"DataDirect's mission is as fresh today as it was when we started in 1995. That mission was and continues to be to bring quality data connectivity products to market so that through standards whether you're an ISV or a developer in a corporation you can rely on our products to access your data in the most reliable and consistent method available to you," proclaims Ed Peters, president and CEO of DataDirect.
"As more standards proliferate in the market," he continues, "and as new types of data are able to be accessed and integrated, DataDirect is going to continue on its mission to deliver the highest quality standards-based products that will work cross- platform and are embeddable. Eventually we believe the requirement will expand to include cross-component model interoperability (for example, J2EE and ADO.NET). When that happens, you can rely on us to provide that access. We're as excited about our mission today as we were in 1995."
The company's passion about data connectivity, the catalyst for the development of the DataDirect Connect products and DataDirect SequeLink, stems from their utmost regard for data. Simply, they believe that data is a critical resource for businesses today. Explains Peters, "Data is like oil; it drives the information engines of business. If you shut down access to data, the analytical engines that enable business decision making stop because they rely on the data. We use data through our Blackberries and our PCs everything we do is built upon some kind of crunching and analysis of that resource. It's as critical to driving business not only business decisions but business operations as well as oil is to driving a car."
Thanks to DataDirect, a company that has assumed their mission of providing frictionless connectivity to data with the fervor we could only wish our mechanics would assume when dealing with our cars' engines, data connectivity is as easy as an oil change. They work diligently to make the process simple. As an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), DataDirect supplies all major database vendors an impressive list including Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, Sybase and Progress with connectivity components, which they embed in their strategic product offerings. Additionally, vendors of leading operating systems including HP, MS, IBM AIX and Apple rely on DataDirect Technologies' connectivity components to connect their software to data. Notes Peters, "We want you to be able to take our technology and regardless of your application, whether it's from an ISV or something you've written by yourself, plug it into our standards-based access technologies and have it work automatically. The data flows immediately, just like oil flowing through the pipeline. We get you the data you need, when you need it, where you need it and how you need it."
The development of the company's products is guided by four principles. According to Peters, "First, our products are about standards and standards-based technologies for data access ODBC, JDBC, ADO.NET and XML. We sit on the standards bodies and work with the standards bodies for each of these standards. Second, our products are revisionable if the specification changes, new functionality is delivered. Third, our products are cross-platform. Lastly, they are embeddable. We build components components that can snap together and work in a frictionless fashion with the application. There's no dropout for manual mapping or anything of that order. All of it works automatically and interoperably with no friction in the process."
According to Peters, customers choose DataDirect products because they're trusted. He elaborates, "We offer high-quality products, and they're extremely well-tested. The products go through a matrix of 80 million tests for a bug-fix and even more for a new release, so our engineers stand behind our products. Our products generate consistent behaviors across platforms. If you're an ISV, they allow you to reach more customers quickly because they expand the number of databases you can reach. If you're a corporate developer, they allow you to get the best possible access to that data with support to back it up. We offer 24x7 support." It's the combination of high-quality products that expand reach and range of data access with support that makes DataDirect implementations successful.
In order to continue to receive the kind of praise lavished on the company by a major customer, DataDirect takes support very seriously. Peters recounts, "Last year at our sales kickoff in Raleigh, North Carolina, we invited three customers to sit on stage with us. We also allowed our developers in our company to ask questions of the customers we put on stage." Peters admits this was a risky move. "You don't know what they're going to ask or what the answers are going to be so you hold onto your seat. One of our developers got up, and he said, 'We believe our products are the highest quality products in the marketplace. What do you believe and why do you do business with us?' We all grabbed onto our chairs, and the customer said, 'We have to ship quality products in our box. When they're implemented, they have to work. If something doesn't work, I need someone to support it immediately and make sure that our customers can be up and running. There's no choice but you.' We really line up our business behind that. When I look at our business, I think there are two important things for us: quality products and the service to our customers. These two elements make our customers successful. As long as we're doing that, we're on track. We're building value with our customers."
