Washington University, Object Computing Inc. Announce An Agreement To Commercialize Advanced Software Technology Developed For Internet

December 03, 1998

St. Louis, Dec. 4, 1998 -- The Center for Technology Management at Washington University in St. Louis has announced an agreement with Object Computing Inc. (OCI) of St. Louis to commercialize advanced Internet software developed by Washington University's Distributed Object Computing group, making it available to industries worldwide.

Academic environments often produce leading edge software, but such software usually lacks the industrial grade support infrastructure required for distribution, training and technical support. This inhibits its widespread adoption by industry. By providing commercial quality services through OCI, Washington University will encourage the adoption of this software technology for broader use by industry.

The Technology

The technology involved is software called middleware and developed by researchers under the guidance and direction of Douglas Schmidt, Ph.D., associate professor of computer science.

Middleware occupies a layer between client and server applications where it provides complex high speed and predictable request processing. The name of the Washington University product is the ACE ORB (or Tao). ORB is an acronym for Object Request Broker, a primary element in distributed software systems. In today's world of connected systems, it is very common for client applications to request a service without knowing where, or how, that service will be rendered by software on a server. The ORB keeps track of all the services and ensures that any request can be brokered to a server.

Sponsored by Industry

The ORB must hide all complexity from the requesting application (or objects). The ACE ORB is a second-generation product that has been sponsored by companies from aerospace, telecommunications and medical imaging industries, such as Boeing, Lucent Technologies and Siemens. It incorporates all the lessons learned over the last few years and includes sophisticated new strategies developed at the Washington University computer science department. This enables the ORB to provide superior performance under stressful conditions as are anticipated for the new applications targeted at the Internet and real-time embedded systems.

"Even though this technology is already performing well and at many sites around the world, we have not yet exhausted our ideas for enhancements," said Schmidt. " This is a technology with many years of life ahead of it. We need a partner like OCI so that we can focus on the research and development side, knowing that our sponsors can get the service they are used to with commercial software."

Andrew Neighbour, Ph.D., is associate vice chancellor for technology management at Washington University. He joined Washington University this year as part of Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton's program to make research from Washington University more available to industry. Neighbour commented:.

"We want to help grow the technology base of the Midwest, and linking with strong technology companies like OCI enables us to do just that."

Ebrahim Moshiri, Ph.D., OCI president, indicated his excitement at this collaborative activity.

"We have been associated with Washington University for a long time and have been working with Professor Schmidt's team closely," he said. "This is a tremendous opportunity for both of us to benefit. We have had inquiries about our providing engineering support for this technology from Korea and Germany as well as here in the States. This is just the tip of the iceberg. This is very powerful technology."

A New Business Model

The software developed by Washington University, to be distributed and supported by OCI, employs a new licensing model that is generating a lot of interest in its own right. The model is called "Open Source." It has no license fees and allows users to freely copy it onto all their systems. It also includes the source code, which provides how the software is designed and implemented. Conventional commercial software hides all this information. But in the "Open Source" model, sophisticated users can inspect the code and suggest improvements. Software using this approach recently has become very popular because it is so much more cost effective. The Linux operating system, which is dramatically growing in popularity, and the Apache Web Server software, which is the market leader in web hosting software, are good examples of this trend. With all of the users scrutinizing the software, it rapidly becomes robust and reflects what the users want to see.

Schmidt's team already has dozens of users around the world testing the software and commenting on how to extend and improve the product. This kind of openness is not usually seen in the proprietary software world. Open Source attracts exactly the kind of users who can add significantly to the quality of the product . Software that is embedded in systems and must be ubiquitous in order to be useful lends itself to this model. The value proposition for this type of software lies in its uniformity and inter-operability. This sometimes runs counter to the usual competitive tactics by software vendors who differentiate their products, thus creating incompatibilities and problems for users. Commercial support from OCI increases its appeal to prospective users who also want access to the kind of comprehensive support, training classes, extensive documentation and consulting that have been traditionally associated with proprietary products.

This agreement allowing OCI to provide commercial support gives our users the best of both worlds," said Schmidt.
About Washington University in St. Louis

Washington University in St. Louis is a medium-sized, independent university that is counted among the world's leaders in teaching and research. The University draws students and faculty to St. Louis from all groups, from all 50 states and more than 100 other nations. The University offers more than 80 programs and almost 1,600 courses leading to bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in a broad spectrum of traditional and interdisciplinary fields, with additional opportunities for minor concentrations and individualized programs. Washington University faculty are distinguished both for their teaching and for their research and creative activities. Faculty have received many honors. Twenty Nobel laureates have been associated with Washington University, nine doing the major part of their pioneering research there.

About Object Computing Inc.

Object Computing Inc. is a privately held software engineering company, founded in 1993, with a commitment to object-oriented technology. Today OCI provides software systems consulting, product development and educational services to progressive corporations across the United States in the aerospace, finance, healthcare and telecommunication market segments. Its corporate headquarters are in St. Louis, with a presence also in Phoenix, Ariz. The St. Louis-based OCI Education Center has one of the most extensive object technology and Java training curricula in the Midwest. For more information, see the OCI Web site: http://www.ociweb.com.
Contacts: Tony Fitzpatrick, senior science editor, Washington University Office of Public Affairs, 314-935-5272; e-mail tony_fitzpatrick@aismail.wustl.edu. Malcolm Spence, director of sales and marketing, OCI 314-579-0066; e-mail spence_m@ociweb.com.

Washington University in St. Louis

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