December 8, 2007

Software AG – an Adablast from the Adapast

The two oldest major software products companies may well both be German – SAP and Software AG. They’re both a little older than CA (which, directly, or indirectly, has bought most of the other pioneers), Information Builders, or SAS, none of which – if I recall correctly – was founded before 1975-6.

In its current configuration, Software AG is based in Germany, publicly traded, and divided into two divisions:

The ETS folks briefed me last week. Highlights follow. I also posted about Software AG’s history over on Software Memories, which may provide some useful detail and context.

Software AG’s ETS business is built around the venerable mainframe DBMS ADABAS and its associated application development tool, the fourth-generation language (4GL) Natural. ADABAS has over 2000 active, maintenance-paying users, 5-600 of which have “very large” databases. How large? Software AG thought 10s or even 100s of terabytes of user data were typical, but didn’t sound sure enough of particulars for me to emphatically attribute that claim to them. Why do customers keep using the product? Big databases; great uptime; and, as a negative factor, of course it’s tough to switch.

Software AG is still enjoying 8-10% revenue growth in the ETS division. Why? Two reasons, its seems. First, there are license fee increases as databases grow larger, which fuel both license and maintenance revenue. Second, add-on modules are a big business. A lot of now-standard DBMS features were separate modules in the old days. And Software AG has no incentive to switch to more modern practices, since it sold perpetual licenses to the core DBMS long ago. It’s also likely that some recent product releases have spurred uptake of new modules. Again, add-on modules spur both license and maintenance revenue. There’s a professional services component to revenue as well, but I have no particular theories about its rate of growth.

ADABAS is not as fully-featured as leading OLTP RDBMS, in terms of management tools, replication*, etc., but Software AG has been pushing hard to play catchup. Similar things can be said about Natural, which now boasts an Eclipse IDE and a lot of SOA-friendliness.

*Actually, Software AG had a deal with Magnuson to bring out replication-based high-availability systems back in the early 1980s, which fizzled. I guess some things just take a while …

One interesting technical point behind all this: ADABAS is an inverted-list DBMS. That means indexes have been at its core from the get-go. Inverted-list is also the architecture that dominates the text search world. Thus – notwithstanding my snark right above — many innovative ideas in modern data management have at least the potential of being retrofitted to ADABAS, should the payoff be sufficiently high.


3 Responses to “Software AG – an Adablast from the Adapast”

  1. Software Memories»Blog Archive » Software AG memories on December 8th, 2007 5:25 pm

    […] can be said for very few of the other leading software firms of its day. Indeed, I just posted a long Software AG update over on DBMS2, my blog about current-day DBMS and related technologies. • • […]

  2. DAvid on December 17th, 2007 5:19 pm

    Adecco Engineering and Technical, a division of the world leader in the recruitment of engineering and information technologies professionals, has an immediate opening for a ADABAS NATURAL Developer on contract to hire opportunity with a major client in Alpharetta GA. .


    Develops software designs in support of operational information systems. Responsible for developing new monitoring screens for large systems. Work integration of modules into subsystems.
    Lead module level code walk-throughs.

    BS or equivalent work experience required; MS in Computer Science or equivalent preferred

    4-5 yrs. NATURAL Development experience
    4-5 yrs. COBOL Development experience
    Hands on experience with ADABAS

    Must have full life-cycle development experience; prefer project level leadership

    If you are interested in this opportunity or other opportunities available through Adecco Engineering and Technical, please apply online or email directly to

  3. Curt Monash on December 17th, 2007 6:32 pm

    Imagine that. On-topic job spam! I think I’ll leave it up just this once.


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