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IBM WebSphere software products Authors: Yeshim Deniz, hyper filter, Timothée Bensimon, XebiaLabs Blog, Javier Paniza

Related Topics: Java EE Journal, Prolifics Technology Journal, WebSphere

J2EE Journal: Article

Partners Compare WebLogic and WebSphere: An Exclusive Interview with Devi Gupta of Prolifics

Partners Compare WebLogic and WebSphere: An Exclusive Interview with Devi Gupta of Prolifics

Related Links

  • How Low Does BEA Have to Go?
  • How Long Can BEA Survive, Industry Asks
  • Why WebSphere?
  • A Successful Ingredient Offers Choice
  • A Leader with New Customers

    After talking with Tom Inman (see page 6), Jack Martin also spoke to Devi Gupta, director of Strategic Marketing at Prolifics, about IBM WebSphere and BEA WebLogic.

    WJ: Devi, as Director of Strategic Marketing for Prolifics, What's a typical day like for you?
    DG:
    Well, have you seen the IBM commercials that are on TV? I think a lot of companies that hear those messages feel that vision - the On Demand vision - is perhaps beyond them. I am Prolifics' messenger. One of my key goals, and the goals of my team, is to spread the word - let all the medium-size businesses know that Prolifics can make their On Demand solutions a reality - let all the larger enterprises know that Prolifics is "the" WebSphere expert. Our focus as a business and as one of IBM's top three core WebSphere Service Providers is not to sell customers WebSphere and then leave. Our focus is to stay and ensure that the company is successful with the software and that it has realized all its potential. I commend IBM for its dedication to customer satisfaction - putting together this specialist team solely dedicated to enabling customer success with WebSphere.

    Another key goal for me is to help define Prolifics' business strategy. This involves market research, business analysis, and developing alliances. I dedicate a large portion of my week to working with our key strategic alliance, IBM. I work with my IBM counterparts to create joint campaigns that offer our software and services to companies around the world. In a good partnership it is essential to communicate and work together toward a common goal where both parties - as well as the customers they service - win. We have that good partnership with IBM and our customers.

    WJ: Who is your IBM counterpart?
    DG:
    On a day-to-day basis, I work with our Business Partner representatives, Deanna Landivar and Mike Lowry. Our executive sponsor at IBM is Tom Inman, who has been incredibly supportive of us for five years now.

    WJ: When you're looking to drive awareness, what types of companies are you working with? What industries are they in? What size are they?
    DG:
    Our focus has always been the highly transactional industries, so really we have a strong presence across several industries. In fact, we located our headquarters in the Wall Street area of New York City because of our strong finance and insurance backgrounds. However, we do service customers across several other industries - telco, health care, government, manufacturing. Regarding size, they tend to range from the medium-size business all the way up to the large organizations. At least 60% or more of our business is dedicated to the medium-size business and the rest is dedicated to servicing enterprise-size customers like AT&T and UPS.

    WJ: Is your company specific in its WebSphere value?
    DG:
    Well, I mentioned earlier that we are one of three core WebSphere Service Provider partners. Let me explain. Because we are ranked a Level 4 & 5 WebSphere partner - IBM's highest for technical skill - we are part of a select group of highly specialized experts that IBM brings in to service its most challenging WebSphere customer requirements. We are experts in the field - experts in WebSphere Portal and Business Integration solutions. We have serviced over 300 WebSphere customers on the Eastern Seaboard alone within the past three years. So, what we really bring to the table is our years of expertise that go into understanding customers' requirements, solving their difficult problems, and understanding how to make their software projects a success. Having serviced customers for 26 years now, we keep our IT solutions practical - understanding and scoping to exactly what the customer needs to do, not beyond what they need to do.

    WJ: How big a head count does your company have?
    DG:
    We have around 120 employees.

    WJ: Of those, how many are JAVA developers?
    DG:
    Over 70.

    WJ: So over 50% of your company is a JAVA shop. That's interesting. Do you work with Eclipse? What IDE do you use?
    DG:
    We typically use WebSphere Studio Application Developer. But of course that is augmented by each consultant's previous years of expertise with native programming and other IDEs.

    WJ: How do you find using WebSphere Studio on actual engagements? Is it flexible? Does it work for you?
    DG:
    Yes, very flexible - it works well for us. We use it on all of our WebSphere and portal customer engagements, and have even used it to build some of our own internal run-the-business applications. I think the beauty of WebSphere Studio is that it hooks into the Eclipse Framework, allowing it to extend its functionality, and that it is so open. Obviously, it is ideal when developing WebSphere applications; however, I believe that we've been able to utilize the software when a customer is in a non-WebSphere environment or when migrating a customer to WebSphere from another application server.

    WJ: Which ones have you used it on?
    DG:
    Tomcat and BEA WebLogic.

