The Enterprise factor

EXE Magazine, November 1998

Many found the change of name from Borland to Inprise quite ridiculous. To take cheap shots at Borland for this move is quite hypocritical though. This was only a very visible effect of a trend that started much earlier and is not limited just to Inprise. Marketing departments of software publishers and of IT companies in general have definitively adopted this word as a favourite (alongside worse ones such as leverage).

The irony of this situation is that the E word is most prominent in the discourse of companies that were originally targeting exclusively the (lonely) desktop. It feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy: if we keep repeating the E word enough it'll have to become true!

Daryl Plummer, VP and Research Director (Application Development Tools and Technology) at the Gartner Group, mentioned in a recent presentation that about 20% of all applications developed are enterprise applications. This might surprise you as being very little, but for the Gartner Group, enterprise software means high volume transaction applications that manage the core business of an enterprise. A fair definition.

In the case of Inprise and most of its competitors, the E word has many very different meanings. Brian Ledbetter, Product Manager at Inprise, considers it to be a combination of three things: software that is not just a boxed product, support (often done in partnership with system integrators), and a comprehensive solution. At the same time he also defines the E word as being a departure from Windows NT, internally the word implies support for Windows NT and 95, Unix, AS/400, mainframes, and packages such as SAP. The first definition, which covers offering TP Monitors, might lead to systems fitting the Gartner Group definition.

On the other hand, the second definition partly fits another situation that has arisen these last few years, ie it is used mainly to differentiate product offerings from ‘standard’ and ‘professional’ editions. In this latter context (replacing what were called Client/Server editions), what is it if not a licence to print money?

The main difference between the enterprise edition and all the others is database support. These days, apart from specialised fields such as embedded systems, everyone at some point or another needs to access a database, and it even sometimes make sense to have a database in an embedded product. If you can guarantee that you'll never ever need to write any code that accesses a database, the professional edition might be enough. But even then sometimes you still need the enterprise edition to receive more comprehensive documentation. As to the standard editions, they really feel like a learning tool or a taster for the real thing.

As Dave Jewell mentioned on Cix, perhaps all this should be attributed to a misspent youth watching too much Star Trek.

David Mery

(C)1998, Centaur Communications Ltd. Reproduced with the kind permission of EXE Magazine.