You take a plane to get from Denver to New York to London, but how do you get your mission-critical data from Oracle to Sybase to IBM DB2? Data interconnectivity is what DataMirror, a Toronto-based software company, is all about. Enterprises today seldom have homogenous corporate computing environments. Most have mixed-system computing environments ­ a variety of databases on multiple platforms in several corporate locations ­ presenting an obvious challenge for movement of data between the platforms and databases. DataMirror was founded to address this data movement problem.

In DataMirror's very early research and development days, Nigel Stokes was one of the initial investors. He explains, "I liked what I saw, and I thought maybe I could be passively involved. But, I'm entrepreneurial by nature and not a very passive person, so I sort of stepped into it more and more." Now DataMirror's chairman and chief executive officer, Stokes explains, "This has been an exciting opportunity, but I think we're just scratching the surface of what's possible in this market. The Internet is here. Cisco provides us with huge amounts of network connectivity across the world, so I can e-mail from my desktop to anyone in the world and have a response within a couple of minutes. I can get video on demand on my desktop. I can get voice and audio services to my desktop today. TCP/IP has provided this global network, and everybody can use it. So network connectivity is solved. The network is the computer, and the data is the connection. Data connectivity is really the next thing we see bridging all the hardware, operating systems, databases and applications. There are no pure Oracle, Sybase, SQL Server or DB2 sites in the world. There just aren't any, just like there are no SAP sites that are just pure SAP. Every site, whether they buy applications from J.D. Edwards, Baan, PeopleSoft or SAP, always has a combination of purchased packages, in-house development and other vendors that they deal with. Bridging and providing the data interconnectivity and application connectivity is an issue, and that's what our software can do. Our Transformation Server is easy to install and requires no programming changes to applications and databases. Our customers do not need to choose a niche tool for one specific IT project. They can use Transformation Server to enable a whole range of solutions including e-commerce, distributed data applications, data warehousing, high availability, ERP application integration and interoperability, Y2K data conversion and compliance testing, Euro-currency conversions and more."

Nigel Stokes, chairman and CEO of DataMirror Corporation

While DataMirror can no longer be considered a start-up, the company still has a start-up attitude. "We still have a very aggressive edge to our company," says Stokes. "We still see ourselves as the underdog trying to change the paradigm. I think that's a good, healthy way to view it. Believing they're the biggest and the best, a lot of companies become complacent. When that happens, their market share is vulnerable. We realize that if we don't keep growing and changing and driving, somebody will come in and attempt to take market share from us. We have to keep moving because someone is out there working in a garage, changing the paradigm. We just don't know about it yet, and if we don't keep moving forward, we're going to find out too late. We won't continue to be successful if we don't keep going with velocity as a driving theme. I think that's one thing that makes us a bit different."

"Velocity is reflected in everything we do. It is not just a concept. It is a core principle for the business. We do it fast and we do it right," Stokes says. "We act quickly, sell quickly, install quickly and create new software quickly. Our software runs quickly, we service it quickly, and we grow quickly."

What effect does that velocity have on DataMirror customers? Stokes explains, "Our customers are our valued partners. They choose DataMirror to solve their problem of co-existence. They have more than one platform, three or four different databases, half a dozen applications ­ some written in house and some purchased. Also, our customers know they'll have more applications in the future. They may acquire companies or be acquired, and departments or divisions may buy their own technology. Our customers need to integrate and provide connectivity between all those applications and databases. They buy from DataMirror because in addition to saving time and money, we give them the flexibility to interconnect all of their databases and applications. Equally important, they know that we are going to service the next data store that comes along. Because that's our business ­ moving data from where it is to where it needs to be, today and tomorrow."

"We really believe in velocity as a critical dimension of our business. You can't afford to take all the time in the world ­ because you don't have it," Stokes emphasizes.

"I believe that you have to take chances ­ drive the organization to take chances and stretch. And I would say my management style is one of commitment. I'm very committed, and I want people around me to be committed. I want them to go forth, take the chance, and if they make a mistake that's okay. I would much rather have someone take a lot of chances, make some mistakes and fix them up rather than not go for it. I tend to be a bit of an out-of-the-box thinker ­ more creative, more chance-oriented. I believe that when you start a company, you take a lot of chances and you grow on that basis. The thing that kills companies is that they stop doing the exact things that made them successful in the first place. And that's deadly," he states. "You have to focus ­ stay within a theme. Don't try to be the data warehousing company when you're the replenishment tool. There's too much opportunity to start moving in new directions and lose your focus," Stokes adds.

Recently, Stokes and about 30 team managers attended a management retreat. "We were to climb 30-foot walls, and we had some experts there to assist us. Within 20 minutes, we were crawling all over the walls. Every single person had gotten up the wall ­ more than once. There were six faces of this wall, and all six faces were active all of the time. I was very pleased with that experience. It confirmed what I knew already ­ we're very team oriented. We're supportive, we stretch, we go for it."

