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Interview with Jeremy Allaire: Cofounder and CTO of Allaire Corporation, Inc.

Interview with Jeremy Allaire: Cofounder and CTO of Allaire Corporation, Inc.

JDJ: Allaire has recently been in an acquisition and partnership mode. Can you give us a brief history of the events over the last couple of years and the rationale behind these decisions?
Allaire: One of the primary reasons for going public over a year ago was to create a base of assets that could be leveraged into mergers and acquisitions. We saw a number of areas for expansion for our platform, all of which underlined a long-term strategy for becoming one of the leading Internet business platforms. In 1999 we undertook three acquisitions. The first, BrightTiger Technologies, makers of advanced scalability and Web systems management technology, underpinned our efforts to bolster our Enterprise-level application server offering. The last two, LiveSoftware and Valto Systems, helped to accelerate Allaire's entry into the Java server marketspace, and have formed the foundation for our next-generation products. As you know, both LiveSoftware and Valto were 100% focused on pure, standards-based Java architectures, including JSP, servlets, EJB, JTA and JMS. Unlike a lot of other players in the Java server field who were carrying forward their own proprietary Java offerings, we saw that the end of 1999 was the time for a pure-play, standards offering.

JDJ: It seems to me that this rapid evolution has confused the marketplace. Is there a uniform message Allaire wants to send out to the Web community?
Allaire: A lot has happened with Allaire in the last year. We've evolved from being a leading provider of tools and application servers to supplying a comprehensive Internet software platform covering core server infrastructure, packaged applications as well as development and productivity tools. If there is a uniform message for the Web community, it's that Allaire intends to be a dominant provider of Internet software platforms, enabling any organization to successfully build their business on the Web. We intend to provide top-to-bottom platform infrastructure, as well as a wide range of horizontal packaged applications necessary to running an Internet business.

JDJ: Going back to my first question, how does this message map to the products you're offering?
Allaire: In our recently released Allaire Technology Roadmap, we discuss the customer requirements for e-business software infrastructure, and then map this to our existing products and platform, as well as provide a roadmap for future Allaire offerings. Today we're providing a very robust set of application server products covering both front-tier and back-end application server requirements. This goes from free products for small dynamic sites up through enterprise offerings, including distributed transaction and message queuing infrastructure. On the packaged applications front we released Allaire Spectra 1.0 in December, providing a comprehensive suite of modules for content management, e-commerce and customer relationship management on the Web. We also announced the acquisition of Open Sesame, an early pioneer and leader in the customer profiling, analysis and personalization space.

JDJ: Allaire started out with site-building software that has now evolved into an industry-strength application server. How would you define an application server in today's market?
Allaire: Again, we discuss this in great detail in our Technology Roadmap. It's our belief that the application server portion of e-business software infrastructure is rapidly becoming something of an "operating platform" for all Web applications, replacing the role that was once provided by classic middleware and network operating systems. Functionally, application servers really provide four key areas of functionality: Core Services, such as clustering, security, session management and logging; Integration Services, such as connectivity to Internet protocols, ERP systems, database systems, directories and so on; Web Application Logic Services, providing a dynamic page environment that is used for scripting and is generally the basis for about 80% of applications built; and, finally, Business Logic Services, providing a container or hosting environment for complex business logic, executing in a distributed, transactable fashion. This will certainly be the minimum requirements for any offering into 2000 and 2001.

JDJ: With consolidations and mergers, where do you think the application server market is going? Where does Allaire stand in that market?
Allaire: I think the foregoing outlines our thinking in some detail. Clearly Allaire is in a very strong position, with some 25% of the commercial market according to surveys by IDC. In terms of revenue from application servers, we're right at the top of the pack. The market will continue to consolidate into 2001, and will be driven by two major forces. One is the obvious and increasing role of standards in this infrastructure, with J2EE as the most notable driver, and second is recognition that application servers are true platforms, and that the winners in this space will need to provide an offering that spans every tier of project, skill set and environment. When a larger corporation, say a Ford, or someone buys into a standard server platform, they'll look for that to scale from small-scale departmental sites and applications up into the core back-end for their e-commerce transactions. Our focus on horizontal coverage of the marketplace, combined with products that go very deep in terms of enterprise capabilities, certainly sets us up well to compete.

