As reported briefly, Tuesday saw Electronic Data Systems Corp and Amdahl Corp stand up and announce a joint venture; the Antares Alliance Corp. It looks like a match made in heaven and also sees the General Motors Corp software and computer services subsidiary test the waters of the software market. The two partners bring similar […]
As reported briefly, Tuesday saw Electronic Data Systems Corp and Amdahl Corp stand up and announce a joint venture; the Antares Alliance Corp. It looks like a match made in heaven and also sees the General Motors Corp software and computer services subsidiary test the waters of the software market. The two partners bring similar but complementary products to the party; Amdahl with Huron and inCASE from EDS. Total investment in the new business is said to be in excess of $50m and Amdahl sits in the driving seat with 80% of the Alliance (though EDS has the option to take up another 10% – presumably in the event that Amdahl needs more cash to keep the thing going forward). It is clear that Huron will form the core of the combined offering: EDS’s development labs are in Dallas, Amdahl’s are in Toronto, and while the two sites are staying where they are, any growth is most likely to occur in Toronto.
With the companies describing Huron as an applications development, production and maintenance system and inCASE as a tool that generates and maintains client-server and monolithic target applications the overlap might look disturbing, but the companies argue convincing that they have complementary strengths. So EDS is proud of inCASE’s ability to suck in information about existing business processes; its Apache module is used to question users about their requirements while the SCI, or Source Code Interviewer, module recycles the work ploughed into legacy systems by churning through old Cobol programs. What inCASE is not so good at is the actual code execution side and Electronic Data Systems corporate vice-president Joe Holmes admits that this part of the package didn’t get the same level of energy that [information] integration did. By contrast Huron’s strength is as a cross-system programming and execution environment; its particular claim to fame is that applications for one hardware and operating system combination should run on any other, without recompilation or other tinkering; however its analysis tools are not so strong. The advantages for Amdahl are obvious. First it picks up the inCASE technology, which Amdahlers acknowledge that they would have to have been built into Huron at some stage anyway. Second, it gets the cachet of EDS’s support, and its marketing muscle. Though Huron has received a generally enthusiastic reception since it was launched in
By Chris Rose
March 1992, and has picked up some influential customers including the UK Inland Revenue and American Express there are still only 52 or 53 site licences worldwide, so Electronic Data Systems’ endorsement supplies some much-needed gravitas. And of course Amdahl still retains 80% of the new company. For EDS, Antares represents a way of keeping inCASE going, without devoting core resources to it, but just as importantly EDS gets a painless entry into the world of software sales. InCase is not a product; it has never been put in a box and sold to people, and in fact this is the first time that EDS has ever tried selling software straight. Instead EDS used inCASE as part of facilities management and other services to customers. The problem was, says EDS’s Holmes, that the customers were not keen on having all their applications written in a proprietary, non-commercial package that no-one outside of the EDS community had ever heard of. We didn’t want to develop all the support and other services needed to commercialise the product, but we didn’t want to release the product without the right support. Antares provides the answer. This may also be the start of a new business for Electronic Data Systems: the company must be cram-packed with little utilities that it has written for its own use, with the potential to become commercial goodies. Holmes acknowledges that this is a kind of test in this regard and if it goes well, more products could emerge, to be fed either into Antares or, says Holmes, new ventures. The strategy then, is for inCASE to become a front end to Huron, and last November a rough and ready prototype was built which de
monstrated that inCASE could generate Huron-esque code. However it is not likely that a fully integrated inCASE,-Huron offering will emerge until the beginning of next year. In the meantime Huron version 2.0 is due out in September bringing with it formal support for the IBM Corp RS/6000 Unix box. At the time the product will be unshackled from the mainframe. Though Huron currently runs happily on 80486 personal computers under Santa Cruz operation Inc Unix, only customers with mainframe licences can get their hands on the product, with the personal computer version used for development and the finished application running on the big box. Now, separated from Amdahl, that will change. There are even mutterings about a stripped down version of Huron, designed to enable MS-DOS or Windows users begin to use Huron applications as clients: John Paton, formerly Amdahl’s European director of marketing for Huron, and now Antares’ European sales director, is scathing about the type of client-server application where the client end consists solely of a pretty graphical user interface.
The trouble is that Huron is not going to run on MS-DOS and Windows machines and there are a lot of MS-DOS and Windows users out there. It hehoves us to build a presentation version of Huron he concludes, saying that this is likely to be delivered in 1994. In the meantime the RS/6000 version will enable personal computer users to access Huron applications through X-terminal emulators. The company also intends to support Sparcsystems running Solaris and Windows NT. The crucial component that has yet to be delivered is the price. All the company is saying is that it will be user-based and generally there will be an initial licence fee with a simplified per-seat charge, but importantly the company has realised that mainframe pricing is inappropriate if it going to make a dent in the client-server market and says that pricing will depend on which machine users want to run the package.