"Everybody today has experienced performance issues within their IT infrastructures," states Shimon Alon, chief executive officer of Precise Software Solutions. "Regardless of how much they have invested in that infrastructure, even if it's millions of dollars, they still have to solve the one most important issue performance. Precise enables companies of any size to detect and correct performance problems of their IT infrastructures," he adds.
Performance and scalability are areas that impact every information technology (IT) department in the world. Alon explains, "Companies today have new platforms, old platforms, new applications and old applications. Additionally, as you get closer to customers and vendors with your intranet and extranet, you have to get even more performance out of your data center. When you do that, you also have to be able to scale to many users. What I have found," says Alon, "is that when companies experience performance problems, they have no idea why they have the problem. Consequently, they immediately purchase more hardware and software. All they have accomplished by doing that is to create a bigger problem than they had initially. By adding additional hardware and software to an already complex system, they have created more complexity."
"The key to scalability and faster response time is to understand where the bottlenecks are in your system. I'm sure most DM Review readers have experienced availability issues. Availability is easy. You can identify it, you know where it happened, and you know where to fix it. Performance is a different story. There are so many tiers today the Web server, the application server, databases, storage and the network in between. Each component can slow performance in some way. The biggest question is which contributed most to the performance issue. In order to solve the performance issue, you have to be able to measure or capture the entire infrastructure, correlate the information and identify the bottlenecks. If you don't identify the major bottleneck, you basically continue to scale while the bottleneck continues to exist. It is necessary to be proactive and eliminate the bottlenecks before the end users experience problems," says Alon. "When people talk about scalability, they think that the only way they can solve it is to buy larger servers and more storage. However, the interaction between the database and storage is critical. Without proper configuration to eliminate bottlenecks, you won't get the performance you're expecting unless you know how to measure and improve the performance with products like Precise," emphasizes Alon.
"People are now looking to maximize their IT investments. There is tremendous pressure today from CEOs, CFOs and business people for IT to stop building and start utilizing," says Alon. He likens the hardware and software purchase binge to the purchase and consumption of a large meal. "As the consumers must digest the meal, so must the IT personnel and executives digest (and enjoy) their purchases. They now have to buy services and products from companies that will enable them to maximize the investment on the infrastructure they have built."
Precise was founded in 1990, and the cornerstone was the vision of improving performance. "I was on a sabbatical when Precise approached me in late 1997 and asked me to join the company," explains Alon. "I was excited about the opportunity but a bit apprehensive, as I did not know much about the performance space. To learn more, I called the customers and I really liked what I heard."
Precise Software Solutions Fact Table
Publicly Traded: PRSE
Number of Employees: 278
2000 Revenues: $27.5 million
Number of Customers: More than 1,300
Number of Licenses: More than 5,000
Alon's initial lack of product knowledge proved beneficial for Precise customers and employees. "I joined Precise in September of 1997, and my objective was to bring the right team of people together. I understand customers and recognize that it is critical to listen to their concerns. I know that if you can identify customer needs, articulate your offer and show value through the ability to provide a return on investment, customers will pay for your product," he states.
"The good news for Precise employees is that I must listen to them too. I'm not the guy who built the company, and I didn't invent the product. Therefore, we are not a company that depends on one person. We each have our individual strengths and work well together as a team," comments Alon.
In addition to his international sales and marketing experience, Alon provides leadership for Precise. "I really like challenges. I perceive myself as a leader, and leaders have four major characteristics. The first is vision. Vision is not facts. It's not what we see today, and it's not what we can touch. Vision is the foresight to see things that have not been seen before. The second characteristic is the ability to articulate your vision, because there are many people who have a vision but have no idea how to explain it to others. The third is the ability to motivate. Leaders must incite people to join them on journeys even though they don't know exactly where they're going or what it will look like when they get there. Leaders not only motivate people to join them, but also to trust each other and work diligently for many years together. The fourth characteristic is the ability to execute," explains Alon, "because after you have the vision, articulate it, and motivate around it, you have to provide the strategy development in order to achieve the vision. These are the four key ingredients of leadership, and throughout the day I am busy with each one of them. Building a large organization is something that has to be done very, very carefully," he adds.
"I don't look at a leader as an individual with charisma, someone with a lot of money or somebody who enjoyed brief success. I've had to work to be a leader. English is not my natural language," states Alon, "yet I am here to articulate a vision in a non- native language with an accent that's difficult to understand."
Alon's leadership characteristics were shaped during his early years. "I was born and raised in Tel Aviv. I was seven when I experienced my first war and rationing. At school, we would sit in the closet because we didn't have bomb shelters and hope that Tel Aviv would not be bombed. We grew up in an environment where we knew that we were fighting for survival. The environment in which I was raised enabled me to learn how to get the best out of everything we have and everything we do," says Alon.
"At Precise, we have the most unique, most successful technology in our space. No question about it. The challenge is to convey the benefits to our customers and potential customers. Marketing is one of the most artful professions in the world because you have to be able to articulate, motivate and execute to different audiences so that people understand the Precise value proposition," Alon states.
It's indisputable that Precise has enjoyed much success under Alon's leadership. A hallmark of his Precise tenure is growth, best illustrated by 14 consecutive quarters of record growth. In June of 2000, under Alon's leadership and in the midst of a challenging market, Precise completed a highly successful initial public offering followed by an equally successful secondary public offering in November of 2000.
This successful leader is also not unwilling to share advice with other growing companies. Alon contends that you cannot grow to become a large company if you focus on one database, product or solution. "A one-product company faces a high risk of being displaced by either a large vendor or another company that develops the same solution. At Precise, we decided that we wanted to be an enterprise performance solution. We didn't want to be just tools. That's what has really enabled us to become an end-to-end infrastructure company and not a database company."
"Today, Precise covers very, very well the link between storage, database, ERP applications, business applications, Java applications and so on. We firmly believe that the performance market will be the most challenging and fastest growing market as we go forward. We have a vision that we will continue to develop high value performance solutions that will cover every major application for every major platform. Our ultimate aim is to improve customers' businesses by better utilizing their existing IT infrastructures," contends Alon.
"Our initial public offering was very successful," says Alon. "Because we're now under the spotlight, we're being challenged and driven more than ever before. We can't have any excuses, and we can't make any mistakes. As the coach for the Celtics once said, it's very easy to get to the top, but it's much tougher to stay there." Led by Shimon Alon, maintaining that position shouldn't be a problem for the team at Precise Software Solutions.
Precise's comprehensive performance management software solutions proactively pinpoint the root causes of service degradation and determine their impact on the entire infrastructure before they affect end users. By identifying trends and deviations from the norm, the Precise solutions bridge the gap between technology and business to facilitate performance optimization and strategic planning.
Precise/Insight: Measures end-to-end application response time and segments response time by IT component.
Precise/Foresight: Provides a forward-looking view of system performance.
Precise/SQL: Delivers total application and database performance management.
Precise/Interpoint: Opti-mizes enterprise resource planning (ERP) application performance.
Precise/Pulse!: Proactively monitors and alerts on system-wide performance.
Precise/Diagnostic Center: Provides real time and historic diagnostics.
Precise/Indepth: Provides server- side Java application performance management.
Val Latzke is a former editor of DM Review.