Wily Technology CEO Calls Application Life-Cycle Management The Next Big Thing

Wily Technology CEO Dick Williams has been at the forefront of next-generation application management tools for J2EE environments. In an interview with Editor In Chief Michael Vizard, Williams said the revolution in application integration over the past three years has created an unanswered need for continuous application life-cycle management, which presents a big opportunity for solution providers.

CRN: As software inherently becomes integrated, how does that change the way businesses need to go about managing those environments?

WILLIAMS: Historically, companies have dealt with specific technologies. What is different about the Web space, Java and these service-oriented architectures is that you cannot define it in a narrow way, because these applications and technologies are inherently integrated. A transaction in one application might well traverse two-thirds of the existing systems and databases within an organization. You have to look at it across the entire application spectrum. You have to look at it from across the full application life cycle. What companies have found is that in order to manage these environments, they end up bringing all of those specialists together into a room to try and get them to work together. We have now defined that as something we call Management 360, which is a collaborative management approach that provides common, realtime information to each of the specialists, typically surfaced through their existing systems-management framework. People can then rapidly drive to root-cause problems before they become significant.

CRN: Is the development of these types of systems a prerequisite to get to utility computing models that are easy to set up and manage?

WILLIAMS: It requires a level of sophistication and knowledge that has not historically been available to us. That is why there is a need for a new way of managing these systems in a 360-degree management, collaborative kind of a context. What this is all about is allowing you to much more rapidly develop and deploy significant new functionality and business capability on a continuous basis. Business is demanding far greater responsiveness from IT.

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Historically, customers would change things on a quarterly basis. The typical customer today will make 20 changes to an application a week. You have to start with an understanding that you cannot ever test it enough. These environments are in constant flux. You have to manage them in real time. And when you do it that way, you can literally see problems as they begin to develop. The marketplace is developing a need for a whole new set of channel partners, consultants and specialists that can help these organizations deal with this operating environment. It opens up this huge opportunity.

CRN: If that's the case, does it mean you will have to expand your focus beyond J2EE to include Microsoft's .Net?

WILLIAMS: We developed a prototype for .Net two-and-a-half years ago. We will commercialize that within the next 12 months. You will be able to manage a .Net environment from a Java-centric environment. Our customers are telling us that they are beginning to deploy .Net applications in departmental systems. They would like to be able to manage those in a common context to what is being managed in J2EE. That's the way we intend to evolve that over the next 12 to 18 months. Ultimately, if .Net becomes significant in terms of business-critical computing in those major enterprises, then we would reimplement in a .Net environment. We know how to do that. We have not seen the market requirement for that yet.

CRN: Do the Wily products integrate with any systems-management platform?

WILLIAMS: Our full strategy has been to integrate with--not compete with or replace--whatever systems-management framework and tools that a customer has. By definition, we cooperate and work with CA, BMC, Mercury, Veritas, you name it. We want to assist our customers in the least disruptive way possible to manage these new environments. CRN: How is Wily evolving the way it goes to market?

WILLIAMS: Historically, we have gone to market via a direct-sales force. In this last year, as we began building up channels significantly, in North America we grew our channel partners rather dramatically. On a global basis, we grew from 10 to 46 channel partners over the last 18 months.

CRN: What's driving that growth?

WILLIAMS: Evidently, demand for the set of solutions that we provide and the fact that the customers have significant relationships with those channel partners already. You can look at those in two tiers. With the very large guys, historically the customer has brought us together. They can sell our products directly. They can contract consulting services. We can contract with them for consulting services. The second approach to channels is a much broader one. In North America, we have involved about a dozen channel partners that basically started life as consulting services organizations. Typically, they may have been educational services and then over time have begun reselling. They have been very successful for us. They refer business to us and, where they do business direct, there are mutual consulting-services engagements. We expect to see that model to continue to grow and develop.

We would expect that this year alone, [we will] a little more than triple the percentage of business moving through channels vs. direct. That would mean increasing by about sixfold in terms of volume. Last year, the channel was about 5 percent of our revenue. It's looking to be about 15 percent at the end of the year. We want to build the license business. We need to build the consulting services, education and support business because customers demand and expect that. We would love to have as much of that done as possible through our channel partners.

CRN: Do you think that products of Wily's class will be moving into the small- and midsize-business market soon?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. Over the last three-and-a-half years that I have been here, one of our key focuses has been ease of configuration, deployment and management. That facilitates massive deployment in large enterprises and makes it more practical for smaller enterprises. You'll see a number of things from us this year that will make it a lot easier for smaller enterprises, which do not have the level of staffing and expertise that major companies have.

CRN: Do you think partners will start to deliver managed services by using Wily's products to manage applications?

WILLIAMS: I have not seen that yet. I do believe there is that business opportunity. We have given a lot of thought to defining and developing that kind of a business opportunity, both for ourselves as well as offering through our channel partners. I have not really seen it develop yet. We are still in the relatively early days vs. network management, security management and other things of that nature.

CRN: Given all of the interest and activity in this space, do you think Wily will be acquired?

WILLIAMS: We certainly have no intention of being acquired by anybody. We really do believe that this is a significant, new marketplace that is going to be huge. We believe that there is a need and room for a significant, stand-alone systems management company in this space. We intend to be that company.