JDJ: Nowadays, to get wide acceptance in the computer industry, companies try to adhere to technology standards. Does Allaire plan to standardize any of its technologies so as to get a larger audience?
Allaire: Broad adoption of any platform requires a unique combination of proprietary innovation and open standards. This has certainly been the case in the Internet world. For Allaire, this means building and supplying infrastructure based on Internet and industry standards, innovating beyond standards in territories that aren't developed, and in turn collaborating to ensure that that innovation eventually contributes to open standards efforts. Our efforts in the servlet and JSP community are indicative. The JRun team has consistently extended what's possible with server-side Java, and has been aggressively contributing that work to the Sun Community Process. Likewise, with XML protocols Allaire is committed to a similar effort.

JDJ: What is your roadmap for the coming year?
Allaire: We've got a lot of things in the works. First off, we're shipping JRun 3.0, a comprehensive Java application server offering, including full support for J2EE standards, and support for distributed transactions and message queuing, as well as JRun Studio, our first Java-focused IDE product. Later in the year we expect to ship Spectra 2.0, which will add new modules for customer intelligence, personalization and merchandising, as well as expand the core capabilities of the 1.0 offering. We'll also be delivering Tron, the code name for a new B2B Integration Server product based on XML middleware. Into 2001 we're planning to deliver next-generation versions of ColdFusion and JRun through an integrated server code-named Pharaoh, as well as a new offering code-named Harvest, providing comprehensive Web systems management capabilities for managing large farms of Web application servers.

JDJ: Does Allaire plan to get into application design or do you plan to always be application enablers?
Allaire: I assume by this you mean actually getting into the application development business through a consulting organization. This is not a big focus for the company, though we are expanding our services offerings to better ensure the success of our enterprise customers.

JDJ: Since some of our JDJ readers may not be familiar with Allaire Corporation, could you provide an overview of what Allaire does, how your company reached where it is now and what your plans are for the future?
Allaire: Allaire is a leading supplier of Internet software and services for companies building their business on the Web. Our Internet business platform is in use by over 10,000 corporations and over 500,000 developers worldwide. There are three major pillars in our platform: application servers, packaged applications and visual tools. Our application servers, ColdFusion and JRun, are widely adopted for the creation and delivery of Web applications. We also provide a suite of packaged applications under the Allaire Spectra product line, providing solutions for content management, e-commerce and customer relationship management on the Web. In addition, we supply a range of visual tools that ensure the productivity and empowerment of every employee in a Web organization.

JDJ: How does all this relate to Java technologies?
Allaire: Over the past year Allaire has made massive investments in server-side Java infrastructure through acquisitions of leading products and technologies as well as through our own internal R&D. The JRun 3.0 offering that's in late beta right now provides companies with an extremely comprehensive suite of software based entirely around the J2EE standards. This product line will be marketed and priced aggressively for broad adoption, and will form the foundation for a range of next-generation products.

JDJ: What is your relationship with Sun and the Java community?
Allaire: We're very involved in the major standards efforts for Java, including a strong focus on J2EE services. In fact, the JRun team has been at the forefront of defining these standards over the last few years.

JDJ: How does your entry into the Java middle tier affect the company's direction?
Allaire: The focus on component and transaction middleware is a very important evolution in the company's efforts to provide a complete Internet business platform. It's also a critical foundation for our packaged commerce software, as well as for new products in the B2B Integration space.

JDJ: Don't Sun's technologies for the client, such as JSP and servlets, overlap with your own, such as CFML? After all, both are mechanisms for producing dynamic HTML.
Allaire: CFML, JSP and ASP all provide mechanisms for delivering dynamic pages to browsers. I wouldn't put servlets proper in this category, as servlets are really a Java-focused alternative to CGI or NSAPI/ISAPI, and really don't provide a scripting and page template environment that's necessary for Web applications. Currently, CFML provides the highest level of abstraction and therefore the highest degree of productivity for developing interactive applications. Both JSP and ASP are still at the object-scripting level, and don't yet provide the same kind of productivity advantage, though they're ages ahead of writing server-side interactivity logic using Java or C. As you may be aware, Allaire has been one of the most active proponents for the standardization of tag-based scripting within JSP, contributing to the Taglib architecture and working actively on reference implementations as well as next-generation architectures. As we move ColdFusion to a J2EE foundation, you'll also see us move CFML to sit as an abstraction on top of JSP and servlets.

