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  1. Technology
September 13, 1990


By CBR Staff Writer

A tiny company is growing precociously in Maidenhead. Called Software One, it boasts 12 employees, a million pound turnover and a product launched nine months ago which is already being distributed worldwide by Ingres Corp and Pansophic Systems Inc. The company was set up in 1988 with the aim of acquiring an applications company – the deal fell through, and the venture capital was returned. Annette Edwards, heading the team, who came from Arthur Andersen, started doing some consulting to finance the development of Software One’s own product. To begin with the company was very much a family concern. Annette’s husband Andrew Mercer who had worked at Comshare, getting the Commander product into the market, was to be in charge of sales and marketing, while Annette’s younger brother Neil, who had worked for a Compaq distributor, was given the task of developing the product.


Annette also managed to recruit one of her colleagues from Anderson, Michael Wright. The team decided that nobody had yet seriously put money behind rules-based application generators, so this is what they decided to build. It took a year to develop Exchange and the product was ready in January. Software One Exchange is described as a glue binding together incompatible computer-aided software engineering tools from different vendors. The product works by catching information from the front-end software engineering tool and storing it in an intermediate file or repository. It then takes information from the repository, completes the physical design of the application, and creates a file which can be input direct to the selected back end software engineering tool. Both stages are driven by rules which embody the knowledge of systems analysts. Within a fortnight Software One had its first customer: Lloyds Bank. Lloyds was using Cadre’s Teamwork product at the front end and MSP’s data dictionary DataManager at the back. Software One didn’t have an interface to either at the time, but it built both pretty quickly using the Open Architecture interface which includes both the IRDS and CDIF standards and means that Exchange can in theory be attached to any software engineering tool a customer would like to buy. It then generates applications putting them into the Ingres database management system. –

By Katy Ring

In April Sofware One Exchange was launched as a tool which could integrate software engineering tools such as Knowledgeware’s Information Engineering Workbench, James Martin’s Information Engineering Facility, Cadre’s Teamwork and Learmonth & Burchett Management Systems’ Automate Plus, with Pansophic’s code generator Telon, MSP’s Data Manager and Ingres. Mercer claims that Software One can deconstruct and reconstruct any software engineering tool and repository to add the requisite rule set to Exchange. He adds that the company does not have any relationship with any vendor that precludes it writing an interface. Furthermore, Mercer reckons that the emergence of the Exchange product puts Oracle firmly in its place as a closed architecture, and, if it wants to remedy that situation then, Software One is waiting for the phone call. Of course, the product has yet to be proven but Software One’s credibility has been enhanced by Telon guru Terry Wilcox coming aboard as technology director. Wilcox was European Telon manager at Pansophic Systems and was once a director of James Martin Associates. Mercer had worked with him at Pansophic, showed him Exchange earlier this year and, after a substantial equity position had been negotiated, Wilcox joined in July because he believed in the technology. He is capable of positioning the company and offers key customers strategic consultancy. He is also working on his own project with Software One, developing a product called Software One Retrieve. As figurehead the nearest Wilcox gets to marketing is the following statement: purchases of software in the future should not be strategic. Our product Exchange should allow every module to be plug-compatible so that information is not locked into any one

CASE tool. However, it’s a statement worth pondering: Exchange offers customers the ability to switch between front end and back end development tools, irrespective of vendor, and the more software vendors get in on the act, the more attractive the Exchange product becomes. For design data can come in from one tool and go out to another tool, and data can even be reverse engineered using the Exchange product. This might all be so much hype, of course, except that Software One has pulled off some cracking deals for an unknown start-up.

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Aside from Ingres and Pansophic, Excelerator has signed to distribute the product in Europe. Furthermore, a rule set for ICL’s Data Dictionary System will be released soon and gossip has it that ICL, Informix and Unisys are talking to Software One about distribution deals. When one also takes into consideration the fact that IBM’s AD/Cycle announcement has slowed down the market for software engineering tools and data dictionaries, then the Exchange product begins to look dangerously close to a panacea. For Andrew Mercer argues that Exchange acts as the nuts and bolts around which to build AD/Cycle, since design information can be stored in Exchange and moved to IBM’s Repository as and when this becomes feasible, enabling users to continue development with whatever tool and dictionary they desire. So it would seem that software vendors themselves have much to gain from taking Exchange on board and this sort of market momentum may well take Software One a long way. After all, as Mercer says, Exchange either works as an interface or it doesn’t, users have nothing to lose bar the price of the product which at a UKP15,000 entry level is more than reasonable. Offers for an individual to represent the company in the United States are welcome.

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