KM developer rises with the Sun

KM developer rises with the Sun

Knowledge management developer ThoughtWeb has announced a comprehensive support effort from Sun Microsystems to aid the Sydney-based independent software vendors (ISV) in porting its product suite to Java.

The support involves a substantial amount of cash and equipment, the input of Sun's architectural engineers to ensure the design best suits Sun's infrastructure, and an opportunity to market the result globally through Sun's channel partners.

The ThoughtWeb product is the culmination of an extensive 15-year research and development project resulting in a complex Knowledge Management and work collaboration tool. It has only been in recent years that the software has been Web enabled, and only this year that the developers formed a company to market the product.

After previously being programmed in Delphi and C++, the company has now ported to Sun Microsystems's Java environment to link with an Oracle backend. The objective of the project is to run a million concurrent users with each Sun 10,000E box, so it can be scalable enough to be leased through application service providers (ASPs).

To achieve this, ThoughtWeb brought several experienced Java developers onto its technical team of 14 developers, one specialising in Java architecture and another in database development, as well as some junior developers to train underneath them and learn their specialist skills.

Sun is currently benchmarking and beta testing the Java version at the Lockheed Martin and US Department of Energy customer sites in the US. A field release of the Java version is expected to be under full-scale production in January next year.

According to ThoughtWeb CEO Chris Murray, the biggest advantage in working with Sun will be the global channel opportunities the company will reap next year. Working with Sun's channel is what Murray terms a "double leverage" effect, because the company gains sales revenues through both Sun and Sun's partners.

"Sun has a very capable in-house team of account managers who manage ISVs and systems integrators (SIs)," he said. "We view them as a marketing partner network as it is their partners, the SIs, that will customise the ThoughtWeb solution for businesses."

Murray believes the Sun partnership will mean the sales in the greater Asian region should meet the same penetration rate as the company's existing Australian sales operations within six to 12 months.

As for customers already using the Delphi/C++ versions, ThoughtWeb will offer the choice of maintaining support for the existing version or upgrading to the Java version at no penalty.

"I expect the majority will want to upgrade to the Java version because it has a range of new features and will be necessary for future upgrades," said Murray. "The thrust of our future development will be on Java."

While ThoughtWeb has no plans to become an ASP itself, it has begun negotiations with existing ASPs about hosting the application and welcomes any ASPs in the community that are interested in hosting it. The company is also running the application on a Sun box, to offer potential customers a "trial ASP" service. This service allows customers to try out the offering until such time as they want to install it in-house or lease it from a full-scale ASP.

"Customers have really warmed to this service," said Murray. "They get some exposure to the value of the product and a good level of service at a very low cost."

Murray said the company expects to go public in the near future.

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