What is it?
Progress is a relational database and development environment, used mostly by independent software suppliers to build applications. However, low maintenance and minimal end-user support mean that it also has a following among companies that want to keep IT overheads down.
Progress leads the embedded database market, with a 20% share (Sybase is second with 15%; Oracle seventh with 2%). Embedded databases are sold as part of applications, rather than as relational database management systems in their own right.
Unfortunately this means that many organisations that might be better off with Progress simply do not know about it. As IDC puts it, "Progress Software is a well-established embedded DBMS [database management system] supplier, yetÉ is not generally perceived as a DBMS supplier at all."
IDC describes Progress Version 9.1 as "a DBMS that could well start to challenge the DBMS leaders in the enterprise arena".
Where did it originate?
The Progress Software Corporation was founded in 1981.
What is it for?
More than 70% of Progress' revenues come via software houses. There are more than 2,000 of them selling upwards of 5,000 Progress applications, which are used by 10,000 customer organisations worldwide.
The independent software supplier sector is particularly sensitive to the growth of the application service provider (ASP) model, where customers rent software from a hosting company rather than buying it outright. Progress Version 9.1B, released last year, was optimised for the ASP market, with greatly increased scalability, support for the thin-client model and a move from proprietary technology to Internet standards.
Progress' Application Service Provider Enablement (Aspen) programme offers smaller suppliers the technology, services and alliances they need to make the move to the Web.
What makes it special?
Low cost of ownership. Self-tuning and self-management capabilities mean suppliers are not lumbered with costly end-user support, and end-users do not have to employ database administrators.
How difficult is it?
Progress says that people can be productive with its English-like 4GL within a couple of months. The most recent versions support Java and XML development.
Where is it used?
Software houses and their customers. It is also used as a development platform by Specsavers and Rentokil, among others.
What does it run on?
Windows; Unix, including HP/UX, AIX and Solaris; Linux; and AS/400.
Are there many jobs?
An Internet job search will give you at least four times as many hits for Progress as for Oracle.
What's coming up?
Progress has released the source code of its application development environment under an open source licensing model. Participants will be able to add functionality, trouble-shoot, submit patches and promote their own expertise. For more, see the Progress Open Source Software Exchange (Posse), www.possenet.org.
Rates of pay
Analyst programmer £27,511
Senior analyst programmer £33,915
Source: Computer Weekly/SSP survey
One week's classroom training in Progress programming costs £1,625. See www.progress.com/worldwide/uk/education for classroom and self-study courses.