Cohen: Microsoft, Web Services Key

Gerald Cohen is president of Information Builders Inc., which he founded in 1975.

Gerald Cohen is president of Information Builders Inc., a company that he founded in 1975. Last year, the New York City-based business intelligence software maker spun off a subsidiary, iWay, to develop and sell enterprise integration middleware. Information Builders, meanwhile, retained WebFocus, the companys core business intelligence product. Last week at the Information Builders Summit 2002 user conference in Baltimore, Cohen discussed this strategy and other issues with eWEEK Executive Editor Stan Gibson and Editor-in-Chief Eric Lundquist.

eWEEK: Has the iWay spinoff strategy worked?

Cohen: Thats one decision we made thats working absolutely according to plan. We did it because we needed a separate brand identity because were in two businesses. Its hard to convince people youre in more than one business. When you said Information Builders, people thought of the old Focus product.

Were a technology factory. We used to have a product called EDA/SQL, which was data access middleware. Data access middleware has been subsumed by enterprise integration. Nobody was going to believe that we were in the enterprise integration business without rebranding.

So now, John Senor is president of iWay; the analysts put iWay software on their charts; and people do remember that iWay is about integration. So from that point of view, its working out very nicely -- iWay is getting traction, its attracting partners.

Information Builders is in the real-time information delivery business; iWay is in the integration business. Thats a partnership business. And its getting brand-new sales outside of Information Builders orbit. Its gaining a certain amount of awareness in the industry.

eWEEK: So theres no thought of re-integrating iWay with Information Builders?

Cohen: No. Its taking its own route. WebFocus communicates between data and humans. iWay essentially works between two programs. Its true middleware. Were going to take data from PeopleSoft, send it to Siebel, transform it, put it in MQSeries, send it somewhere else; its business integration.

eWEEK: Which one is getting the most research and development dollars?

Cohen: iWay, by far.

eWEEK: Would you take iWay public separately and perhaps sooner than Information Builders?

Cohen: Yes. Thats a strategy. We have said when iWay reaches that level of development we would do that.

eWEEK: Does going public remain a possibility for Information Builders also?

Cohen: My answer is: You never know.

eWEEK: How would you describe your relationship with Microsoft [Corp.], particularly with regard to BizTalk?

Cohen: Over the years, weve had many different levels of relationship with Microsoft. The BizTalk one makes the most sense. They want to get into the enterprise business, and weve got the software they need to get into the enterprise. So its a natural fit between us.

Also, they dont have a consulting operation and a sales operation. They have partners. Theres very little channel conflict.

eWEEK: You mentioned in your speech that you are phasing out Java support because of Microsoft.

Cohen: On the desktop.

eWEEK: Does that mean you caved?

Cohen: If Microsoft really supported Java on the desktop, we probably would have left the applets there. But the applets were always a pain in the neck. They took too long to come down [from the server].

Now, instead of a Java applet, there is a Java servlet. It does all the work, and it talks to Javascript on the desktop. It looks and responds the same and works with all the browsers. Its much better.

eWEEK: But Microsoft didnt say to you that youre using too much Java?

Cohen: Oh no.