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Exclusive Interview with Dick Williams, CEO of Wily Technology

Wily Technology's CEO talks to WebSphere Journal

Wily Technology (www.wilytech.com) provides Enterprise Application Management solutions. The company's products are designed to enable companies to successfully manage their critical Web applications and infrastructure by providing real-time, end-to-end visibility into the performance and availability of these systems. Wily Technology is based in Brisbane, California, just south of San Francisco. WJ's former Editor-in-Chief Jack Martin had a chance recently to sit down with company CEO Dick Williams.

WebSphere Journal: Give our readers a quick overview of what Wily Technologies is all about, if you could. Give our readers a quick overview of what Wily Technologies is all about, if you could.


Dick Williams, CEO, Wily Technology

Dick Williams: Wily allows customers to develop and deploy major Web applications more rapidly and assuredly, and to keep them performing optimally.

WJ: Sounds simple enough, yet your strategy inside of the WebSphere space is unique compared to the other vendors. Could you explain that? Sounds simple enough, yet your strategy inside of the WebSphere space is unique compared to the other vendors. Could you explain that?

DW: Our strategy is really focused on providing unique functionality to WebSphere customers that allows them to deploy major business-critical WebSphere-based applications reliably, predictably, and rapidly. They could be application server-based; they could be written directly to a JVM; they could be portal applications; they could be integration applications; they could be end-user facing applications; or they could be infrastructure. In all cases we want to allow them to predictably and rapidly deploy those applications and then to keep them in production performing optimally.

WJ: You also have an interesting story in that your products are 100 percent pure Java. Why did you do that? You also have an interesting story in that your products are 100 percent pure Java. Why did you do that?

DW: This is a key part of our current core architecture and technology in that we operate today entirely in the Web space, and largely in the J2EE or Java space. Java actually has matured to do all of the things it originally was designed to do, and enterprises trust it as the core for their complex, business-critical applications. So when you create a complete native Java application, then you inherit an enormous number of capabilities and functionalities. One of the most important is platform support and homogeneity across those platforms. A result of that is we can do a single implementation of a product or functionality, and then immediately the customer is able to deploy it on all Java supported application servers, JVMs and all Java supported platforms. Same identical product, same day, same identical functionality.

WJ: How do you accomplish that? How do you accomplish that?

DW: We do that by adhering to our core architectures and by adhering to the J2EE Java standards. You know that your typical application software team will spend 20 to 30 percent of their time, resources and money on ports-developing, testing and documenting ports. We spend about two percent. Subsequently, we're able to devote that other 18 to 28 percent advancing the product and better serving our customers.

WJ: So the money you are saving by being pure Java you are rolling back into the product? So the money you are saving by being pure Java you are rolling back into the product?

DW: Absolutely.

WJ: So that is an enormous benefit. We spoke to Barclays Bank in England about a week ago-who is a happy user of yours-and they tried everybody and felt Wily Introscope was the easiest product to deploy right across Barclays Bank. Why is that? (Note the related interview with Barclays Bank accompanying this article.) So that is an enormous benefit. We spoke to Barclays Bank in England about a week ago-who is a happy user of yours-and they tried everybody and felt Wily Introscope was the easiest product to deploy right across Barclays Bank. Why is that? (Note the related interview with Barclays Bank accompanying this article.)

DW: A great benefit that you and I have, Jack, is that we both have a long history in the enterprise marketplace, and we understand just how critical and how complex these environments are. We understand the level of business expectations of these systems and the business impacts that even a small glitch can have. So it starts with a core understanding of that environment, and a commitment to support customers at a business-critical level, as they need. Not necessarily as they expect, because sadly they've grown to have a relatively low level of expectations, but really to support them as they need.

WJ: And Barclays knew what they needed? And Barclays knew what they needed?

DW: When I first met Barclays' John Long, I was very impressed with him. He really understood the totality and the complexity of what Barclays was doing today and what they were trying to do. And he laid out for me a schematic of their entire system, and the way in which he was manageing that system. He had this white space in the middle of the chart and he said, "One big problem is that I can't see inside that white space. I can't see inside that application, I can't see inside that application server or anything associated with it, and it seems to me that that's the most critical part." He really had 'gotten it' long before our people called on him.

WJ: And yet he didn't want to add complexity to be able to see inside that white space... And yet he didn't want to add complexity to be able to see inside that white space...

