Progress Software buys a new front-end for its PaaS play

Just over a year ago, application infrastructure vendor Progress Software announced a drastic plan to turn its ailing fortunes around. It pledged to sell off no fewer than ten of its product lines, and abandoned its strategy of pursuing enterprise-wide contracts.

Instead, the company decided to renew its focus on independent software vendors (ISVs) who have long been its core customer base. The idea was to reposition its various middleware products as a platform for a new breed of applications, capable of processing and analysing data in real time.

Of course, the immediate challenge for most ISVs is not how they embed complex event processing (CEP_ or business rules management, or any other Progress’ esoteric middleware products, into their applications, but how they can navigate the shift to the cloud.

“Our ISV customers have said, we want to be able to compete in the cloud,” explains CEO Philip Pead.

So Progress also announced that it would be gradually moving its software components into the cloud, to create an all new “platform-as-a-service” offering.

That is still a work in progress, but in June 2013, the company acquired a key component, in the form of Silicon Valley-based start-up Rollbase.

Rollbase’s technology allows ISVs to build applications using a browser-based drag-and-drop interface. It can be deployed on private infrastructure or any public cloud.

Gartner named Rollbase as one of its Cool Vendors in the PaaS space earlier this year, noting that “insightful application PaaS vendors are targeting their tools to the needs of SaaS ISVs, because SaaS sells PaaS, and SaaS ISVs are a critical channel for PaaS vendors.”

As it announced the acquisition, Progress also unveiled the new brand for its PaaS play: “Progress Pacific”. In the next few months, Progress will integrate cloud-based versions of its infrastructure tools, such as data integration platform Data Direct and business rules management system Cortico, into Rollbase.

This, says Pead, will allow ISVs to build sophisticated applications, that can draw data in from a variety and cloud and on-premise sources, through an easy to use interface. “The world is moving too rapidly for you to spend five years building a product.”

Another significant integration, Pead says, is between Rollbase and Progress’s existing on-premise application development environment, OpenEdge. That gives its installed base of over 1,000 ISVs an opportunity to make the cloud-shift with ease, he claims.

The PaaS space is still the smallest segment of the cloud market but there are signs that it may be about to heat up – most notably, the unveiling in April of Pivotal One, the PaaS offering from a spin-off from EMC and VMware, which is built on the Hadoop big data framework from the ground up.

Pead does not see Progress Pacific and Pivotal One as competitive, however. “We have similar elements, but their target market is completely different than ours,” he says. “They are going after enterprise-wide deployments, whereas we’re focused on ISVs.”

And while Data Direct does integrate with Hadoop, Progress Pacific is designed primarily for building applications on relational databases.

It has been a year now since Progress’s strategic turnaround was announced, but it is still very much a work in progress. In March, the company reported a 3% increase in sales for its latest financial quarter – a marked improvement on the declining sales it has endured in recent years, but not yet proof of a comeback.

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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