JDJ: Until June, Allaire didn't have much representation in the Java world. Then you went and bought JRun. What prompted you to do so? How is that merger working out?
Allaire: It was very clear that Allaire had an opportunity to be a leading provider of standards-based server-side Java infrastructure, and we saw all of our products moving in this direction. LiveSoftware had clearly emerged as one of the dominant suppliers in the JSP and servlet space, with over 80,000 developers using their products. This was a great way to buy into a large community building around standards, and to leverage that into a broader set of products focused on server-side Java.

JDJ: Your recent acquisition of Valto Systems broadcasts the message that you want to compete with the big boys of Java enterprise computing, such as BEA Systems, Sun and IBM. How do you plan to gain entry into an already defined market?
Allaire: We expect to become a major supplier in the enterprise tier of the Java application server market, and I think you'll see a very different approach from Allaire in pursuing that space. First, our entire offering is based 100% on Java, and 100% on J2EE implemented services. Unlike many of our competitors who have existing C++, Java and CORBA-based systems that are migrating to J2EE, everything we've done has been built from the ground up on Java2. This means that we've got an exceptionally lightweight, clean-room implementation that comes in at around a one MB memory footprint. We're going to leverage that into ISV and OEM customers, who are increasingly looking for embedded J2EE services. We're also going to continue the Allaire tradition of pricing and packaging our platforms for mass adoption, so I think from a developer perspective the Allaire J2EE offering will be the most competitive in terms of price/performance in the marketplace.

JDJ: I've heard that the ColdFusion Application Server can't handle high-volume transactions. Is this true? If so, how are you addressing the issue in your migration to the Java middle tier?
Allaire: In 1998 that was certainly true. In late 1998 and throughout 1999 we delivered ColdFusion Enterprise, our first enterprise-level application server offering. This included all of the components you'd expect at this tier - advanced scalability and clustering services, native database connectivity, CORBA and Java support, and a lot of server tuning, caching and configuration options. With this offering we were able to support dozens of large dot-com customers handling millions or tens of millions per day, and had a couple of the top 10 holiday e-commerce sites deployed entirely on our platform. In addition, our move into the transaction middleware space will ensure fail-safe deployment and reliability for customers implementing large-scale transactional systems.

JDJ: Your ColdFusion Studio product provides an IDE for ColdFusion applications. Do you plan to provide an IDE for your Java products?
Allaire:With JRun 3.0 we're introducing JRun Studio, our first foray into the server-side Java IDE space. With the Pharaoh release of our application server, we'll be expanding the EJB-focused functionality in our overall visual tools suite.

JDJ: What other areas of the Java market do you plan to step into? Are you looking at other partnerships/mergers?
Allaire: There are lots of partnering opportunities, certainly, whether in the testing tools space or in vertical applications, among other things. Our latest acquisition, OpenSesame, provides a J2EE-based customer profiling, analysis and personalization server that will be incorporated into our suite of packaged applications.

JDJ: What is Ejipt? I noticed your Java strategy revolves around the name Egypt. Any particular reason?
Allaire: Ejipt was the name of Valto Systems' EJB server offering. This technology from Valto Systems will serve as an underpinning for a lot of our future products and architecture, so that's part of it. We also liked the fact that we could come up with lots of interesting code-names surrounding ancient civilization.

JDJ: Would you say that ColdFusion is a direct competitor of JSP? Is there room for both? If so, could you give examples of the kinds of applications that could leverage both these technologies?
Allaire: Again, today, you really would choose one or the other for the Web application logic layer. Going forward, with CFML built on a Java foundation, it will be incorporated into the same runtime environment as JSP. What it will really come down to for developers is what level of abstraction they want or need to work at. CFML is simply the fastest way to develop dynamic Web applications, and we will carry this tradition forward into the standards-based community.

JDJ: For Java developers not familiar with your products, what would be a good place to start incorporating them into their existing applications?
Allaire: Any Web-centric or browser-based application would be a good candidate for using JRun.

JDJ:How can our readers start playing around with some of your new products?
Allaire: JRun 3.0 beta is available for download from beta.allaire.com/jrun30. Allaire Spectra, our packaged system, as well as ColdFusion Enterprise are both available for download from our public Web site, www.allaire.com.

More Stories By Ajit Sagar

Ajit Sagar is Associate VP, Digital Transformation Practice at Infosys Limited. A seasoned IT executive with 20+ years experience across various facts of the industry including consulting, business development, architecture and design he is architecture consulting and delivery lead for Infosys's Digital Transformation practice. He was also the Founding Editor of XML Journal and Chief Editor of Java Developer's Journal.

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