Though he started writing programs for his father’s business on his trusty TRS-80 at age 10, Embarcadero Technologies President and CEO Wayne Williams could have easily pursued a much different career. Even as software skills pointed to his future, Williams was racing cars and by age 19 was a professional driver on Canada’s equivalent of the NASCAR racing circuit. He soon headed back to the U.S., where he had spent three-quarters of his life and where a decision loomed between software and stock cars. Both careers were promising, but to the relief of his family and friends, Williams chose the former. “It was the right decision and it really came down to economics, because the racing business is economically crazy,” Williams says. “It was and is an addiction that required a little therapy.” The next 15 years found Williams writing software and creating data-centric tools for a half dozen projects, three of which brought him financial success. It was a less successful project that put him in touch with Embarcadero, though the company eventually licensed his software and convinced him to come aboard as CTO, then COO, before naming him CEO last year. Williams sat down recently with DM Review Editorial Director Jim Ericson to discuss the state of the database tool market - and not the turbocharged Dodge Viper in his garage.

DMR: Embarcadero went back to being a private company again last year. How has that affected things at the company? Wayne Williams: It was a bit of a painful process, but it certainly gave a breath of fresh air to the company. We feel we’re back to running the business. It was hard to feel that in a public company because of all the compliance issues.DMR: Plus, the whole stock market seems kind of hysterical these days. WW: That was certainly part of it; now we focus on the business and make decisions that are good for the business. Since going private, we’ve doubled our R&D capacity, all focused on our bread and butter, which is tools for database professionals. We’re going to see the benefits of that through 2008 with 10 core product releases, four of which are brand new. Our products will be much more encompassing. We’ve listened to our customers and realized there are a lot of green field opportunities in database tools. The problems continue to get more complex, volumes continue to grow, resources continue to be constrained, which leaves us a huge opportunity.DMR: Some would assume that database tools have become boiled down and commoditized in the marketplace. WW: We have always provided professional-grade database tools, but what mostly differentiates us out of the box is that our tools work across platforms in a single application, in a single window. In the database world you’re going to see Oracle, Microsoft SQL, DB2, Sybase and now mySQL, which we see growing thanks to the Sun acquisition. For us it’s great news that virtually every company you go into has a mix of those platforms. Some will standardize on Oracle, some on DB2, but those moves take a long time and never happen completely, and then you always have mySQL and Microsoft SQL out there spreading virally. They may not be a standard, but they turn up. Ultimately we’re selling productivity as the number of databases grow and the numbers of users shrink. The database administrators and developers need to get a lot more done.DMR: You have a broad set of products and user industries. How do you break it out?WW: We divide the market into three buckets. If you look at a database and what it takes to build and manage applications against that, we see design, develop and manage as the three primary buckets. We have products in each of those areas that offer some very unique attributes.DMR: What is new in the database tool mix?WW: We hear a lot about single view of a customer. I think the pace has picked up in consolidation in finance and so a lot of our financial customers are gobbling up other financial institutions with their own systems, their own packaged and in-house-built apps that all have databases at their heart. They have to piece all that together, and we’ve seen the volume of those consolidations really go up in the last few years. It makes single view of a customer projects that much more difficult.DMR: What’s Embarcadero’s place in the customer data integration-master data management mix? WW: We have two primary entry points, the first on the metadata side. Our ER/Studio release is using our modeling product, which really has a lot of momentum. It’s our highest-growth product. We have a second release called ER/Studio Enterprise, which takes the same client and puts a relational repository behind it. This allows companies to build metadata repositories where there are teams of architects and modelers working together. That’s probably the strongest entry point we have to large consolidation projects. On the manage side, the platform vendors are going to vary pretty widely. Some will run on Oracle, some on DB2 and some on Microsoft SQL. Having a product like DBArtisan, which is really a database administrator’s Swiss army knife to manage all these different database applications and platforms, is really an important piece of the puzzle.DMR: Has the database field been boiled down to its last entrants?WW: I had felt that over the last few years, and then you see Sun go and pay a billion dollars for an unprofitable company with $50 million in revenue. It says something about Sun putting some price pressure on Oracle now. I think it’s very easy to undervalue the database space and how dynamic it still can be.DMR: I suppose because of that, most companies tend to have a mix of tools by preference.WW: Yes, there is a lot of individual user preference, so you’ll see people with competing tools on their desktop and using a tool where they think it fits better. One place where that’s changed in the last couple years is with outsourcing and offshoring. We have definitely seen an uptake of large seat deals where an organization has moved database administration or development offshore, and they’ve got a user base there that is less skilled than what they are used to. We now see purchases made by a North American or European company that then makes the tools available over their WAN and VPN to offshore resources. They see our tools as a way to provide some standard processes and approaches. That’s definitely new in the last few years, where before it was more about user preference.DMR: So what functions are likely to be kept in house versus outsourced and/or offshored?WW: It varies by organization, but we have seen pretty much everything moved offshore even though database administration is about as critical and specialized as it gets, in my opinion. One thing I’ve always loved from a computer science aspect is that [databases] are the most incredible animal, where the tough problems of synchronization and scalability and availability and performance all come together. It’s the one resting place for your critical data assets, but boy, I remember the first time I heard of huge companies moving DB administration offshore - I thought it was unbelievable.DMR: What does that say to people pursuing careers in programming or database administration in the U.S.?WW: That’s a tough one. Software is still a great business and a great place to be. I think there will be two groups. If you are coming into the business in North America today, you would not be looking to become a programmer or take a cookie-cutter software or Web development job. Those roles are the most at risk. You want to use your potential better. You have access to market information that somebody entering in China or India wouldn’t have. You really want to leverage the resources and exposure you have to this market and find the good software jobs.

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