DW: Right. With Barclays, as with other large enterprises, they try to standardize on as small a number of technologies, products and vendors as they possibly can because as you add additional vendors and products, it adds complexity. Further, once you get to be the size of a Barclays bank you no longer can assume you're going to have a homogenous environment.

WJ: Right, it's next to impossible. Right, it's next to impossible.

DW: By definition it's heterogeneous no matter how hard they try. And that's one of the great benefits that we deliver to customers. We support that heterogeneous environment as though it was a homogenous environment. So our customers can move an application from one application server to another, from one JVM to another, from one platform to another, from the mainframe to distributed, distributed to mainframe, you name it, and their management is identical. Nothing changes in the way that they manage or support those applications. We provide the same level of insight and provide the same 24/7 product monitoring and management of those applications. We supply the same level of insight and information across the full application life cycle. It goes back to an understanding of the environment in which these enterprises exist-the realities of managing in a very large enterprise environment-and then managing that.

WJ: If you were a customer looking at Wily, what would be the three most important strengths that you would see that Wily's product family has? If you were a customer looking at Wily, what would be the three most important strengths that you would see that Wily's product family has?

DW: Number one would be customer success. Universally, our customers would tell you that the number one thing that they get from Wily is our fanatical commitment to customer success-no matter what it takes on our part. Number two, I'd say reliability, and number three I'd say responsiveness. Our customers tell me that "you guys do what you say you're going to do. You deliver what you claim, you support it, and when we come back to you with a requirement or a need or a support issue you're immediately responsive to it."

WJ: If I were a customer of yours and I got in trouble, what would I expect to have happen? If I were a customer of yours and I got in trouble, what would I expect to have happen?

DW: You'd expect an immediate response from us. If we could not solve the problem remotely, we would be in the customer's facility at the earliest opportunity. And, if the problem involved another company's technology, we would marshal our partner network and stick with the project until the customer was satisfied. In short, you'd expect the best from us, and we would do everything we could to live up to that expectation.

WJ: But a lot of companies have tried in this space; you've actually succeeded. But a lot of companies have tried in this space; you've actually succeeded.

DW: I think that, number one, that absolute commitment to customer success is why Wily has succeeded. Everybody talks about customer satisfaction. But the reality is that for most companies it's just a lot of words. I believe that if you survey the customers that have implemented any form of Web application management solution, you would find that there is a significant maturity of those customers that are implemented and deployed with Wily, and that they are, in fact, achieving their objectives. That's our commitment. To insure we are achieving that, on a quarterly basis, a vice president from Wily will call on 20 percent of our install base just to find out how they're doing.

WJ: Great, and... Great, and...

DW: This quarter we will put in place an executive, reporting directly to me, responsible solely for customer success. We're not trying to just measure the level of satisfaction and success...

WJ: You'll be more pro-active than that. You'll be more pro-active than that.

DW: What I expect is that we'll seek out problems, issues, opportunities and then actually do something about them. Our number one objective is customer success and everything that entails.

WJ: Within that context, you could have worked with a lot of different companies. Why did you choose WebSphere? Within that context, you could have worked with a lot of different companies. Why did you choose WebSphere?

DW: Lewis Cirne, our founder and Chief Technology Officer, originally conceived of this technology. He had the good fortune to call on IBM, and IBM helped focus his attention on the server as opposed to the client. This goes back about six years ago. And so we began working with IBM very early on. Now, we also work with BEA, SAP, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, JBOSS, you name it.

WJ: I know you work with everybody, but isn't WebSphere the biggest pocket? I know you work with everybody, but isn't WebSphere the biggest pocket?

DW: We've had a very special relationship there for a very long period of time and it gets back to our focus on customer satisfaction. We do have superior technology and we have been able to deliver some very innovative solutions to the marketplace. Another key part of it has been understanding IBM and understanding their customers-their unique demands and requirements and the ways in which IBM will support them. That means future products and enhancements and everything else. Having spent 22 years at IBM myself, I have a good understanding of the people and culture. At Wily, we spend a lot of time working with IBM to understand the company's advanced ideas and strategic plans. That way we can put into place the core technologies and infrastructures on our side that will support them when they come to market.

