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November 29, 2010

‘Migration means more automation’: Q&A with Mike Welling, CEO of App-DNA

Gary Flood talks to Mike Welling about app migration and how big a long-term business opportunity this really is


Mike Welling, CEO of App-DNA

Tell me why you think application migration is a real business issue in 2011.
Sure – though you don’t have to start with me or what App-DNA believes, we can start with the analysts. In 2009, Gartner suggested migration from Windows 2000 or XP to Windows Vista or Windows 7 will be three to four times the cost of upgrading from Windows Vista to Windows 7 because of application remediation and replacement cost. Its data suggested that migration costs would be $1,035 to $1,930 per user to move from Windows 2000 or XP to Windows Vista or Windows 7, and $339 to $510 per user to move from Windows Vista to Windows 7, for instance.

So how can your company potentially help is such scenarios, assuming all that is true?
My company’s main software product, AppTitude, is used by major corporations to automate compatibility testing of the thousands of software applications enterprises very typically have to worry about in the context of a big OS or platform migration.
At the moment, Windows 7 and the choices that a CIO now faces around that major platform refresh is a big focus for us, of course it is. But there are other technologies, like application virtualisation (Microsoft AppV), 64-bit computing, server-based computing and virtual desktops that are also in the mix. App-DNA customers who’ve found us helpful in managing all this include Tube Lines, BAE Systems, BT, Diageo, Exxon Mobil and Barclays.

OK, though I note you haven’t given me specifics yet of such ‘help’.
We tend to cite anonymised examples, sure. But we have a global oil and gas client who says we reduced its Windows 7 migration budget by 75% – from $10m to $4m, in fact. That was in the context of 9,500 apps to move and 85,000 users, by the way. We helped a global investment bank looking at moving over 3,000 applications in a Citrix move keep the spend down to 50% of forecast. And in another example, a firm with 80,000 users and 8,000 apps moving from XP to both Windows 7 and virtualisation told us it is saving $3m a year on an ongoing basis.

OK, tell me about the roots of the company, then, and what you guys are all about.
I had a UK service based organisation about 10 years ago focused on helping enterprise customers migrate their apps portfolio from previous versions of Windows to 2000 and XP.

We had some fairly large customers on our books and were working pretty closely with Microsoft and expected the adoption of would translate to a huge flood of business – but we ended up struggling. Microsoft said people weren’t migrating because they didn’t understand if their apps would work on XP. So one of the things we started to look at was if we could determine which apps would fail on migration to a later platform and that’s where the company I have now started is – looking at app compatibility.

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Four years on, that original technology is helping as I have said big IT departments overcome compatibility hurdles moving to Windows 7, which does seem as I have also said to be the really big hit at the moment.

What we do is take an application and break it down into its components and store that as ‘DNA’ in a central repository to help customers with thousands of apps; we can quickly take that whole portfolio and take what was previously I would say a very manually intensive process, looking at app compatibility, from a day down to just minutes, typically. We also provide very detailed information on whether an app will work on a particular platform or not.

Though that Windows 7 moment won’t last forever, of course. How big is all this as a long-term business opportunity, would you say?
The market size for app management… well, let’s take it a look at a typical enterprise customer. It will probably have a minimum of couple of hundred apps, agreed? So the management problem when moving to a new platform is it has to test before roll out if the apps are going to work on the new platform or not, so what we do is automate that process. If you like, we are an app management layer and the market opportunity for that is absolutely huge – apps are what drive business, they tend to scale with the size of an org, and so I have to say we have great opportunity.

We have ourselves seen 300 to 500% growth a year in recent years, and we’re selling millions of copies and definitely seeing large customers looking at how they can automate the adoption of new technologies.

Tell me more about this DNA thing. Just cute terminology?
(Laughs) If you break it down, applications are developed by software vendors, they have a set of common components, about 7 or 8 in fact, and what we do is break down into those components like installers and import it into a database and strip down, look at those things and capture about 80,000 data points around one app. Yes, there are now other organisations competing with us- Microsoft has a technology for application compatibility, for example. But I still think we are market leaders.

So let’s sum up. What is your message to the CBR reader about application migration?
Windows 7 is just one factor – virtualisation is clearly another. As a result we are saying to CIOs that the need for testing of application compatibility through all these moves and changes is accelerating and what we can do is help you understand the cost and issues very, very quickly. App delivery is becoming more complex and that means more cost and pressure on the CIO to be more agile and reduce cost – and the only way to do that is automation, we contend.

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