by Mari Georges
Initiated as a spin-off of INRIA in 1987, ILOG set out to elaborate and commercialise support tools for software developers. Building on success in promoting Lisp-based and AI-inspired products, ILOG added production of C++ software components, with a decisively object-oriented flavour, in 1991.
The company now has over 180 employees, with approximately two-thirds at the main offices in Paris. Subsidiaries are located in the US, Singapore, Spain and the UK; products are distributed worldwide.
Today, ILOG's portfolio presents an offer of more than 10 principal tools; there are more than 14 000 licenses installed at over 1000 different development sites worldwide. Sales are not limited to tools alone, as ILOG presents a complete line of services to its users: on-site installation, training, extensive maintenance including new releases, telephone and electronic mail hotline, and consultancy for project specification or for quality assurance.
An intensive R&D effort is maintained, with an investment of more than 20 percent of revenues and a team of approximately 40 software engineers. ILOG maintains close ties with its mother institute, INRIA, via joint research, transfer of basic research results, and industrial pilot projects.
The types of activities addressed by ILOG's tools include development of GUIs, decision support systems, and real-time groupware applications. The company is careful to offer availability on a wide range of workstations as well as PCs, and to support international industry standards (C++, Microsoft Windows, OSF/Motif, SQL), de facto standards (CommonKADS), and budding standardisation activities (EuroKnowledge, CIME quality parameters, common user interfaces), all of which facilitate application compliance.
The vast majority of ILOG's products are examples of technology transfer of R&D results into industry. Nevertheless, the process by which initial research is transformed into applicable industrial technology merits an illustration. The Parachute project, part of the CEU's ESPRIT programme (P9134), started in early 1995 and will run for 29 months. Parachute aims to provide commercial end-users with simplified access to high-performance parallel computer systems, proving that such systems can be built and operated without having access to non-standard languages and operating systems nor specially trained staff.
The logic behind Parachute is straightforward: areas in which computational complexity have seriously inhibited applications are those involving combinatorial problems with many constraints, as in time management, planning or scheduling applications, which cannot run efficiently with conventional methods on uniprocessor systems. ILOG SOLVER addresses precisely these types of applications, using constraint reasoning. As it is known that constraint programming has a high potential for parallel execution, Parachute chose to create a parallel version of SOLVER. Parallelized SOLVER will answer a rapidly increasing market demand and take advantage of the growing number of commercial multiprocessor systems.
Within the context of Parachute, collaboration with INRIA will continue to be manifold, most likely materialized by the transfer of research results pertaining to methods of parallel tree search (results of the Paradis project) and/or the work around parallelization of C++ in the context of simulation of discrete systems (the Sloop project).
ILOG is one of the few European companies offering software products, a fortiori the fruit of European research. Through collaborative R&D and the maintenance of close ties with its mother institute, it is effectively an outlet of research results into operational industrial environments. Nevertheless, lasting success depends upon finding the right mix of technological push (research results) and market pull (user wants). By striking a balance between the two, ILOG has managed to produce a portfolio of high quality products incorporating leading edge technologies, that finds an enthusiastic audience within industry.
ILIOG on the Web: http://www.ilog.com