in the Repository the changes can be re-exported back to Sapiens and rippled down to the Sapiens application. This first phase of development should be ready in 1992. The second phase will be a bi-directional interface so that if a developer makes changes to a Sapiens application, rules in the knowledge base will trigger a re-export of the data back to the Repository enterprise model. Stuart Kenley, vice-president of Sapiens International, says the company is not sure whether this bi-directional link will be batch or real-time. The third phase, which Sapiens is pencilling in for 1994, will be a dynamic link between the Sapiens knowledge base and the Repository. The final phase may well be that Sapiens applications run directly on the Repository as the Repository becomes functionally rich and has its own rules and processes. As for that PS/2 co-operative processing function, Sapiens plans to launch its Object Modeller in December: this is a graphical front end for the PS/2, using Windows, which guides the developer through application building using an object-oriented approach and terminology. All the objects, however, remain on the mainframe.
Sapiens offers an object-oriented rule-based application generator for IBM mainframes. The advantages of this system are that the developer can concentrate on the design of the final application and let the generator work out the intricacies of how this design is achieved. Over the past year, Sapiens has widened its user base to embrace more industrial and commercial applications as well as the banking and insurance sectors. It is negotiating to join the Object Management Group and explained to Katy Ring how it intends to bring object-oriented techniques to AD/Cycle.
Essentially nothing within the Sapiens engine needs to be changed to support this, but hitherto the Sapiens front end has offered traditional entity-relationship nomenclature and procedures to mask the object-oriented technology behind it. Kenley says that Sapiens did have a commitment to develop a Presentation Manager interface, but now the company is waiting to see if an Apple Computer Inc Macintosh graphical user interface might be more appropriate for corporate IBM sales. The second version of Sapiens, to be released next year
as part of phase one in the strategy to integrate the application generator with IBM’s Repository, involves putting new entities in fundamental objects in the Sapiens engine. These entities will be basic objects and compound objects – using an analogy, basic objects could have the attributes of the individual cells of a heart, whereas the compound object of all those basic objects would be treated as having the properties of a pump. This innovation will mean that Sapiens users will be able re-engineer existing Sapiens applications into basic and compound objects and, as the engine becomes further enhanced, rules can be attached to these objects. The Sapiens engine is currently being rewritten in C to aid co-operative processing, although Kenley thinks that a distributed version of Sapiens will rely on IBM’s implementation of its Distributed Relational Data Architecture, since the knowledge base maps over DB2 files, with the rules being mapped at a logical level. Consequently, Sapiens may not itself need to provide location mapping for the knowledgebase.
Although Sapiens typically consumes a 20% to 30% higher overhead than a Cobol development environment, it is up to five times faster to build an application with Sapiens and it is much easier to re-engineer applications once they are built. Indeed, Kenley thinks that Cobol’s only chance of survival beyond 2010 is as a Cobol rule set running in the Repository so that it can offer the same speed of application development as the new object-oriented application generators. As for world domination, Sapiens is currently moving its headquarters and part of its research and development to Cary, North Carolina from Israel. A technical dialogue with IBM is continuing as IBM’s interest in Sapiens waxes and wanes with its perception of the threat Amdahl’s Huron is posing to AD/Cycle. Meanwhile, Sapiens has a joint venture in Japan with the Kanebo Group, which is funding the development of a Kanji version of the software. Worldwide, Sapiens expects to sell 10 to 14 new licences per quarter and revenues from licences are expected to double every year until 1995 – and Kenley says that Sapiens still has a burning desire to go public in 1992, probably choosing to float on a US stock exchange next year.