Two years ago next month, Cardinal Network announced its successor to Linc, a product called Jade, which even the people at Cardinal had difficulty defining in marketing terms.
Jade is, essentially, a rapid application development environment for the enterprise.
Next month, version 5.0 of Jade will be released, and there are firm plans out to version 10.0.
“It is,” says chief executive Gil Simpson (left), “like a broad-spectrum antibiotic. That means we can go at all the different types of business including, say, banks and airline reservation systems. It’s about transaction counts.”
It’s meant a lot to Cardinal, which over the past year or so has largely had to reinvent itself, coming down from the heady days of developing for Linc, business which Unisys progressively took back in the early part of the decade.
Simpson, in an interview last week, revealed that Jade is conservatively contributing 20% of Cardinal’s total income in the year to date. “That’s mainly incremental income, too,” he says.
“We were 12% ahead of revenue to June, compared with the first six months of last year, and that’s all Jade. We were 20% ahead up to August. It’s a growing phenomenon.”
Those revenue numbers translate into around 100 Jade sites in New Zealand (85% of total sites), Australia and the UK. That excludes package user sites where independent solutions vendors may build a package and sell it.
Jade is used by companies in primary industry, banking and finance, health, retail, distribution, energy, property, construction, electronics, education and transport. The largest development to date
is for the Northern Territory health authority, which has a 1000-user (300-400 concurrent users) system due to go live next month. The largest New Zealand user is Kiwi Dairies.
Ten universities and polytechnics are using Jade as a teaching tool. They include the University of Canterbury, Unitec and Victoria University, in Melbourne.
Cardinal has added 50 staff in the past six months, and has had to built a sixth building on its Christchurch Technology Park campus.
There’s been interest, too, from the government. Following a visit by Finance Minister Bill Birch, six members of the economic and commerce caucus travelled to Christ-church in July to be briefed on Jade.
But Simpson is still far from satisfied. “We tend to get given at the moment the complex problems that someone else can’t handle.
“Jade is a fraction of the cost but people are still using mainstream alternatives. They are paying a premium not to use Jade. It’s a fear thing.
“I’m rapt where Jade’s at, though. It’s a stunning product and it’s great for the customers.
“The whole industry has held the customer to ransom for so long, it’s nice now to do something for them.”
Simpson describes the product he helped invent, Linc, as old and tired and, not surprisingly, there is an easy conversion process to Jade. So far, the New Zealand Wool Testing Authority and two unnamed customers have taken the conversion option. “We’re about to convert our own internal accounting system, then our HR and payroll.”
Simpson says Jade is about where, two years ago, he thought it would be in the market but the mix is not quite what he expected; for example, the call centre recently developed for Contact Energy’s foray in the retail electricity market.
“It’s about providing the functionality and usability. Our job is to seize the opportunities when they occur. For example, we wanted a relationship with a hardware supplier — it turned out to be IBM with the RS/6000.”
Asked to look out two to five years, Simpson says it will be the magnitude of Jade systems that will be the differentiator. That’s where he speaks of banking and airline reservation systems. “They’ll be tough nuts to crack but we will have compelling arguments.
“On paper, we have major releases through to Jade 10. That’s immediate work to be done.”
And the real blue skies thinking? “We are the only one who can make Jade obsolete. My competition is fear and logistics.”
Back to the present, and the Northern Territory health rollout is critical because of the large number of concurrent users. “That’s the model that’s about to change [things for us],” Simpson says.
Given a certain amount of confusion about what Jade actually is and does, Computerworld asked for an exact definition.
“Jade is a software programming tool that contains all the necessary technology to build and run serious business systems on PCs over Windows NT. It can build a complete system, from data to logic to graphical user interface, and manage deployment over a LAN, WAN or the Internet.”