ILOG, dedicated to Enhancing Efficiency in the Engineering of Software
by Mari Georges
The software industry has long been accused of being an individualist, artisan activity. The reputation has come over years of withstanding repeated assaults by methodologies, CASE tools and other attempts to tame and render software development an engineering discipline.
Nevertheless, with the increasing penetration of software in systems solutions, it has become apparent that means for the efficient development of high-quality software is absolutely essential. Following this logic, companies like Microsoft have already cashed in on the market of mass- produced and mass-distributed pre-packaged software, addressing the needs of the general public. More recently, a 'software parts' industry has also emerged, providing specialised software components to software professionals who integrate them into custom-built or standard applications.
A software component represents a pre-packaged encapsulation of a set of functions. With use of components, attention can be focused on specific application logic instead of having to (re)develop basic elements. There are many component software packages available today to meet different user requirements. These requirements vary from specialized buttons and menus, and basic data structures such as hash tables, up to complete systems to build graphical user interfaces (GUIs) and components that optimize resource allocation.
Software components are representative of software reuse. They are sufficiently generic to permit repeated employment in applications from a given domain, or in applications requiring a particular problem-solving approach. They are necessarily of high quality, both from the standpoint of the generated application and in the enforced mode of employment. In a way, software components represent the archetype of software engineering in today's software-dependent world.
ILOG, a spin-off of INRIA, was one of the first to recognise the potential of the software component market. Established in 1987, ILOG set out to elaborate and commercialise support tools for software developers. With initial success in promoting Lisp-based and AI-inspired products, ILOG became aware that the same standard software components could satisfy Independent Software Vendors, IS departments in Global 2000 companies, and large system integrators. Effort turned to production of object-oriented C++ software components, where the company has since dominated the world-wide market. ILOG's incursion into the Java component market has been expedited by building on this experience.
Today, as an editor of COTS software components, ILOG represents a unique example in the relatively limited group of European high-tech SMEs. Rapid world-wide expansion has led to impressive statistics:
- revenues superior to 30 MECU
- growth rate of over 40%
- introduction onto the NASDAQ in February 1997
- more than 300 employees
- subsidiaries located in the US, Singapore, Japan, Australia, Spain, Germany, and the UK
- local distributors in other European and Asian countries
- licenses installed at over 1000 development sites world-wide
- a customer list that demonstrates that the component market is real and exploding.
ILOG's product range consists of three major suites: Visualisation (GUI builders), Optimisation (high performance planning & scheduling), Control (rule-based programming, modelling, distribution) and an Internet offering (dynamic, agent-enhanced Web sites). In the context of the latter, ILOG joined the international World Wide Web Consortium in 1995.
At ILOG's main offices in Paris, some 50 top-level software engineers form the R&D division. The optimisation team has been recently reinforced by the acquisition of CPLEX (August 1997), world leader in linear, mixed-integer and quadratic programming solvers.
With approximately 17% of revenues invested in R&D, ILOG carries out strategic short-term activities in-house, while preparing the mid-term via participation in national and international applied research programmes. On-going projects include:
- GREENTRIP - Global, Reactive, Efficient and Environment- Friendly Transportation Logistics, ESPRIT 20603
- MAGICA - Multimedia Agent-based Interactive Catalogues, Telematics IE-2069
- PARROT - Parallel Crew Rostering, ESPRIT 24960
- GEDISAC - Graphical Event-Driven Interface Specification and Compilation, ESPRIT Long Term Research 25151.
With today's continually multiplying demand for software, there is a pressing need for enhanced development capacity and reinforced quality of results. The software component industry is in the position to increasingly contribute to transforming software production from craftsmanship into an efficient engineering discipline. Nevertheless, it must stay out front, meaning that R&D not only remains essential, but even acquires more urgency.
For more information on ILOG, see http://www.ilog.fr/
Mari Georges - ILOG
Tel: +33 1 4908 3557