The DataMirror team spirit is also evident every year when they participate in the dragon boat races at Ontario Place in Toronto. "A dragon boat is basically a 20-person canoe that the team paddles down the river. We're not the fastest boat on the water. We always come in just about in the middle, but we go all out and try real hard. But, we are the number one fund-raiser for the charities that are associated with the race. We've earned that distinction two years in a row. That's the sort of environment we have ­ people do well, they're paid well, they have a sense of social responsibility and they drive the company," says Stokes.

One of the latest product developments that Stokes believes holds great promise is within a company that DataMirror has made a significant investment called DataBahn. DataBahn has developed a new generation database, written purely in Java that can be embedded within any JVM, and it runs on 12 different operating systems with the same code base. Stokes says, "The reality is that DataBahn will be another platform. You know, everyone has heard of Moore's law, but no one has heard of Reynold Johnson's law. He worked for IBM and invented the disk drive. The first disk drive weighed a ton and stored five megabytes of data. Today IBM is shipping a disk drive that weighs the same as a AA battery, is one-third the size of the face of my watch and stores 350 megabytes. In Johnson's life, that's how disk drives have changed. And we haven't reached physical limitations. Soon we'll have disk drives the size of dimes that store a gigabyte. If we combine a very small disk drive ­ high capacity, low weight ­ with a Java virtual machine and a Java database, we'll have a very impressive little platform for intermittent network connectivity and for applications across the network."

With Stokes' guidance, DataMirror has achieved remarkable milestones. "We're proud of the fact that we're not a consulting project. We save our customers programming time, and they don't require consulting to do it. They do it themselves, they install it themselves, and we have 5,000 licenses out there ­ self-configured, self-installed, operational! Our revenue is 75 percent license revenue, 12.5 percent maintenance and 12.5 percent training, education and consulting services," Stokes explains. "Our software is designed for massive distribution and is currently available via the internet. We believe the market opportunity is phenomenal. Presently there are 500,000 AS/400s, and there will be 100,000 new ones shipped in '99. There are 3 million NT servers, and there will be at least 2 million new NT servers this year. There are 2.5 million UNIX platforms, with 750,000 shipped this year, and our new mainframe product is now shipping. It's a big, big market," emphasizes Stokes.

Gary Collins, vice president sales, Nigel Stokes and Kirk Dixon, executive vice president, Implementation and support for DataMirror.

"We are now a global organization that markets and supports our software solutions in more than 30 countries worldwide. Our best endorsement is the fact that in a short period of time we have over 700 customers with over 5,000 installed licenses. We have proven software that handles the toughest data migration issues within complex heterogeneous environments with a high-velocity attitude," Stokes concludes.

The DataMirror Product Line

Transformation Server

The Transformation Server software family provides users with the ability to transparently move data throughout their organization. The product synchronizes data across numerous disparate systems and is used for application integration and migration, e-commerce, millennium readiness, loading and replenishing data warehouses, data and system workload distribution, high availability, and backup and recovery ­ all without requiring the customer to modify their existing systems. Transformation Server currently supports data transformation and replication among Oracle, DB2, Sybase and Microsoft SQL Server databases (others via ODBC) operating on IBM AS/400, IBM RS/6000, HP 9000, Digital AlphaServer, Intel NT, Sun and mainframe (OS/390) computer platforms.

High Availability Suite

DataMirror High Availability Suite is comprised of four tightly integrated components: dbMirror, ObjectMirror, SwitchOver System and Status Monitor.

  • dbMirror uses an advanced change detection engine to capture database transactions from the primary AS/400 and mirrors them to one or more secondary AS/400s. Data can be mirrored in real time (continuous) or on demand (refresh). Mirroring can be performed on either a relative record number basis or by unique key. dbMirror supports both SNA and native TCI/IP communication protocols and runs on OS/400 V3R1 or greater.
  • ObjectMirror provides real-time AS/400 object mirroring from primary AS/400s to one or more secondary systems. It delivers fast and efficient continuous mirroring or on demand full refresh chosen individually by specific object groups. It can be used for high systems availability or object distribution to multiple sites. ObjectMirror supports either SNA or native TCP/IP communications and requires OS/400 V3R1 or greater.
  • SwitchOver System performs operational switching from primary production machines to secondary AS/400 systems. SwitchOver System continuously monitors the status of production systems and in the case of planned or unplanned outages can either notify administrators of an outage or initiate automated role switching after a user-defined delay. SwitchOver System features a Decision Control Matrix (DCM) to support the detection of a primary system failure and invocation of operational switching to allow the backup system to assume operation of a primary system.
  • Status Monitor provides an intuitive interface to easily monitor and analyze the status of the High Availability Suite mirroring process. Status Monitor provides both interactive, real-time inquiry screens that "snapshot" current processes and historical inquiry screens to track past mirroring statistics. Status Monitor oversees both dbMirror and ObjectMirror activity.

SQL Pump

SQL Pump enables users to easily and quickly replicate data from external relational databases to and from Lotus Notes databases. The product requires no programming, is extremely flexible and features remarkably high performance.

Desktop Replication

DataMirror is currently beta testing a product, code-named BackDraft, that performs replication and transformation between SQL databases and desktop applications such as Microsoft Outlook and Excel.

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