WJ: IBM traditionally has extraordinarily demanding customers. You're thriving inside of that environment, and I guess part of it is that you come from that environment. IBM traditionally has extraordinarily demanding customers. You're thriving inside of that environment, and I guess part of it is that you come from that environment.

DW: Yes, we love demanding customers. They're great! These customers' systems are no longer merely important. They are truly business-critical. When you have a technology that is fundamentally an integrative technology, one that ties everything in your business together, when it starts failing or when it starts performing poorly, it's not just a business inconvenience; it's a major business impact. To support these customers, you've got to be willing to deal with both your partners and your customers with a level of responsibility that demonstrates real respect for their business.

WJ: Dick, where do you see the market going in the next year or two? Dick, where do you see the market going in the next year or two?

DW: I think that application management will become more and more important. Today it's all about Java. Increasingly, it will be all about an integration of a broad variety of platforms and technologies, including Java, (Microsoft) .NET, and a whole lot of different things. In the future it is about integration of all of the things that the customer has historically done in different ways, and allowing them to manage all of that in a wholly new way. That new way, of course, is centered on the business significance of the application, and how effectively that application is delivering value to the business. In the future Web application management will be all about providing a more complete and broadly-based collaborative management solution to the totality of what enterprises are doing in this new environment.

WJ: Security is becoming a really big issue. When you are looking at applications on a micro-level, what kind of implications does that have for security right now? Security is becoming a really big issue. When you are looking at applications on a micro-level, what kind of implications does that have for security right now?

DW: The implications that it has is that over time we ought to be able to detect abnormal and unanticipated behavior. The first level of that, of course, is change, and the reality of these new environments is that change in endemic. It's a part of the process. It's a part of the reason why they're implementing these new technologies, because the business requires IT to be far more responsive to change and to be able to implement new ways of doing business on a continuing and very rapid basis. As you do that, of course, it totally upends the ways in which you develop, test, deploy and support applications. You just cannot test enough quality into these applications. You can't test your way through an unanticipated change that's going to happen at three o'clock this afternoon, or 12 unanticipated changes that just happen because of the loads that you have on the system, not because of anything done to the system. A lot of those changes could well have to do with security. So one of the things that we are beginning to look at is with this deep level of knowledge and real-time information, what else can we do that would allow customers to manage proactively, based on the ability to predict changes or their outcomes.

WJ: So what do you think is the Achilles heel of the typical IT infrastructure today? So what do you think is the Achilles heel of the typical IT infrastructure today?

DW: It's probably change. Historically, Jack, when we developed mainframe systems or client-server systems, we tested the heck out of them, we integrated them, we threw all kinds of load at them-and then we deployed them. We'd watch them for a little while and then we'd lock them down and we'd allow no change except on a yearly or a quarterly basis at most. But the reality is that businesses today are changing so rapidly and they have such a tremendous need for agility that they need IT to be able to respond very rapidly. The key reason they've gone to Java and other web-based technologies is because they allow them to achieve that level of agility and responsiveness. In addition, businesses are saying they want more value from their enormous investment in CRM, ERP, personnel systems, etc. They want to be able to tie these systems together. Novel idea! They want to provide access to employees, suppliers, partners and customers to all of that information and all those systems, and, of course, these Web technologies allow them to do that. It gets to be very complex but it allows them to achieve the level of agility the business needs. And then, they realize everything is interrelated and a problem or single change in one area can have broad reaching impacts across the entire system.

WJ: Yet change is always with us. Yet change is always with us.

DW: Yes, change is endemic, so I think it is the real Achilles heel. I think it's far more impactful than security per se. Change opens up holes that can allow security breaches, and it also can have devastating impacts on performance on both the IT and business levels. Our IT systems, our business environment and our performance expectations demand that we adopt an approach to application management that accepts and embraces change.


An Interview with John Long, Barclays Bank
BY JACK MARTIN

Barclays Bank is one of Wily Technology's enterprise customers. Former WebSphere Journal Editor-in-Chief Jack Martin interviewed Barclays' John Long recently.

WebSphere Journal: John, you are head of architectures at Barclays Bank, one of the largest banks in the UK. What does the head of architectures do on a daily basis? John, you are head of architectures at Barclays Bank, one of the largest banks in the UK. What does the head of architectures do on a daily basis?

John Long: I'm responsible for setting the technical direction for how we use our technology products to deliver Barclays' business.