    WJ: When a customer comes to you looking for a WebSphere deployment, do they have a specific set of business challenges in front of them or is something broken?
    DG:
    A little bit of both. Our customers might come to us during a critical moment when they need to seek out highly specialized experts. Or often, particularly with our portal or business integration customers, they come to us with a specific business problem, such as the need to create a business-to-employee portal, or to eliminate redundant systems and processes within their organization.

    WJ: It seems that your company has bet the ranch on WebSphere for what you spend the bulk of your work doing. Correct?
    DG:
    That's true.

    WJ: Why?
    DG:
    Well, I think we are unique in that way. We've been in business for 26 years and for most of our history we kept a neutral stance. However, with technology being as complex as it is, it is implausible to say that we are the experts at everything. We can provide better service to our customers by being the best at one thing rather than good at everything. So five years ago we evaluated and spoke with some of the major players in the J2EE space, and decided to strategically align ourselves with IBM.

    WJ: What did IBM walk in with that was better than anybody else?
    DG:
    Two primary things. One reason we selected IBM, which was evident right away, was the level of importance, energy, and investment that they place on business partners as a channel, particularly as compared to other vendors. The second is that what IBM had to offer to our customer base was of great value. They're not just a middleware vendor. They're not predominantly a database vendor. What we found them to be was truly a total solutions provider - they had software technology that satisfied pretty much all of the requirements toward delivering a transactional system for a customer, not to mention their hardware offerings, services arm, and business partner community solutions. So, we felt that we could offer our customers a solution to do anything they needed to do today and support anything they may need to do in the future.

    WJ: Have you ever done any WebLogic work?
    DG:
    We have. Yes.

    WJ: How did you find working with BEA's products as opposed to IBM's?
    DG:
    BEA's software is good. From a technology perspective, if we compare the WebLogic app server to the WebSphere app server we are comparing two products that are quite similar. I don't think a customer should base their decisions simply on a feature-by-feature product comparison. Particularly when you know that the two competitors will catch up with each other shortly. With the level of investment that IBM puts into WebSphere, you have to know they will keep advancing and complying to the latest J2EE specs. From a portfolio perspective, I would say that WebSphere wins hands down - they have collaborative portal solutions, complex business integration adapters, support for voice activation and pervasive devices - whatever a business needs for its future. It's a comprehensive solution.

    WJ: So, in your view, from a technical perspective, BEA WebLogic and WebSphere pretty much are on a par in the course of any 12-month period as they move back and forth with each other.

    Have you converted any customers from WebLogic to WebSphere?
    DG:
    We have. We've converted more than 20 customers from WebLogic to WebSphere. In fact, we've also converted several customers from Sun's iPlanet and OracleAS.

    WJ: Why do you think those customers converted?
    DG:
    For a number of reasons. They can reduce their overall maintenance costs by moving to WebSphere - that's been a tremendous factor in the decision making. Partly because IBM's pricing model is very competitive and partly because IBM provides all the productivity tools to speed development and decrease costs.

    WJ: I've heard that some people who do WebLogic installations actually use WebSphere's application developer tools.
    DG:
    Yes, that's right. Even though customers may be using WebLogic as an application server they are still turning to IBM to provide the comprehensive development platform. Another reason I can give you for why a customer chooses to migrate from BEA WebLogic to IBM WebSphere is because they are making a vendor decision. They're looking for a company that is going to be around in a few years - one with credibility and long-term viability.

    WJ: Are you saying that some customers you have worked with have actually chosen WebSphere over WebLogic based on what could happen to BEA as a company?
    DG:
    Well, there certainly have been rumors and suspicions in the marketplace as to whether or not BEA would be acquired. If that were the case, what is the long-term strategy for the technology?

    WJ: You mean there's a concern that if Microsoft bought it, maybe they'd turn the whole thing into a .NET shop as opposed to Oracle buying it and turning it into a database?
    DG:
    Well, I don't think there is any synergy between Microsoft and BEA. If Oracle or HP acquired BEA, the question would of course be how WebLogic would be integrated with Oracle's and HP's own respective application server and what their customers could expect as the product's future.

    WJ: Interesting. So you have a lot of deep-thinking customers that look forward in time before they make their actual decision.
    DG:
    It's a very important decision to make. Our customers are choosing a corporate standard. The technology will be supporting them for at least the next five years or more and they need it to grow with the unexpected changes in their business. Many customers are going through mergers and acquisitions, having to comply with government regulations, and will create many other business requirements. So, it's an extremely important question for these customers to answer, and I think they take it very seriously, both with evaluating the technology and also beyond that to evaluating the vendor.

