Information Builders CEO Talks on Making Connections

Gerald Cohen, CEO of business intelligence software maker Information Builders, sizes up the state of the industry.

CEO Gerald Cohen, established Information Builders Inc. in 1975. The privately held maker of business intelligence software earned about $300 million in revenue last year.

In an interview with eWEEK Executive Editor Stan Gibson at the companys Summit User Conference in New Orleans last week, Cohen discussed enhancements to the companys WebFocus product line. He also weighed in on open source and the recent agreement between Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

When will WebFocus 5.3 be out, and what can we look for?

WebFocus 5.3, coming this summer, will have much better graphics—publication-quality graphics—through enhanced Adobe [Systems Inc.] support. It will include nice enhancements for [Microsofts] Excel.

There are also scalability enhancements. Later this year, "Tango" is coming. Thats a code name for the release that includes better support for cluster controllers. Its incremental scalability.

What about your [pending] agreement with Sun? Youve said you seldom had dealings with Sun.

Well, they woke up. We started negotiating while Scott McNealy was there. But after the new guy [Jonathan Schwartz] took over, it really accelerated. Theyre going to distribute all of our iWay adapters that will work with the Sun architecture.

What do you think of the peace treaty between Microsoft and Sun?

They didnt announce enough details where users will benefit. If Microsoft distributed the latest Sun version of the JVM [Java virtual machine] and interoperability with Java, that would be nice for the customers. In one version of [Windows] XP, they dropped the JVM. What a heck of a job it was to do a Java app on an NT box. Everybody complained.

So, youd like to see more?

Absolutely. Every vendor that wants to be an enterprise vendor must interoperate with everything a customer has.

Last year, you had layoffs. Are they in the past at this point?

Yes. Were stabilized. Were hiring modestly in areas where we need to expand. We outsourced a little bit.

Are you doing much offshore work?

On a project basis, well go offshore. In Moscow, we work with a group doing specialized projects. We announced [last week] "follow the sun" customer support. We could have had one center in India open round-the-clock. Instead, we chose to have centers in Australia, the Netherlands and New York.

We thought it would be less expensive than having one operation in India with three shifts. Its good to have a center close to the European community.

When you demonstrated your Quick Query software, you said you were giving the customer the source code. Does that indicate a move to open source?

Quick Query is built in our language, WebFocus. You can change it if youve taken classes. However, open source is going nowhere. Linux, if it werent for IBM, would be going nowhere.

You cant have free software. Youre not going to get support. The suppliers of free software, the Red Hat [Inc.]s of the world, are going to have to raise their prices.

Theres Suns Java Desktop System and Novell [Inc.]s new Linux strategy under which they acquired SuSE and Ximian.

Its not going to be free. When I say Linux, Im talking the open-source, freebie-type Linux.

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