WJ: Across the entire bank? Across the entire bank?

JL: Predominantly the UK bank in application terms and other areas of the group for infrastructure.

WJ: How big is Barclays bank? How big is Barclays bank?

JL: Its market capitalization is about 40 billion pounds sterling, and we have around 2,200 branches.

WJ: So why did you and Barclays ultimately choose Wily Technology? So why did you and Barclays ultimately choose Wily Technology?

JL: It was two things that came together really. One is that we identified the need for something that Wily does. We were re-engineering and re-deploying all of the systems that support our channels, so we have a lot of different systems supporting the branches, the contact centers, the Internet. We were trying to rationalize those systems with a new set of Java-based applications. And do it in a standardized, multichannel way that would allow us to deploy those systems with a high level of application reuse, such that we could develop them as quickly as possible and make them as effective as possible.

WJ: Why were you focused so keenly on Java? Why were you focused so keenly on Java?

JL: Java gave us the best mix of portability, capability and also high levels of security and manageability.

WJ: What did you learn in deployment? What did you learn in deployment?

JL: We found that because we were deploying all of our applications to all of our channels from a mid-tier platform that if we did have a problem it affected everything. So the impact of failure, although failures were quite rare, was huge. What we were finding was because they were a new set of applications, although we were monitoring and managing the infrastructure very well-the application server, the database, the security and the network-we still couldn't find where the problems were.

WJ: And this is where Wily came into the picture. And this is where Wily came into the picture.

JL: Yes, we bought and integrated a lot of software into our environment and Wily is one of the simplest and one of the most straightforward to integrate. And it also has one of the least actual operational impacts. It doesn't consume a lot of your time or resource to actually get it live.

WJ: Why is that? Why is that?

JL: I think it comes from a really, really great idea in the middle. The way it goes about things, that isn't a tack-on, added-on, "bring later on" approach. It actually goes to the core of Java applications.

WJ: How many people do you have using Wily's product right now? How many people do you have using Wily's product right now?

JL: In development, all our key Java applications would go through it. Enterprise-wide. We standardize our testing so it goes through a standard model of people. So there are probably 50 to 60 people who test with it, and in deployment there are probably about 20 people who use it.

WJ: So everybody is using it. When you chose Wily did you have a bake-off where you looked at alternatives? So everybody is using it. When you chose Wily did you have a bake-off where you looked at alternatives?

JL: We did.

WJ: So they won fair and square? So they won fair and square?

JL: They did.

WJ: So you didn't just pick out Wily because you liked them; you picked them because they had a great product. So you didn't just pick out Wily because you liked them; you picked them because they had a great product.

JL: Yes, they also did well because the management teams were particularly sharp. They had to hurdle the fact that they weren't IBM.

WJ: If you were to advise someone looking at Wily, what would be the number one reason that you would say that they should consider using Wily's product? If you were to advise someone looking at Wily, what would be the number one reason that you would say that they should consider using Wily's product?

JL: The first is recognizing the importance of being able to do application management as well as infrastructure management. If you want to deploy an application management tool, which, if you are delivering on an enterprise scale, I think you should, then I think its ease of introduction, the fact that within a small number of months it will be live in your operation, and also the low level of impact it has on your environment. We've seen other management tools take a lot of resource to collect the kind of information that Wily collects without needing that high level of resource.

WJ: And where do you see yourself going with Wily over the course of the next 12 to 36 months? And where do you see yourself going with Wily over the course of the next 12 to 36 months?

JL: I think the main area will be to continue to use it across our application space, so as we deliver new applications, we will implement those using Wily. But I think one of the main things that we want to do is start giving it the business focus to making our senior business leaders have business-type or business-facing Wily dashboards so that they can see the live operation of the applications that run their business.

More Stories By Jacques Martin

Jack Martin, editor-in-chief of WebSphere Journal, is cofounder and CEO of Simplex Knowledge Company (publisher of Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal http://www.s-ox.com), an Internet software boutique specializing in WebSphere development. Simplex developed the first remote video transmission system designed specifically for childcare centers, which received worldwide media attention, and the world's first diagnostic quality ultrasound broadcast system. Jack is co-author of Understanding WebSphere, from Prentice Hall.

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Most Recent Comments
Valif 06/22/05 11:32:21 AM EDT

This is a very informative interview, thank you very much.