By William Fellows
Directory and connectivity specialist Syntax Inc is changing its business model and has set in place a plan to become a $200m company in four years’ time by doubling its revenue for the next three. Traditionally an engineering-driven company, Syntax says it is quitting the sale of products the way it does now in favor of establishing partnerships with ISVs which will use its work and developing relationships with MIS shops. It thinks it is now ready to do server consolidation work using its TotalNet file and directory connection services and management tools. Later this year it will wrap its point products up into a suite that will includes new distributed administration, authentication and security services plus migration tools and 24×7 support aimed at companies migrating applications and middleware as part of their server consolidation projects. The suite is codenamed Seattle. Indeed Syntax is hanging hats on several emerging technology trends. In addition to server consolidation, it thinks its directory skills will enable it to profit from the current wave of enthusiasm for directory services. CEO Roger Franklin says Syntax will provide the connectivity services for the problems that directories do not solve. Take Novell Directory Services, says Franklin. Novell is out ahead in the directory market with its NDS simply because it was the first there and has the most polished product. IBM’s Transarc isn’t far behind. Microsoft’s Active Directory will become important but will take a long time to get established. Franklin says none of these point solutions really solve the problem of integrating network services and applications running on different platforms. Each is proprietary and none of the companies will reveal details of how their directories work so users are still faced with an ‘all or nothing’ choice which leaves them requiring specialist connection services to integrate many applications. What’s needed are open directory services, says Franklin, which is why Syntax is pushing TotalNet’s common file format. Franklin says the company is also going to target the low end of the business service market with a dedicated application server product – thin server software – that will run on a variety of platforms. Codenamed Enumclaw for the small Washington town where Franklin lives, the product will bundle a web server, security, authentication and file and print services. It will be touted as the ideal platform to run small business networks which may need to support several different systems. The overhaul of Syntax’s business model has to some extent been caused by Sun Microsystems Inc’s decision to license the AT&T Co’s Unix implementation of NT 4.0 file and print services on Solaris as Cascade. Sun already sells Syntax’s TotalNet as SunLink Server for other kinds of connections but has passed on Syntax’s new TotalNet 5.4 software – which includes support for creating NT domains without requiring use of a NT server – as its preferred connectivity solution. TotalNet provides a common file format for NT, NetWare, Mac and Unix servers and enables users to access the same files regardless of which platform is being used. Franklin has previously warned that Cascade said is wrong for Sun and wrong for Sun’s users. He says it’s a marketing initiative designed primarily to sell Sun servers into NT sites. Syntax will continue to iterate TotalNet – version 6.0 is due later this year – and OEM the work to IBM, SGI and others who bundle the software with their Unixes. It expects 90% of its installed base to upgrade to TotalNet 5.4 within six to nine months. Syntax has hired Joe Marvin, formerly VP enterprise sales at Sequent, to head up worldwide sales. Marvin brings some of the Sequent team with him and replaces Jack Smith who is going to look after new business relationships. The company has also hired a CFO and other VPs.