    WJ: Let me ask you this. In the spirit of being fair to our friends over at BEA, have you lost any of your customers from WebSphere to WebLogic?
    DG:
    We haven't necessarily lost customers from IBM to BEA. What we have seen are a few customers that might already have BEA technology embedded, and although they may be interested in moving to WebSphere, they make the decision to not move. They may be forced, because of internal timeframes, to stay put.

    WJ: So you've seen customers hold pat if they already have it, but you haven't had any of your customers rip WebSphere out by the roots and replace it with WebLogic?
    DG:
    No. We haven't.

    WJ: Your company belongs to a very, very special club. IBM could have picked any three companies and almost any three technology companies in the world would have happily taken the assignment; Why do you think IBM picked Prolifics?
    DG:
    That's easy. We're proven and we've been proven for 26 years.

    WJ: Proven at what?
    DG:
    We have a 96% success rate measured by an independent analyst organization of delivering solutions to our customers on time, on budget, and within specifications.

    WJ: Do you realize that two-thirds of the IT projects, all IT projects that happen in the world, fail either because they missed the budget, they missed the timeframe, or the thing just didn't work?
    DG:
    I do. In fact the industry standard success rate is somewhere around 23%. It's shocking really - and because of that we make every effort to ensure that a customer's application successfully deploys. We are incredibly proud of our work.

    WJ: How do you have such success? Now I understand why IBM picked you. Now I want to know the secret sauce. Why are you guys so good?
    DG:
    The secret is our people, our methodology, our practical experiences. The secret is how we learn from our practical experiences and apply it back into the success of other projects. The rest of our secret is a secret.

    WJ: You should be very proud to work there and so should everybody else.

    Tom Inman (see page 6), also spoke to us about Prolifics' relationship with IBM.

    WJ: I understand that you are Prolific's Executive Sponsor over at IBM and they are one of IBM's three core WebSphere service providers. Can you tell me, what makes Prolifics so special?
    TI:
    Prolifics is one of three companies; Devi is referring to one of the business relationships that they have with us. I say this because we have several relationships with each other. They are what we call a "retained services partner," which means essentially we have them on a contractual relationship with us whereby when we deliver services and we are the provider in the eyes of the customer quite often we will have a Prolifics person or team on that project. That's a testament to the quality of the skills and reputation of the individuals that are employed by Prolifics. They are truly world-class professionals in terms of their skills and the professionalism that they deliver. We are willing to put an IBM brand name on their work.

    WJ: That's unusual.
    TI:
    So, that is one of the relationships. There are others. They do client integration projects on IBM contracts and they do integration business on their own. They also resell. Further, they have a software products business that is very complementary to that of WebSphere. But, I think what makes them particularly capable is that they have been in the business of solving fairly complex customer problems for years. They have been a custom integration solution provider for years and they have a track record of delivery. They have been in business for over 20 years, so probably one of the things that make, them unique is their longevity. You know they've been in the market for a while and that gives their customers a lot of confidence.

    They have very, very satisfied client relationships. To the IBM sales team they have a reputation for delivery. When you call on them, they bring world-class experts to the table who know exactly what they are talking about. They are very impressive in front of clients. When you bring them in on a project, they simply deliver. It's that level of successful delivery that is their reputation. So, when our field team thinks about a trusted partner, they think Prolifics. When a client engages Prolifics, they are delighted with the results.

    WJ: So they fit the bill?
    TI:
    Clients and IBM can count on Prolifics. Since Prolifics was once an important business partner of BEA's, they are living proof of what we discussed earlier. That BEA is not a company that you may want to trust as a partner. It is BEA's lack of real partnering abilities that helped fuel the mutually profitable relationship between Prolifics, IBM, and our clients.

    Devi Gupta is the director of Strategic Marketing and IBM Alliance Manager for Prolifics. She is a keystone to Prolifics and has fulfilled a variety of principal functions since joining the company in 1991. In her position, Devi directs the strategic positioning of the company, leads the effort to implement Prolifics' vision, and manages the company's key partner alliances. Under her guidance, Prolifics has made the critical transition from a product and services company to become one of only three WebSphere Service Providers retained by IBM and the 2003 winner of an IBM Business Partner Leadership Award.
    dgupta@prolifics.com

    Related Links

  • How Low Does BEA Have to Go?
  • How Long Can BEA Survive, Industry Asks
  • Why WebSphere?
  • A Successful Ingredient Offers Choice
  • A Leader with New Customers
  • More Stories By Jacques Martin

    Jack Martin, editor-in-chief of WebSphere Journal, is cofounder and CEO of Simplex Knowledge Company (publisher of Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal http://www.s-ox.com), an Internet software boutique specializing in WebSphere development. Simplex developed the first remote video transmission system designed specifically for childcare centers, which received worldwide media attention, and the world's first diagnostic quality ultrasound broadcast system. Jack is co-author of Understanding WebSphere, from Prentice Hall.

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