"We have a concept we call mutuality," notes Peters. "The philosophy is that mutual benefits are shared benefits, and shared benefits endure. Our customers gain value from our products and relationship. However, if you have an issue, we support your issue, incorporate your concerns into our development and give you the next generation of products. We know enough about your business to work with you to make suggestions to you. For these reasons, our business is going to expand with you and it's going to grow. It's not surprising that we've been growing our business with our current accounts this way. Current customers come to us for new products. They're coming to us now for .NET and for XML and these are the core customers that have worked with us through ODBC and JDBC. We are really building with our customers, not extracting value from them."
Last book read: Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.: The Life of A War Hero, by H. Paul Jeffers
Most memorable movie: The Godfather, Parts I & II
Favorite entertainer: Diana Krall
Most entertaining game: Bridge
Most respected politician: Thomas Jefferson
Dream car: Mercedes Benz SLR McLaren
Perfect vacation spot: Maui
Most admired individual: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Favorite TV show: Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel
Favorite sports team: Washington Redskins
Favorite type of music: Jazz
Favorite food: Hershey's Kisses
Favorite beverage: Starbucks triple-shot grande non-fat latte with sugar free vanilla
Year founded: 2001
Number of employees: 200
Revenue: $42 million
Net income: $13 million (before taxes)
Number of customers: 96 of Fortune 100 software companies
Number of licenses: 4 million
The company's success is evidenced in their numbers. "Over the last few years, through the depth of the worst IT recession that we've ever experienced, we've been able to grow both the top and bottom lines of our business. Our top line has grown by more than five percent and our bottom line has grown by approximately 14 percent year after year. DataDirect continues to be a highly profitable and growing business that is picking up more market share in the area of data access and connectivity."
It's not likely that growth will slow any time soon, given the connectivity concerns of today's business intelligence professionals. Customers are focused on JDBC, and with that focus, says Peters, come the questions: "What's coming with Java? What's in JDBC 4.0? What new features are we going to be allowed to exploit there? How is that going to allow us to write more functionally rich applications?" This line of questioning leads to another, he notes, as follows: "What's happening with ADO.NET? How is it that we're going to be working with ADO.NET? Will that have the same standards-based approach? Will we be able to utilize that? In which ways will it work with managed data access? How will it work with the security model?" The next level of questions concerns XML: "What is happening with XML? What is happening with the current standard for SQL XML? How is that going to operate? What's going to happen with X-Query? How are X-Query and X-Query mediation going to be working with the entire environment? How will you be able to mix SQL data and XML data? How will that interoperate? Which way is the whole market going?" DataDirect stands ready to answer these questions. Says Peters, "Everybody keeps an eye on these developing areas, and they're looking to us to explain what view we're taking and how we will be able to meet their needs."
When you look at the vendors that IDC ranks in data connectivity, IBM is number one, Fujitsu is number two, DataDirect is number three and number four is Hitachi. "That's pretty good company to be with in the space. We're the largest ISV in that space." And DataDirect is not stopping there. Peters reports, "We continue to sign new customers every quarter in our OEM channel. We continue to increase our direct sales business. We continue to bring out new products, new services and product revisions. As long as there is data to access, we will provide the best products in the marketplace."
Since our interview in October, Progress Software has announced its intention to acquire DataDirect in a friendly acquisition for $88 million. We caught up with a busy Ed Peters to ask a few more questions...
DM Review: Does this mean more time for the hobbies you listed such as fly-fishing and bridge?
Peters: No. I'm afraid not. We will continue to operate as an independent company. Our entire management team is staying in place. So, nothing changes we still have a company to run, new products to roll out and, most importantly, customers to support.
DM Review: Acquisitions always raise questions in clients' minds about product viability. Will DataDirect's products continue to be supported?
Peters: Absolutely. This is great news for our customers. With greater financial resources available, we can make an even greater investment in new products, technologies and our award-winning customer support infrastructure.
DM Review: When we spoke before, you emphasized the importance of DataDirect's culture for technology innovation, client support and also for support of your employees. Does the acquisition threaten any of that?
Peters: Not in the least. Progress recognized that the value we represented was rooted in that culture and that's what gives us such a high potential future value as well. My management team's mandate is to continue to grow this company in the same way and based on the same values that have brought us to this significant point. We're here to stay, and we intend to get even better.
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